He’s off the Secret Santa hook

By Lori Clinch

Oh, how quickly the holidays have crept up on us. I suppose I should have realized they were fast approaching the instant I received the first Christmas catalog.

Of course it was mid-July at the time, so I tossed the catalog in my “things to read” pile and headed out to do yard work, in hopes of mulching my worries away.

Barbecue grills being replaced by Christmas trees in store displays were no cause of concern for me. The elves who were pushing pencils during the back-to school specials didn’t bother me much and I felt no sign of duress when I saw T-shirts stating, “I made Santa’s naughty list” on the racks at the department store.

I held steady as our young Charlie changed my ring tone to “Joy to the World” and even after he began texting me a wish list like it was his job.

Yet, I have learned as I age that time speeds up. One minute you are working in the yard, basking in the sun and complaining about the heat. The next minute you are pushing an overloaded cart (reminiscent of the Grinch’s Christmas bag loaded up with presents from Whoville) through the supercenter, vowing to yourself and everyone else that this will be your last trip to the store until after Christmas.

Then you get home and realize you forgot eggs, cranberries and an appetizer for a gathering on Dec 26.

Since I love to have everything perfect for my loved ones at this time of year, I scurry about in a bit of a panic, grabbing this and forgetting that. I worry there is someone on my list who I overlooked or worse yet, that one of our four sons will have way more presents than the others, clearly indicating that he is (and I quote) “loved the most.”

Here’s a stressful moment for you. How about the dear friend who presents you with a gift, out of the blue, when all you can possibly muster up in return is a stick of gum? There’s no “Ho ho ho-ing” your way out of that one.

As I endure these moments, my beloved spouse takes the season in stride. Pat helps when he can, chips in here and toils over there, but by and large he remains unscathed the entire Christmas season.

That is until just yesterday when I made this little announcement: “Pat, you drew my name for the family Secret Santa present exchange.”

I am quite certain that when news such as this falls upon the ears of men who are natural gift-givers, they barely break a sweat. They simply make a stop, grab a gift and go about their season and are none the worse for wear.

Knowing that my Pat is not one of these men, I normally do shopping for him. I purchase the gifts, forge his name on the gift tag and we call it a holiday.

“How do you know I have your name?” my Pat asked with wide eyes.

“Because I was in charge of the exchange and the last two choices were yours and mine and I either had me or I had to give me to you.”

“You take you and I’ll take someone else.”

“Not gonna happen because I already bought my person’s gift.”

“Well, double down on the person’s gift and get another one for you.”

“I would, except that a Kansas City Chiefs stocking cap would clash with most of my outfits.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, my Pat is a generous man where I’m concerned, but he knows to not buy me clothes, realizes I have enough jewelry, and since we have our own antique shop, I have the market cornered on my favorite hobby.

Since I sternly stand by my mother’s rule, “If it plugs in, it’s no gift to me,” Pat can’t buy me a toaster, a vacuum or (as much as he would enjoy the benefits of one) a new waffle maker.

“How about a new broom?” he chuckled as he recalled the fit he had when I bought one a while back. “Oh, I know!” he quickly added, “a Christmas tree! You loved the one we got you a couple of weeks ago, can that count as your present?”

“OK,” I said as I lovingly let him off of the hook. “How about a new phone case for my smart phone?”

“Great!” Pat replied with obvious relief. “Can you pick it out and purchase it for us?”

I am a caring person, so I will do it, but in exchange Pat is going to take care of that appetizer for the family gathering on Dec. 26.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com.