AND THEN AGAIN….by Tamara Pettit

…… Christmas shopping.  It’s not what it used to be.  Thank goodness.   It wasn’t fun.   No more fighting crowds.  No more standing in line for the one baby doll your little girl has put on Santa’s list only to find out the person ahead of you got the last one and would you like to be put on a waiting list for the shipment scheduled to arrive Dec. 28.   No more circling the mall time and time again looking for a parking spot.

…..In the days of old, the kid’s Dad and I had a holiday tradition.  We did our Christmas shopping for Doug and Shannon the day after Thanksgiving.  It had nothing to do with the official start of the Christmas season, it was because the Communication Workers of America (CWA) had negotiated the day after Thanksgiving as a day off.  Since he worked for C&P Telephone (remember them) that was our day to shop.  We would arise early and rouse the two little ones and deposit them at my Dad’s.  He and their step-mom, Betty, were the designated keepers of the kids for the whole day while we played Santa. 

…….I would have our route clearly marked as we headed for Steubenville, then the shopping mecca of our area.  It was toy time and we headed for Hills, Sears and JC Pennys hoping against hope that the favorite toy of the year had not been gobbled up those dedicated parents who showed up to wait in line at 5 a.m.  It wasn’t until we had toy in hand that we knew Santa lived for another year.  ( I always imagined the conversation I would have with my kids.  “Hey, Shannon, remember how you told Santa you wanted Mrs. Beasley and Santa said he would get it for you.  Well, Santa and his supplier are in a contact dispute and well……Santa’s was a big liar.

…….We didn’t have to worry about locating the most coveted gift though.  The most hoped for gift was already in the bag.  Santa’s?  Nope, my Dad’s.   It’s amazing how far the competitive nature extends. John D. saw himself as the purveyor of his grandchildren’s dreams every Christmas.    No election campaign ever had greater planning and execution.  The turkey was barely  in the oven when “Popa” showed up at our door with the prized toy catalogue.  With a child on each side, they would go through the toys page by page discussing the pros and cons of each toy until each kid had chosen his/her very favorite.   The details would be written down in the little black notebook Dad carried in his pocket.  The same scenario would play out at the Webster house with his five other grandchildren going through the same process.   List in hand he would inform us what he was getting the kids so that we did not make the mistake of pre-empting him.  I never heard it, but the kids’ Dad always maintained there was just a hint of a threat in John D.’s voice when he informed us of the gift he would buy.  The list would be turned over to his secretary first thing the next day and her task was to get all the presents ordered.  Santa aka John D. was efficient, if not a bit cut throat in his approach to making sure his little tykes got their dreams desire.

…….But for us parents, the joy of the holiday season had just begun as we slogged our way through the stores finding just the right toy.  Shannon’s baby doll was of prime importance because you did not mess with that.  I remember each as if I had personally birthed them not because I ever liked baby dolls, but I found locating them more painful than having the real life thing.  I fought the crowds for them.  I watched them be cast aside for their replacement next Christmas and I sold them all at a garage sale when  Shannon no longer played baby dolls.  Evidently, I was the heartless babydoll grandma just fighting for attic space,   And, for the last five years,  I have heard about just how much money she could have made from each one of them had I not been so heartless.   You would have thought that darned Chatty Cathy could have whispered “keep me and you can get $100 for me in 20 years.”   …….At the end of the day, we retrieved the kids and took them home where a refrigerator full of Thanksgiving dinner leftovers awaited.  Oh, for the good old days