Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s that jolly old time of year again. The crush is on. Only X number of shopping days left ’till Christmas. Can we still say Christmas? Or do we have to be P.C. and call it the Holiday Shopping Season?
This year, I vowed to stay out of malls. Parking is nonexistent, people are rude and pushy (particularly in toy stores) and besides that, my knee hurts. I strained it hiking off-trail trying to get in shape for skiing. Not smart. The last thing it needs is an hour drive to a mall with no parking and a hefty schlep to the store that is probably sold out of what I want anyway.
After perusing the catalogs and newspaper ads, I’ve figured out what I don’t want to give to anyone. Top of the list: Tommy Hilfiger red-white-and-blue flag-patterned underwear for “Him.” I don’t know anybody well enough to give underwear to and I darn sure don’t want to know anyone who would wear that. Talk about flag waving! Besides, isn’t that desecrating the flag or something? The Patriot Police may be giving Hilfiger a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay.
Identity theft being the crime of the year, I’m afraid to order anything online and am thinking twice about ordering from catalogs since the two failed gifts (they were wanted, they just didn’t work as advertised) last year came from mail-order places, and while they took them back and credited our Visas, the aggravation and disappointment wasn’t worth it. Makes “bricks and mortar” shopping a better bet.
I made one trip to my favorite mall in Sherman Oaks, looked at everything, bought a half dozen presents for my grandson and granddaughters and headed for the hills. This mall has a Discovery Store that has just about anything a child could want. Some for grownups, too. The clerks are courteous, helpful and even have a sense of humor. I went at 5 p.m. on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Good plan. No Santas going Ho, Ho, Ho. No whining kids. Peace was rampant.
This week I will go to my favorite bookstore. That’s it. If you’re on my list, you’re getting books. Probably not best sellers. Some interesting books came to me this year that didn’t get national attention from critics and weren’t heavily promoted. So I’ll share.
One is for parents (and grandparents) who want to travel with their tots but understand the pitfalls: Things grownups want to see and do generally bore the butts off their kids.
Colleen Dunn Bates and Susan LaTempa, both mothers who know firsthand about such things, show us in “Storybook Travel” (Three Rivers Press} how to do it with style and grace at a child’s pace. The 30 literary destinations are described in detail, including suggested ages for each. See the Paris of “Madeline,” and while in France, Giverny, the setting for “Linnea in Monet’s Garden.” Across the Channel take in the London of Harry Potter and Paddington Bear and The Lake District of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and other Beatrix Potter classics. New York City is home to “Eloise.” Of course, you must stay at the Plaza. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the setting for “The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” and Belmont Park, Long Island, the backdrop for “The Black Stallion.”
Anyone who ever dreamed of playing classical music will find “A Pianist’s Landscape” by Carol Montparker (Amadeus Press) enchanting and enlightening.
Jazz buffs will love “Tonight at Noon: A Love Story,” the elegant, joyous and unflinchingly honest portrait of composer Charles Mingus by his wife Sue Graham Mingus (Pantheon Books, a division of Random House).
For kids just learning to play an instrument, an intelligent guide to making music fun and productive, “Practicing for Young Musicians: You Are Your Own Teacher” by Harvey R. Snitkin, Ph.D. (HMS Publications).
And for kids of no particular artistic bent, “Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty” by Joy Masoff, illustrated by Terry Sirrell (Workman Publishing) puts the whole thing in perspective. This was one of my finds at the Discovery Store for an 8-year-old boy who is delighted by all things gross. His earlier favorites were “The Stinky Cheese Man” and “The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts” with an elephant’s tush on the cover.
The bargain gift of the year ($3.95) for toddlers is a new version of “Piglet is Surrounded by Water” (Dutton), one of a series of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories with the addition of a small jigsaw puzzle at the end. It was a big hit with my granddaughter (her third-birthday gift) who loves books and is just getting the hang of easy puzzles.
There you have it. My strategy for staying out of malls (well, almost), choosing gifts that probably won’t be returned, at least not because they don’t work right. Batteries and assembly not required. Also not a fortune in credit-card debt. Just a little imagination.
Now will someone please tell Hilfiger to stow the flag shorts in his Ho, Ho, Ho.