Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Under the Dumb Plum Tree

Christmas Shopping
by Jaime Kaufhold
(November 20, 1991)

I just returned from Christmas shopping and I'm exhausted. There is a saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping," and there is more truth to that than you may think. I now know that I am not as tough as I once was.

With my feet up and cup of tea in hand I can see the plum tree through the window and it seems to be smiling at me. Limbs heavy with the wet snow that came yesterday, it is saying, "I told you not to go."

When I think back to the shopping expeditions when the children were young, I have to smile. It was such fun when Santa Claus came to town. It was around December 15th and we all went to the local department store so the little ones could sit on Santa's knee, tell them what they wanted for Christmas and get a candy cane. Parents always stood close by listening, ready to rescue poor Santa if their child became spooked (and many did), plucking their crying child from his knee. Mine never did.

I remember one time when my son Mark was about four years old. Santa was taken aback when he asked for nothing but "lots of clothes pins." Curious, Santa asked why he wanted such an unusual thing. "To make roads. Mom always gets mad when I use hers." It is a good job I heard that particular request otherwise Santa would have been on the shit list come Christmas morning.

I have always loved Christmas. It was fun back then the week beforehand, sneaking out at night to go shopping, fibbing about my plans, hiding toys in the garage. I usually spent Christmas eve wrapping gifts after everyone had gone to bed.

It was fun shopping back then as everyone was in a good mood and you could feel the cheer in the air. Main street was decorated and I loved the sound of Christmas Carols over the loudspeakers, blaring onto the sidewalk as we went from store to store.

Things changed as the kids got older and everyone started shopping in malls. I really realized it this year for the first time how times have changed. Buying gifts has taken on a more harried, exhausting feel and I think I'm too old for it now. It all started today in the parking lot, as I tried to find a parking spot and ended up at the far end. Making the half mile long trek (in the cold wind) meant I was nearly frozen by the time I reached the mall door. Once inside, the flow of people was shocking. Everyone was angry and in a hurry. Different songs were playing in every store, some rock, country, and all of it was loud. I went from store to store and after two hours, realized I hadn't yet bought a thing. I was starting to get frustrated. Making my way to the only department store, Zellers, and found an abandoned cart. Pulling out my list, I started looking for boots for Dad. I found what I wanted and after waiting 20 minutes to be served, and another 10 for the clerk to return, I was told that they were all out of size 11 and wouldn't be receiving another shipment for a few days.
"You mean I have to come back here?" I asked, trying to make a joke.
"Not unless you want to pitch a tent," the harried clerk said.
I declined her offer, but by then felt like I might sleep anywhere. My feet were tired, my head was sore and I was starting to sweat. I managed to get a few items but then it meant standing in a long line at the checkout. Being a grandma I was used to crying babies, but the child in the car seat that screamed the whole time in front of me (he too was hungry, tired and hot) while I waited, tested my patience to the limit. I felt like saying to the young mother, "next time leave him with a sitter," but I saw in her exasperated tone as she tried to calm him, that she'd figured that out on her own.

There are things you learn by getting older. Now I understand why people say, "I hate Christmas shopping." But it is sad to hear people say, "I hate Christmas." How sad it is that the most wonderful time of year has been marred by commercialism. Deep down everyone loves Christmas. We just need to find its true meaning again.

With most of my shopping done I think I'll do a little baking tomorrow. When the kids were still at home it was impossible to try and bake early because everything put into the freezer somehow disappeared. One year I labelled the containers stewed tomatoes, green beans and corn but that only fooled them for one year.

Here's a recipe for a dutch-style shortbread that Karen loves:


1/2 pound butter (do not use margarine)
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk (save the white)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla. Fold in the flour and knead well. Press into an 8x8" pan. Brush the egg white on top and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges start to brown - about 20 minutes. Score into squares before the cake has completely cooled.

This is a very simple recipe but delicious!

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