Time spent choosing a gift is worth the 'cost'

December 17, 2004|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

While Christmas shopping on a recent Friday evening, we decided to divide and conquer.

The kids went with me. The list went with my husband.

I knew he would get more done alone than I would with two little ones in tow.

My plan for the evening went beyond practicality, though.

I wanted my children to experience the joy of thinking of others in a special way. I didn't want to rush them through the stores. I wanted them to select just a few things for the people closest to them. By the end of the evening, if we had three or four gifts bought, I would count it a success.

We walked around the stores and talked about the people we love.

What do they like to do? What do they use on a regular basis? What would they really appreciate receiving for Christmas?


I was enjoying my children's pleasant chatter as we casually browsed along. Not thinking that they were paying attention to me, I picked up an item at one display. My son quickly shook his head.

"No, Mommy, we should get this one for Nanny," he said, pointing to another item. I questioned whether she would like the color.

"Oh, yes, Mommy. This is the one she will like," he said, without a moment's hesitation.

That was easy enough.

We headed in another direction. Of course, it was away from the bathroom. When we were near the bathroom, no one needed to use it. When we reached the other side of the store, guess what happened?

As we trudged back across the store, I found myself getting a little impatient. We weren't being very efficient, and I was tired after working all day. As those thoughts flowed through my mind, my jovial spirit started to plummet.

Then my son excitedly tugged at my sleeve.

"Mommy, can I get this for Uncle Rick?"

I looked down at what he was holding and smiled. It was a perfect gift. We would have missed it, were it not for our trip back to the bathroom.

My son looked at another design of the same item, wondering out loud if he should get one for his pappy.

"He probably wouldn't use it much, would he?"

That too was a good assessment. We decided to look for more ideas.

We were surprised as we walked in the next store. A familiar figure was standing at the counter. I tiptoed up behind him, and just as I was preparing to plant a peck on the back of his neck, I was hit by a tiny seed of doubt.

Thankfully, it was my husband.

He turned around and kissed me back, all the while trying to hide what was in his hands. He needn't worry. I didn't look. I like surprises.

I pulled the kids in another direction so they could help me select a present for him.

As we were at the counter, guess who waved at us from the escalator? The kids lost interest in the purchase and spent the next 10 minutes riding the escalator with their father. He seemed to enjoy it as much as they did.

The next morning as the kids were telling their pappy about our exciting shopping trip, they expressed disappointment that they had yet to find him a gift.

With a wave of his hand, he said, "I don't need anything. You can just give me a hug and that will be my Christmas present."

The kids wouldn't hear of that.

"No, pappy, we want to buy you a present," my 5-year-old said.

"Yeah, gifts don't count if they don't cost you something," said her 9-year-old brother.

I wanted to correct him with a trite, "the best things in life are free," but considered the truth of his statement.

Perhaps the "cost" of a special present isn't in dollars and cents. Perhaps the gift was planned for, sought after, contemplated. The time and effort spent expresses love to the receiver.

Part of the wonder of Christmas is the unexpected gestures people make toward each other, the caring thoughts that motivate those kind deeds and the warmth and peace that results.

May the gifts in your home have those kinds of price tags this holiday season.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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