The first time I took Little Bill Christmas shoppin’ he was about six years old.
What did you say to me, bossy-arse? she said (because he was always right saucy, eh.)
No, he said. I mean, I gotta tell Da somethin’ about Christmas, and it’s a secret.
So Minnie shoots him a look, says – fine – and goes in the room. Then he comes over and cups his hands around his mouth and whispers – I know what to get Ma for Christmas! It’s awesome!
(I figure he musta learned the word “awesome” that week or somethin’)
Oh yeah, buddy? I said.
I seen it on a commercial! he pretty much yelled, he was that excited. His eyes were bigger than snow tires.
So I promised him we’d go to the store Saturday (after my cheque came in). And after Minnie’s lecture about not losin’ him since the stores were so busy, off we went.
Sure enough, we get there and it’s so busy we end up parkin’ so close to the road it was a three-day walk back to the mall. I shoulda known he had somethin’ up his sleeve, because he said he knew right where to find what he was lookin’ for. So he tugs me down the aisles to – the toy department.
LOOK! he said. Ain’t it AWESOME?!
It was a Lego spaceship.
Whuh? I says. For your mother?
He was already makin’ laser sounds.
I wanted to get her the most awesome thing ever, he said. And THIS is the most awesome thing ever. Everybody I know wants one.
That’s cuz everybody you know is six, I thought to myself, but didn’t say it.
Ssswwooooo, I whistled. It’s a doozy all right, but there’s two problems. First, I’ve known your mother for years and years and as far as I know in all that time she never owned a single Lego.
Then she’ll be some surprised when she finally gets this!
Ah, I said. But you got a bigger problem, see. How much does the price tag say it is?
Twenty-nine ninety-nine, he said.
And how much did I give ya to spend on your mother?
(He fished the bill out of his pocket and looked for the number.)
Five, he said. And then his giant hubcap eyes squinted a little. Awww crap, I don’t got enough, do I?!
Not anywheres near enough, buddy, I said. I felt bad, but I knew I had to get him to start lookin’ for somethin’ else.
But it just so happens, your ol’ man is a bit of a super spy, and I used the latest techniques in espionage to listen through the livin’ room wall last night, and I heard her tell your Aunt Joan exactly what she wants for Christmas.
You’re a spy? he said. What’s espy-nodge?
Top secret spy stuff, I whispered, lookin’ around the aisle to make sure no one was around. Anyways, I heard her say what she wants is… (looked around again) … smelly stuff.
Smelly stuff? What’s that?
Stuff that smells good, I said. Like perfume, or soap – all that stuff your mother likes.
He wasn’t convinced. But I told him if he found somethin’ nice and smelly, I’d show him my top-secret eavesdroppin’ method when we got home.
He wanted to buy a Glade air freshener that smelled like a Christmas tree, but I steered him toward a fancy bar of pink soap that came in a plastic wrapper and had a little frilly ribbon around it. It was $4.99 and I gave him a few quarters to cover the tax.
When we got to the cash registers he paid for it himself, winked at the woman behind the counter and said – Keep the change, babe. (Because he seen somebody do that in a movie).
When we got home, I showed him how puttin’ a glass to a wall or door is supposed to help ya hear what’s on the other side. It didn’t really work, but he got pretty excited about his father bein’a spy, and by then he was anxious to wrap his mother’s present. The poor little bar of soap ended up with about ten feet of tape holdin’ on about four inches of wrappin’ paper, but when he put it under the tree, he was proud as a peacock. Minnie went over and picked it up and said she had no idea what it could be, even though the soap was hangin’ out both ends and ya could smell it from the kitchen.
And in case you’re wonderin’, we went back and got him the spaceship, and on Christmas mornin’ ya never seen a kid more excited. I thought he was gonna pee his pajamas, he was dancin’ around so much. How did Santa know this is what I wanted?? he kept sayin’.
So, the two of us doin’ Christmas shoppin’ became a regular thing every year. We’d hop in the truck and go the stores, even if I only had a couple of bucks to give him to shop with. And When Rosie got old enough, her and Minnie started doin’ the same thing themselves, just the two of them.
Anyways, this year I thought we’d be doin’ our shoppin’ this weekend, but Little Bill came in the other night and asked if he could have $20 to get his mother somethin’ for Christmas since him and the girlfriend were goin’ to the mall. So I gave it to him and then when he started to go, I called him back, gave him another ten and told him to get her somethin’ nice.
Awesome, he said.
And, ya know, I didn’t realize it was one of my favourite parts of Christmas until it was gone.