She's eight and in that in-between stage of not a baby but not quite a grown-up kid yet. She's still between Care Bears and boys. Both are cute, and she likes both, but can't quite explain why on either.
So buying her presents isn't as easy as it used to be.
So we're walking around, looking for ideas. I headed to Target to get some photos printed (and found out Target doesn't have a photo lab at that location)
and then ...
... for no valid reason I can think of
... all I wanted to do
... was go over to the Salvation Army's "Angels Tree" we passed on the way into Target
... find a kid who wasn't going to have a good Christmas
... and buy whatever was on their list.
Not because it was an end to my shopping dilemma, because I always manage to find good gifts ... and honestly, I always spend a bit too much at Christmas, but hey, I work hard through the year and Christmas is a special time, and kids are only young once, so why not, eh?
In fact, one of Patti's friends described it as "The Orgy of Decadence" one year watching four kids demolish a pile of wrapped presents.
But like I said, they're only young once, and Christmas is special, and when we were together, Patti and I worked the extra hours to have the extra money to buy the extra stuff.
I know for me, wanting Christmas to be special, I guess it goes back to when I was like 11 or 12 ... we were living in the projects, and my mom was working part-time in one of the private clubs in town slinging beer at drunk Pollocks for not a whole lot of money ... the guys who were regulars there, and who knew us from the picnics the club had, would always pitch in and buy presents for us that they'd drop off, Santa-style, on the front door early Christmas morning.
And while mom never said where they came from, I know she wasn't making the kind of money that these gifts cost, and I saw them one year, too ... and the gig was up on Santa by that time in my life, anyway, despite what she said.
But as I stood there today, in the mall, surrounded by people going insane trying to find that perfect gift ... I was, as always, surprised by the total lack of humanity some of us show in our feeble attempts to give the most, have the biggest, best and/or brightest, or outdo whoever it is we always feel the need to one-up ...
And I just couldn't stop staring at that tree, full of kids who weren't going to have a good Christmas.
So I took my daughter over to the tree, explain to her how it worked, how there were kids who only got one or two things for Christmas, if they got anything at all.
Now before I go any further, I have to tell you this is a girl who always roots for the underdog. This is a girl who will feel sad for the animated figures in the anti-depressant drug ads. This is a girl who will find the most down and out Charlie Brown and befriend them.
She was totally into making sure someone else had a good Christmas. So we circled the tree and she found a girl her age who liked the stuff she liked and decided that we were going shopping for someone else.
And that's what we did.
We started at the toy store and picked up the game "Twister" which was on our girl's list.
Then we got her a pair of jeans and matching sweater and a Bratz art set.
Then we went to Borders to use the bathroom and found a couple of those watercolor paint books for her (she wanted a paint set, but we were having trouble finding that, so we went with the books).
And ran into my friend John Gatta who's a fixture there, and his lovely wife Maureen, who was working the register for the holidays.
Then we took the things we bought back to the Salvation Army stand in the mall, turned in our Angel card and the presents and went home.
Feeling a bit more in the holiday spirit.
And in the process, my daughter learned a great lesson about helping others.
And that made me feel pretty darn good, too.