The procrastinated search for the perfect birthday gift | Message From The Archives 2008

Wed, May 28, 2008, 1:35 PM | From My Journal

My mother-in-law’s voice got loud. I turned to look while prying Craig’s squiggly fingers off a book and placing it back on the display table.

She was speaking to another customer while standing at the electronics checkout stand. “He sent us over here too.”

The electronics’ clerk stood behind the counter dialing a phone.

“Come on Craig.” He resisted, so I half-lifted him to a supported walking position and marched over to the group.

“He told us there were sixteen of them in stock at this store. We drove over here because of that.”

With the phone up to his ear, the store clerk frowned and said, “He should’ve called first. I don’t know why he didn’t.”

The gray-haired customer shook his head.

Craig pulled at my hand, jumped and wiggled. “Wait.” I squeezed his slippery, sweaty fingers tighter. “Mom, the same thing happened to this guy?”

“Yes. The same person sent him over here for the same game. He just drove across town too.”

Ugh. This was unbelievable. “So what now?”

“The clerk’s is calling another store to see if they have some in stock.”

Oh great, another store. It was already past Craig’s bedtime, we hadn’t had dinner and I lost my patience in the search for the perfect birthday present at store three.

All I wanted was the bundled video game that came with a controller. Of course, with my luck, it was the hottest selling item in stock.

Not only that, I needed the game and controller that night. I couldn’t put it off or change the gift. Jared’s birthday was the next day. I already purchased a Nintendo Wii two hours earlier at the first store – it was to be a family gift. The game would be the present Jared opened.

Yes it was pseudo-impulsive, extravagant and very last minute. Which, unfortunately, was exactly my style.

Genetic predisposition

I’m not a planner. Well, not like my husband’s side of the family anyways. They set event times and dates far in advance and made sure to alert everyone in a proper amount time.

Frankly, I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants party organizer. Jared’s birthday party was set for Saturday – I informed everyone the Wednesday before. At least all the folks I remembered to dial or email. The rest found out by word-of-mouth.

Of course, I have passionate plans to host the best parties ever. I just never get to the details part – like the invitations. You think that’s bad? I’m even worse at buying gifts. Truth be told, I’m the wait-until-the-last-minute-gift-buying queen.

Seriously, if I’m not out in the Target parking lot — fifteen minutes late to my destination — stuffing a gift bag with the purchased item and tissue paper then I didn’t buy the present.

Every wedding, baby shower, birthday party and housewarming I’ve attended has been victim to this performance.However, in my defense, this late-in-the-hour-gift-buying madness is not my fault. Like my brown eyes and disposition to sarcasm, it’s hardwired into my genetics.

Don’t believe it? Let me illuminate the pattern:

My parent’s baby shower gift — when I was pregnant with Jared — was an infant seat. I was in labor and practically pushing him out in the hospital when they stopped at Costco to pick it up. (Okay, a little exaggeration on my part. They were present for the birth.)

On Mother’s Day my sister showed up, dropped off the kids, and then went to the store to buy mom a present.

At any event, myself included, it’s assumed everyone related to me will be minimum 30-minutes late. We all know their in a parking lot stuffing a gift bag.

Also, there were a few childhood Christmases where my parents bought, wrapped and placed the presents under the tree the day before.

All I’m saying is if you arranged my siblings, my parents and myself correctly – we’d represent the Party-Tardiness-and-Procrastinated-Gift-Buying Punnett Square.

So how was it I was out searching a day early for my son’s birthday present? Well, my mother-in-law stopped by and asked me if I wanted to go shopping.

Somewhere a light bulb flickered and, against all-that-created-me, I said yes.

Back at the store …

Fortunately the clerk on the phone was able to reserve us the game at a sister store. However, this store was across town and it was 45-minutes before they closed.

There was no time to stop and feed our lagging bodies. With the lack of nutrition and my high irritation levels, I lost focus. So I buckled Craig in his booster seat and handed the keys to my mother-in-law and said, “You drive.”

Never again, I swore to myself on the ride over. I don’t know why or how – but going against my pattern of last minute shopping upset the cosmic balance. And the Universe was pissed. It slapped me down like an over-beefy American Gladiator and then continuously jousted me away from the prize.

Maybe my pitiful pleas of ‘let this be the last store’ and whimpers for food had an impact. When we arrived at the next store, they had the correct game and I was, finally, able to purchase it.

As for my husband’s birthday, just after Jared’s, I remembered my lesson:

Never buy early and always arrive late.


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