Monday, December 21, 2009

Checking It Twice

"My test plan passed," I announced hurriedly, dropping off a huge binder and piling additional signed pages atop it. "So everything is covered in there and you should have all the paperwork required. I have to go - I have shopping to do and Mom will have the girls call to make me miserably guilty if I don't drive home on Wednesday."

I waved and said I'd be back in tomorrow as I shrugged into my coat while scampering down the hallways toward the lobby. I had finished the most urgent of emails. Done the biggest of experiments. And now it was time to escape for personal reasons.

Last week, I took care of my car. I had four customer meetings. I went out with friends. I completed several key action items. This weekend, I talked to Friend. I rearranged my bedroom and living room. I put gas in my car and bought a few groceries. I did laundry and picked up eye drops for my puppy. I left cat litter in the car to take to my parents for Mr. Sprout.

Despite being exhausted, I forced myself to Menards and Target. I tend not to enjoy home improvement stores, especially when having to work independently. But Brother called this weekend to ask if he should get a gift certificate for my parents and I frowned before saying I'd take care of it. We knew what we wanted - it seemed more thoughtful to actually purchase the object and risk them returning it rather than handing them a tiny card and wishing them luck.

So I braced myself before parking in the Menards parking lot and decided it didn't look too busy. I grabbed a cart and hurried toward the inclined walkway that led to the second floor. The wheels clung to the rubber mat so after giving it a few experimental, unsuccessful shoves, I stood still while I made my way slowly from the ground floor. I moved over toward the fireplaces and peered at them, wearing my best 'lost and confused' expression so someone would swoop in to rescue me.

When that didn't work, I braced myself and read the informative signs, sighing when I still didn't see what I wanted. Abandoning my cart, I set off to find help and interrupted a young man stocking shelves. He frowned after I finished my question and promised to call someone on the little communication device attached to his smock. I called a quick thank you and blinked at all the ventilation supplies around me before shuddering and heading back to the fireplaces to wait.

"Hi," Melanie called as she approached to offer her assistance. Her hair was pulled back in a smooth ponytail while her bangs swung free and I wished my own messy knot looked a bit neater.

"Do you know fireplaces?" I asked hopefully, grinning widely when she nodded. "Excellent!" I praised and began my story. "My parents have a wood-burning fireplace in their basement and like the gas one I have in my living room. I read online that there are inserts - I didn't bring the articles, but I'm pretty sure they're real - that switch fireplaces from wood to gas."

"So they like the one they have? No issues with how it looks or vents?" she asked and I nodded, dutifully following her to a low set of shelves and frowning as she showed me the various options. "How big is their fireplace?"

I blinked at her before shrugging and guessing it was average size. "More?" I tentatively decided when she asked how much heat I wanted. "Yes," I replied to her offer of a remote start, "Mom would like that." I smiled again when she placed the insert and remote in my cart and wished me a merry Christmas. I then left for the more comfortable confines of Target to finish shopping for the kids.

"We don't exchange gifts at Christmas," Sibling explained over lunch and I blinked at her with a forkful of spinach halfway to my lips. "How many do you get?" she asked curiously.

"Last year?" I paused to remember. "Four, I think?" I frowned. "Four sounds right - we've slowed down as we get older. But the girls get a lot."

"Quantify a lot," she requested and I smiled at her while chewing my salad. "Mom and Dad will probably get them 10-20 gifts each."

"Forty presents?" she exclaimed incredulously and I swallowed the remark that I'd planned to get them around 10 items each myself.

"It's just what we've always done," I shrugged. "We went to Grandma and Grandpa's when I was little and opening presents was always a lengthy event. Takes about an hour to get everything unwrapped and give cursory examinations of your new stuff. It's almost a measurement of affection, odd as that sounds. And I haven't purchased enough to indicate I love the girls as much as I do. So I'll go get more."

We ate in silence for several moments before I offered that I hate A Christmas Story with a passion.

"Thank goodness," she sighed. "At least we have that in common." Yet the other trait we share is that we're continuing to work through much of the holiday break, taking only a few days here and there for the next two weeks and trying frantically to get caught up before everyone returns. We chatted about how we're trying to keep up - checking items off lists and falling into bed at night realizing that morning is coming far too quickly.

Even as I write this, presents (8 each for the Ones from me) wait on the dining room table to be wrapped. But a fire is flickering and Chienne sleeping across the room. So it's cozy, even if spectacularly busy.


Unbalanced Reaction said...

We do a lot of presents for Christmas, too. The rest of the year is pretty low key-- maybe a small gift or two at birthdays-- so this is our one blowout.

repressed librarian said...

That's something we have in common too--I hate A Christmas Story and get sick of hearing every year how great it is.

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