A couple of days ago, when I was leaving the credit union, I stopped at the Secret Santa tree. You know the drill; heart-shaped cards with names and some details about children, youth or families who need help for Christmas. Apparently, even though the economy has improved, a lot of people got swept downstream and still need help.
I picked up a card for someone I’ll call “Jay.*” Jay is male, 16, “a good student.” He wants a winter coat, size medium, or a Target gift card.
Why does it matter that Jay is a good student? He’s not asking for books, a semester abroad or an hour on a Cray supercomputer. I think that’s on the card as a personal detail that will make me connect with him. It may also be someone’s comment about stereotyping the less fortunate. One can be poor and be a good student.
Bear with me, though, while I stereotype. I suspect that Good Student Jay, himself, does not want a winter coat. He may need a winter coat. His mother may want a winter coat for him. A gift card, on the other hand, sounds like just the thing for a sixteen year old.
I decided to get both. I had to take my car into the body shop, on the other side of town. I decided after I’d done that, I would drive over to Target, get a gift card and a nice medium sized coat. Target carries clothes, right? Easy-peasy.
This is only offered as evidence of how terribly out of touch I am with Christmas shopping.
The next day, in my rental car, which I didn’t like (a rant about the rental car will follow) I drove over to Target. Gift card? That was cake. A medium sized men’s coat? Hold on there, missy. That’s just not going to be so easy.
First of all, a couple of rules. I was not going to buy Good Student Jay a coat in either red or blue. Lovely colors, those… and gang colors. My bias about people whose names are on Secret Santa trees is that I should probably avoid that palette. And while I didn’t have a fixed price, price was a concern. And then… try to find Medium.
I found two perfectly appropriate coats, in Small (and boy, those looked really small) and Extra Large. Even the ones that had been hung on hangers marked M were Smalls. I found a nice, thick, black hoodie. Um… maybe not. I found a thin, flimsy thing in orange camo. Great for deer hunting, I guess.
I went away.
A few miles north, in Montgomery Village, I went into Marshall’s and relived the experience, because I am not a fast learner.
Closer to home, at Silk Moon, my favorite local clothing store, I found a compact fiberfill jacket, medium-sized, in black. Nice. One hundred fifty dollars. Since I’m not sure I’ll be spending that much on Spouse in total, it seemed… disproportionate. That gift card, Good Student Jay? It’s looking better and better.
Today after taking my MIL to a couple of appointments, I headed up to the mall on the north edge of Santa Rosa. This 1960s-era mall was moribund, and is being extensively – I might say aggressively – remodeled by Simon Malls. While that seems like a good-news, bad-news situation (some local independent stores have not had leases renewed); today it looked like good news, because there is an Old Navy Store there. I don’t usually shop at Old Navy but they were looking like the best bet.
Near the door, on a Men’s sale rack, I found a medium sized insulated coat, with a detachable hood, in tasteful gray. It was originally $49, and 60% off. I snatched it up and got in line. There was a long line and I figured I’d have a wait. I did. It was about four minutes. There were three checkers working when I got in line; two more opened up within a minute. My checker was a young woman, brisk, cheerful and friendly. My cost would have been $21, but I wanted to buy a gift box, so my total, including tax, was $25 and change. Old Navy, For the Win!
Good Student Jay, I hope you like the coat and it keeps you warm this winter. I hope you get something fun with the gift card, and I hope you and your family have a Christmas that is bright and filled with hope.
*”Jay” was not the same on the card.