Saturday, December 25, 2010

Last Minute Christmas Shopping

One of my brothers-in-law used to be famous for doing all his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve - usually just before the stores closed.
One year, he was running particularly late and decided that shopping at a bookstore would be the most efficient use of his time. Lots of choices. One-stop shopping. Good idea.

He zipped up and down the aisles and before long he had gifts for everyone, except his dad. My late father-in-law was a dear, quiet, serious man - and hard to buy for. He was a mathematics professor. Didn't have much of a sense of humor. Few hobbies. Devout religious man.

As the store was closing, my brother-in-law was starting to panic. He couldn't show up Christmas morning without a present for Dad. Just then, he spied a book of poetry on a sale table and thought, "that'll be perfect!" Satisfied that he had, once again, managed to pull off a brilliant, last minute shopping spree, he headed to the register.

The next morning, as everyone was exchanging and opening presents, my brother-in-law was watching the expressions on people's faces as they opened his gifts. By all accounts, he had done a good job.

Off to the side, my father-in-law was carefully leafing through his book of poetry. When my brother-in-law asked him what he thought, Dad handed the book to him and said, "You didn't read any of these before you bought the book, did you?"

My brother-in-law smiled weakly, opened the book and started to read. It turned out that the "poetry book" was, in fact, a collection of dirty limericks. When that dawned on him, the look on his face was priceless.
I'm sure my brother-in-law wishes he'd never bought that book, or at least never given it to Dad. But I've always thought of it as the gift that keeps on giving - because every time I think about it or one of us tells that story, it makes me laugh.