For many years starting when my children were old enough to go to the shopping mall with me, I would take them on a mission to buy our Christmas gifts for Annemarie.  

I dislike shopping and, particularly, do not like to be anywhere near the mall during the holiday shopping frenzy.  However, I would make this concession for the benefit of my children so that they could get into the holiday spirit and feel the pride of helping to pick out the gifts for their mother.  

I would make a big production out of the whole experience.  I would take time off from work so that we could go during the week close to dinner time on the theory that the mall would be the least crowded at that time of day.  We would do our shopping and then I would take them out to dinner so that we could spend some relaxing time together and congratulate ourselves on what wonderful gifts we had purchased.

We would get the shopping done in record time as I brought them to one store after another quickly picking out just the right gifts.  I must have appeared to them to be the most incredible and insightful shopper who always knew exactly what their mother would want from each store.

What I am about to reveal was my most closely guarded secret while my children were still young.  Annemarie, knowing full well how inept I am at shopping, particularly, for her would send me off to the mall with a very detailed list of what she wanted with instructions of not only the store but the department within the store and the display case within the department.  For example, I would be instructed to get the brown gloves (of a certain size) located on the top shelf of the glove display in the women’s department at a particular store.  Yes, there was very little in the way of surprises for Annemarie on Christmas morning; but, the children would be so proud and happy at her genuine expressions of joy that it made the charade all worthwhile.

There would, in fact, be a few surprises as I would let the children purchase some small gifts that caught their eye that they thought Annemarie would like and, on occasion, I would get spontaneous and buy something that was not on the list.

In recent years, now that the children have grown, we have gotten away from this ritual and I, with my daughter’s help, am able to venture into the mall without a list and still bring home gifts that Annemarie can enjoy.  Of course, I always keep the receipts just in case she wants to exchange something.