By George Brown
It’s strange how, after two years of retirement, I still wake up at the same time every day. My biological alarm goes off between 5:30 and 6 a.m. and my brain says to my bones, “Shake a leg old man, it’s time to get up.” And so I do.
Yvonne’s biological clock is set, shall we say, somewhat later than mine. This difference in sleep patterns long ago fostered a means of communication that has continued into our retirement years. After I’ve fallen asleep (typically within 30 seconds of my head hitting the pillow) Yvonne will sometimes think of something important she needs to tell me. Mercifully, instead of waking me up she has made it a practice to leave a note on the counter for me to find in the morning. Before retirement these periodic notes would be found under my keys. Now I find them resting at the edge of the coffeemaker.
And so it was about this time last week that I found a note so placed. Actually it was not a note but a receipt that included a coupon from some purchase Yvonne had made at the Dollar Store. Peculiarly, it was folded just so that the words, “$5 off your next $25 purchase,” were plainly visible. I pondered the note for a moment while pouring a cup of coffee, and then it dawned on me. Yvonne was kindly reminding me that I needed to do my Christmas shopping.
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I have plenty of time. This is only the 17th.” But then I noticed the fine print on the coupon, “Valid only until Saturday, December 21.” I usually don’t do my shopping until December 24, so I would have to shop early to take advantage of the coupon. But $25? Even though I only buy for Yvonne this is way more than I usually spend. “Oh well, maybe I can pick up some coffee and beef jerky while I’m there,” I mused to myself.
So I pocketed the coupon and, come Saturday, off to the Dollar Store I went. The place was packed with shoppers like sardines in a tin can. I did manage to grab the last of the carts, which I quickly realized other shoppers had left because a front wheel made the cart want to constantly turn right. “Not a problem,” I decided, “I’ll just start on the left side of the store and work my way to the right.”
I quickly passed by kitchen wares, cosmetics, and feminine hygiene products, but nothing jumped off the shelves shouting, “Buy me, buy me, I’m the perfect gift!” As I passed through the food section I picked up a large can of coffee and reminded myself to pick up a couple packs of beef jerky from the rack near the checkout counter.
With much effort I made the cart skip a right turn down the auto supplies aisle, and entered the candy and snacks aisle. “Ah, chocolate covered cherries. One of Yvonne’s favorites. I’ll buy two boxes.” Then I paused to do the math, “Let’s see, chocolate covered cherries at $2 a box, plus the coffee, and two packs of beef jerky…I would still need to spend another $13 to use the $25 coupon.”
Nothing else caught my eye in the snacks aisle, and I drew a blank in the office supplies and household cleaning supplies as well. “This is tough,” I thought to myself. At just that moment a clerk happened to pass by so I asked, “Ma’am, could you tell me what might be a nice gift for a 67-year old woman?”
The clerk gave me a puzzled look and then asked, “Well that depends. Is she a friend, your girl friend, or your wife?”
“Yes, she’s all three,” I said proudly, “and has been for the past 47 years.”
At this, the clerk, who herself appeared to be about 67, gave me a stern glare then wandered off muttering something profane under her breath. I think she called me a, “Dumb son of something.”
“Humph, I don’t need your help,” I muttered, but just softly enough that she couldn’t hear me.
Garden supplies! I had completely forgotten that the lawn and garden supplies were at the end of the automotive supplies aisle. “Yvonne loves gardening, maybe I’ll find something there,” I thought as I wrestled the cart through a series of hard left hand turns and headed toward my last aisle of hope.
And sure enough there it was, the perfect gift – a Rubbermaid bluebird house, assembly required. Yvonne loves birds, especially bluebirds. I would place it at just the right spot in her flower garden and with any luck a pair of bluebirds would make their nest in it for Yvonne to enjoy. Yep, the perfect gift.
At $12 the bluebird house left me a dollar short of the $25 minimum to use the coupon, but a pack of gum would take care of that. So I snatched up the bluebird house and headed toward the beef jerky rack. Low and behold, beef jerky was on sale, two for the price of one. It was my lucky day, a can of coffee, a pack of gum, and four packs of beef jerky for me, and not one, but three Christmas gifts for Yvonne – the boxes of chocolate covered cherries would be wrapped separately, of course.
As luck would have it I found myself in the checkout line of the clerk I had conversed with moments earlier. As I placed my items on the counter, I could hear her teeth grinding and she gave me the evil eye, as though I was some kind of lowlife scoundrel of a husband. I was careful not to make eye contact while she literally threw my gum, coffee, and beef jerky into a bag, and then gently placed the bluebird house and chocolate covered cherries into another bag. Without comment, I exited the store as quickly as I could.
Well, my friends, as I write this Yvonne’s presents are wrapped and have been placed under the tree. I even assembled the bluebird house. You know, I think this just might be the best Christmas we’ve ever had…or I might be spending a week, or two, or three (that would be one week per gift) in the travel trailer. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Yvonne, live in Jackson Township.