I mentioned before that Dad and I used to rise early the day after Thanksgiving and hit the streets to shop for a Christmas gift for Mom. We did that for many years, back before that day became known as "Black Friday." It was a fun time we had, just Dad and me.
We would eat breakfast, usually at Bob Evans, because it was close to the mall. There was conversation about this and that - you just never knew what might come up that we felt the need to discuss. It might be important subject matter or trivial, but in my mind it was all of the utmost importance because on this day, I had my dad all to myself and every word spoken between us mattered.
We walked along the mall corridors, looking at this or that. Something would pop out at either of us and we'd debate its merits and whether it deserved the place of honor under the tree reserved for Mom's Perfect Gift. Did I think she'd like it? Would I like it myself? Does she have one already? Think she'd use it?
On we'd go, until the moment we'd been waiting for arrived. There it sat, in all its glory - Mom's Perfect Gift. Always it would be the right size, the right color, and more than once, the last one they had. It was meant to be. Dad would buy it and with our mission accomplished we'd head home before the crowds really started moving in. He'd drop me off at home with Mom's gift and by Christmas I'd have it wrapped in the finest paper and ribbon I could find around my house. Many of our own gifts under the tree were sans bows, but not Mom's Perfect Gift. It deserved special treatment.
It's Mom that makes Christmas what it is in our family. She's now 73 years young and very much a kid at heart when it comes to so many things - Christmas most of all. This is her time of year. She enjoys the decorating, the shopping, the cooking and doing whatever she can to make Christmas Eve special for everyone. She deserves The Perfect Gift.
This past Thursday, Dad and I once again ventured out into the Christmas crowds. It had been a few years since Dad and I had gone to Fort Wayne shopping together like that, what with online shopping making it so easy to choose The Perfect Gift and have it delivered right to your door. We didn't have to brave the cold, fight the traffic, or stand in long lines. It was great!
Or was it?
I had missed that one time of year when I got to spend time alone with my dad. It was different than being alone with him at his house, visiting. Sure, we talked then, too, but the Christmas shopping trip had a magical air to it, as if we were "partners in crime," doing secret undercover work together. And when it came right down to it, the gift wasn't what mattered so much.
I won't speak for my dad, but for me, the excitement and joy of our day spent together is something I find difficult to put into words. Just being together, the two of us, speaking whatever pops into our minds, still getting to know each other after 50 years, finding we've got so many things in common that we either didn't know about or had forgotten, and just the pure joy and love I feel just being in the company of the man that helped make me who I am - that's The Perfect Gift.