Pop Beads & Tie Tacks – End Christmas Shopping Anxiety

Do you ever have Christmas shopping anxiety — fretting and stressing over each gift you buy? Will they like it? Will it fit? Does it cost as much as what they will give me? Maybe you even return gifts you’ve bought because you think they’re not quite good enough. But you finally settle on the right gifts everyone — you hope. And they’re wrapped, tied with bright bows, and under the tree.

It’s done. You can relax — except you don’t. Every time you walk by the tree you rethink one or two gifts — I hope the dress isn’t too big for Lily. Will Macy think the sweater is too babyish for a teenager? Does she even wear cardigans? Did I get a better gift for Olivia than for Ben? Will his feelings be hurt?

End Christmas shopping anxiety — shop like a little kid

Sometimes we worry all the fun out of giving. But we can fix that. All we have to do is go back and shop like we did when we were little kids. Kids don’t have anxiety about Christmas shopping. They just have fun. They don’t question: Will they like it? Of course! They’ll love it. It’s amazing.

The first time you got to go Christmas shopping all by yourself

Do you remember the first time you got to go Christmas shopping all by yourself? You set off almost giddy with freedom. You’d saved up an enormous amount of money — seven dollars and thirty-five cents (or seventy-three dollars depending on when you were a kid).

You went through the store, picking up one item after another until you found it. You held it and pictured the face of your family member when the paper was torn off and the prize revealed. And you didn’t doubt yourself for a minute. Mama would clap her hands and laugh.

Christmas shopping for Daddy was rewarding. Daddy would say it’s just what I need. And Grandma would ooh and ahh. Some people just know how to appreciate a gift. Christmas shopping for them is fun.


The first time I went shopping on my own

The first time I went Christmas shopping by myself, I was nine. It’s funny how clearly I remember every part of that day. Mama let me take the three-mile bus ride downtown by myself.

Prichard, Alabama had a one-street downtown. Kind of like the movie Pleasantville, when you got to the end of Mainstreet, you made the U-turn and went back. But that one street was packed with marvels from the manger scene by the library fountain to the reindeer pulling a sleigh with Santa Claus waving from the top of the Western Auto building.

Christmas shopping in y home townThe bus stopped in front of Kress’s Five and Ten and I jumped off. I was met by the aroma coming from the bakery where ten-inch-tall gingerbread men with raisin eyes and mouths were baking. The street was abuzz with people Christmas shopping.

Rows and Rows of Treasures to Choose From Kress's had rows of gifts to choose from.

Kress’s was the best store in Prichard for Christmas shopping – even better than the stores in Mobile. It had rows and rows of counters, racks, and shelves, all piled high with everything anybody could want, from ashtrays to wigs. I marched right past the candy counter and the soda fountain. But I did stop for a few minutes to check out the toys in Toyland.

Then, I headed to the jewelry counter. It overflowed with beads, earrings, pins, and watches. I loved the necklace of big sparkly red rhinestones. It was gorgeous. But it cost nearly four dollars and I wouldn’t have enough left for the other presents. And Mama didn’t like real sparkly necklaces anyway.


Then I saw a big display of beads. They were pretty, especially the blue ones. Mama would love them. I picked them up and they broke! I was trying not to cry when the saleslady laughed. She took the beads and snapped them back together. “They’re pop beads — new so your mama can change them to fit what she’s wearing or even make a necklace and bracelet to match.”

Pop beads! The pink ones would go with Mama’s Sunday dress. She was going to love them. Right next to the pop beads was the perfect thing for Grandma — a pin. It was a tiny red crystal rose on a shiny green stem. And I got a box of her favorite Lilac Talcum Powder too. Mama and Grandma were going to be so happy! Christmas shoppng was amazing. I was on to the men’s counters.


The best gift ever - a little hobo for Daddy

The men’s counter had watches, fountain pens, and fancy pipes. But I was drawn to the revolving display of tie-tacks. They came in all kinds of funny shapes. I had almost decided on a tie tack shaped like a little boat when I saw it — the best gift ever

It was a funny little statue of a hobo. He had a red nose, pink cheeks, a bowed mouth, a cigar, and a black top hat. Uh-oh! He was a little bit broken. He had a hole in his stomach. I figured that was why he only cost a dime.

Should I buy a broken Christmas present?

I asked the saleslady if she had one that wasn’t broken. She laughed and said he wasn’t broken. He was an ashtray and the hole was on purpose. It’s where Daddy would put the lit cigarette went. Then smoke would come out of his mouth. That’s it! I pictured Daddy. He will laugh and he’ll show it off to Uncle Stanley.

My shopping was done. I had bought fantastic treasures and I still had enough money for a coke-float and bus fare home. Shopping — the most fun ever!

But that was Christmas shopping then and this is now

But that was then. Did we forget how we did it? Without doubting and rethinking, Christmas shopping was so much fun. But we’re here, fretting over each purchase. And still today there are little kids in stores shopping with glee. And they are finding the most amazing things — a yodeling pickle, a cat-face pillow, an oven mitt shaped like a fish, claw, or a puppy paw. For Dad, there’s an ashtray shaped like a foot with red toenails (he doesn’t smoke, but he’ll love it). And Mom’s getting a pin that’s a cat holding a rhinestone bowling ball. Or maybe the bowl that’s shaped like a pig and says, “Praise the Lard.” Will they like it? Who doesn’t love the gifts kids pick out?

Christmas shopping anxiety is exhausting! So let’s remember and do it as we did when we were kids. Stop fretting and stressing and returning gifts before we give them. Shop like we did when shopping was fun. Then we can be excited to think of how happy everybody will be when they open the wonderful gifts that we wrapped, tied with bright bows, and placed under the tree.

Merry Christmas! And merry Christmas shopping!



December 15, 2022