57: Shopping at The Loft

57: Shopping at The Loft

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Shopping at The Loft

The best gifts come from the heart, not the store.

~Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

“It’s the thought that counts,” my daughter Meredith chided me as I studied potential gifts stacked in our loft. “I think Miss Joyce will love it.”

True. But should I re-gift a present I had received?

“I can’t,” I said. Or could I?

I loved holiday decorations, cantatas, parties, shopping, and especially the gift giving. I put a lot of thought into selecting gifts the recipients would enjoy. Had they, in turn, wondered, “What in the world am I going to do with this?”

Even the latest edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette approved re-gifting in the right situations. But would my traditional Southern mother who sent me to charm school think it tasteless, tacky, and downright insulting?

This year, family health issues and lots of extra hours working meant little time to shop holiday sales or to browse online.

“I’m desperate,” I said to Meredith. “I don’t want friends and family to say ‘Really, you shouldn’t have,’ and mean it.”

She suggested I peruse the items we uncovered when downsizing. All were now stored in the loft of our home until we decided to keep them, sell them, or give them to charity. Clever gadgets mingled with unwanted sweaters, stacks of books, and one interesting vase in a delicate shade of blue from an out-of-town friend. Beautiful, though not my decorating color scheme.

This vase seemed perfect for my best friend Joyce.

“Think of it as recycling,” Meredith said.

“Well, it is ‘new’ as in ‘never used.’ ” I wavered. “It’s not like Susan will see it in Joyce’s house since they don’t know each other.” I studied the vase. “But I don’t know if I’ll feel right.”

Meredith shrugged.

“I bet your friends re-gift you.” She grinned at me.

What? I pondered the thought as the final shopping days wound down. No telltale signs had made me feel re-gifted. But I became obsessed with the idea.

My husband had given me the same book, Failing Forward, three years in a row. Could I get away with giving one back to him?

Had the bath salts with the questionable expiration date been fizzing and festering for years before they landed under my tree? The gold lamé fanny pack, glow-in-the-dark PJs, and the fruitcake doorstopper had to be re-gifts. What other white elephants had I received? Just how many Scrooges had tricked me?

Perhaps I would “shop” in my own stuff. But, each item had to pass the re-gifting test: nothing handmade for me, no monograms, and no autographed books. Everything must be unopened, in good condition, and given with the best intentions.

Re-gifting would be my little secret.

I plunged into shopping in my upstairs store. “The Loft” offered a whole new experience. No lines. No credit card remorse. No qualms.

I inspected the unique blue vase. It screamed, “Pick me for Joyce!” I envisioned her oohing and aahing over the gift I selected especially for her. Albeit, one from The Loft, but only Meredith and I would know.

“I can do this,” I said, gathering the gift-wrapping paraphernalia. “I think she’ll love it.”

A few days later, Joyce met me for lunch to exchange gifts. White lights twinkled, soft music wafted through the restaurant, and aromatic candles flickered and scented the busy dining room. Crystal glasses clinked. We laughed, gabbed, indulged a little bit, and opened our gifts.

“You first,” I said with a twinge of apprehension.

Joyce tore into the package, ripping the exquisite paper. She removed the gold bow and matching grosgrain ribbon and wadded the paper into a ball.

“I can’t wait to see,” she said.

She opened the box, pushing tissue paper aside, and lifted the vase.

I held my breath.

“Oh, it’s lovely,” she said and turned the vase around in her hands, admiring the intricate design. “I love it!” She beamed at me. “Where did you find it? I’d love to get another one to have matching vases on each end of the mantel.”

“I bought the last one at The Loft,” I mumbled and avoided eye contact.

“Ann Taylor’s Loft?”

“No,” I said as she continued to drill me.

I broke down and blabbed everything. My little secret tore across the table like a runaway holiday train before landing in Santa’s bad-girls-who-get-coal pile.

“A friend gave it to me last year,” I stammered. “It wasn’t the right color for me, but I thought it would work for you.”

Joyce leaned back and laughed a belly laugh, then dabbed at her eyes.

“Your gift is a re-gift, too,” she confessed. “My sister gave it to me last year. I love it, but more for you than for me.” She jumped up and gave me a warm hug. “That’s why we’re best friends. We’re not two old biddies who’d never consider re-gifting because of some antiquated ideas.” Joyce reexamined her gift. “I would have hated to miss this vase,” she said. “It’s perfect.”

When I got home, I checked my list again. Three hard-to-buy-for relatives remained. And by now, I’d stretched my last dollar and my last nerve. Finding the perfect gift had shifted to “get ’er done” via a trip to The Loft.

I settled on John Maxwell’s book. Failing Forward was perfect for them, and I just happened to have three. With any luck, I’d receive another copy from my husband real soon.

~Debra Ayers Brown

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