Today I went to the mall after work to start shopping for G's Christmas presents. I'd been there 10 minutes before I realized that it wasn't going to be as easy as it usually is. Why? Because almost nine is a tricky age. Almost nine isn't a little kid anymore, but it isn't a big kid either. Almost nine is old enough to want the kinds of gifts that come in small boxes and cost lots of money, but it's also young enough to want lots of big boxes to unwrap. Almost nine is young enough to still want bright, shiny "kid" toys, and to enjoy playing with them, but old enough that those toys may be outgrown in only a year or so. In short, almost nine is a challenge, but one to which I am equal.
The only people I shop for at all anymore are children -- G, her two little cousins, my sister (who at 17, still barely qualifies) and a child either from one of the "Angel Trees" that spring up around this time of year, or from a family that we sponsor at work. I enjoy shopping for my sponsored kids more than almost anyone else. Last year, I had a 9-year-old boy who needed clothes, and G and I went to Target and bought him a small but complete wardrobe. This year, I've got a 10-year-old girl who asked for High School Musical merchandise, which I'm sure G will be happy to choose. (I always try to get a kid who's close to her age so she can help with the shopping.) I miss the old days when I shopped for friends and extended family, but let's face it, for most of us, even the most thoughtful Christmas gifts just end up cluttering our already overstuffed homes. Spending the money on things that people really need and will use seems like the better option. Plus, I identify with these kids: I wasn't poor for my entire childhood, or even most of it, but it only takes a few hard years -- possibly only one hard year -- to change your point of view forever.
In other news, G told me this evening that instead of going to someone else's house for Thanksgiving tomorrow, she wants to stay home with just the two of us. I asked her what we would eat for Thanksgiving dinner, and she said, "Whatever we like to eat." Frankly, this sounds fantastic to me: I'm all for the "being thankful" part of Thanksgiving, but since G and I neither eat turkey nor watch football, the holiday itself usually doesn't hold much appeal for us. On top of that, we're scheduled to spend the day with P's family, and great as they are, holidays with them only serve to remind me that P isn't there to take all the dark meat and belt out a few songs on karaoke and sit around talking to his cousins. I'd probably be a lot happier counting my blessings at home and then ordering pizza and going to the movies. It'd upset other people if we did that, though, so I may as well start putting on my game face now.