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By Staff | Dec 19, 2014

It’s nearly Christmas, which means that it’s almost time for me to begin thinking about considering the possibility of starting Christmas shopping.

I am a diehard, last-possible-minute Christmas shopper. It isn’t time to begin looking for gifts until the mall security guards are locking the doors on Christmas Eve.

My wife, on the other hand, is a “-ber Christmas shopper.” She’s been known to purchase gifts decades in advance.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she has stockpiled Christmas presents for possible future grandchildren that aren’t even yet a twinkle in an eye.

It’s not as if I don’t like Christmas shopping. I just don’t particularly enjoy the parts that involve driving to the store, dealing with the crowds, searching for the perfect items, paying for said items and then driving back home.

Other than that, Christmas shopping is OK.

Finding an item that’s suitable for conveying the kindly feelings that accompany Christmas has always been a problem.

This would often lead to panic decisions and gifts such as booklets of S & H Green Stamps and Mason jars full of mismatched buttons.

Nothing says “Happy Yuletide” like a festive ball of lint that has been lovingly and recently – it’s still warm – collected from the clothes dryer screen.

Let’s face it: It’s hard to know what to buy for some people.

Back when I was a kid, the fallback gift for a man was a pocket square. Uncles all across this great land of ours probably have dresser drawers full of pocket squares.

When I was growing up, the default Christmas gift for me seemed to be socks. It was always disappointing to pick up a promising-looking box and realize, based on its mass and lack of interesting rattles, that it contained socks.

My heart had been set on a jet pack. Besides, what message does the gift of socks send other than, “Your feet reek.”

Aletta, a neighbor lady, gave me a model car kit for Christmas when I was about 8. My guess is that assembling the model was supposed to give me insight into the automotive manufacturing business – minus the labor and supply chain problems, of course.

Ideally, the box containing the model car would be opened carefully. Its instruction sheet would be gently removed, studied in great detail and scrupulously followed.

This is pretty much the opposite of what I did.

Excited at the prospect of owning my first car, I ripped the box open, sending tiny plastic car parts skittering across the floor. I tossed the instruction sheet aside, figuring that directions are for sissies. I still use this approach when traveling.

I was eager to get started and began to randomly glue car parts together. I soon learned a couple of things regarding model car assembly.

First was that there were some very good reasons for having an instruction sheet. It turns out that there is a very specific order that needs to be followed when assembling a model car.

For instance, the engine and transmission should be installed before the hood and fenders, not after.

Second was that model glue is surprisingly strong. Say that you have to remove the hood and fenders to allow the installation of an engine.

The fenders are likely to snap before their glue joints give.

I also learned that model glue has an atomic attraction to my skin. And my clothes. And my hair. There is no way on God’s green earth to remove model glue from hair, so a guy has no choice other than to cut it out.

This is more difficult than it sounds, especially when you don’t have access to a mirror.

The final step was applying the car’s decals, which were released from a special sheet of paper by soaking it in water.

This caused the decals to become so slimy and fragile that they would rip if you so much as breathed on them. You need the hands of a neurosurgeon when applying model car decals.

After nearly an hour of intense effort, my model car was finally done. It listed to one side and was riddled with random splotches of glue and hair.

The fenders were crooked and the decals looked like wads of wet tissue that had been thrown at the car and left to dry.

None of the wheels turned except for the steering wheel, which kept falling off.

Even so, I was proud of my miniature roadster. I was racking my brains for a way to properly thank Aletta for her thoughtful present when I stumbled upon the perfect gift – a nice new pair of socks.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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