Last-minute dash to beat Christmas clock

Sunday, December 25, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:23 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And don’t forget ...

Paul Huesgen has avoided the Columbia Mall, and Christmas shopping, until Christmas Eve. He has a theory about that.

“Going to the mall is like a Band-Aid,” Huesgen of Columbia said. “When you take it off, you have to rip it off in one fell swoop.”

Huesgen rendezvoused at Barnes & Noble Booksellers with his brother, Karl Huesgen, and their cousin, Willie Johns, for an 11th-hour dash.

You see, Paul had to get presents for Karl and Willie, and Karl had to get presents for Paul and Willie, and Willie had to get a present for one of the brothers (we can’t say which), and they all had to get a present for Paul and Karl’s mother — that is, Willie’s aunt.

Ah, the joys of last-minute Christmas shopping.

But it’s different for everyone. On Saturday morning, Kathy Hauswirth brimmed with good cheer and sounded like Santa’s sleigh as she walked the Columbia Mall. Bells jingled from the reindeer antlers on her head, from her red-and-green ribbon earrings and from her socks.

Children in strollers heard, and saw, the jingle bell socks first and then couldn’t help but take in the rest of her. Their little mouths opened slightly and their eyes widened as they looked up.

But Hauswirth was oblivious to the looks and finger pointing. She and her sister, Debbie Neal, were on a last-minute mission: a Christmas sweatshirt for their father.

But, as happens on Christmas Eve, the sisters, both from Columbia, had to move on to Plan B. Not having found an appropriate sweatshirt, they decided a T-shirt would work just as well.

“You need to keep a sense of humor,” Hauswirth said of shopping at the 11th hour. “Tell yourself you’ll get done what you get done — and jewelry’s always a good thing.”

“Expensive jewelry,” Neal said.

“Of course,” said Hauswirth.

No rush, no pressure

Meanwhile, back at Barnes & Noble, Jim Jantz set his shopping basket on a table stacked with books marked “Gift Ideas under $10” and looked over his list.

“I always wait until the last minute,” Jantz said, a portrait of calm in the chaos of shoppers. “Last year, I went shopping for Christmas on the 26th.”

His late present last year went to his sister-in-law, the same person who will receive his late present this year. Jantz said they draw names in a family gift exchange. He has drawn her name two years in a row, but he’s not worried.

“She’s not very demanding,” he said. He’s not rushing, though, because, unlike many shoppers, he has a little more time to shop.

“I won’t be giving this gift until around New Year’s,” Jantz said. That’s when Jantz’s brother, sister-in-law and nephews will come to visit from China, where they are studying the language.

Waiting for bargains

“Read this story. Read this story.”

Jeff Westbrook pointed to a small display of Money Tree candles in Cool Stuff, and his wife and son scooted closer to read about a tree-shaped candle that yields foil-wrapped money after it’s been burned.

Even though they were finished Christmas shopping, the Columbia family made a special trip to Cool Stuff, on Broadway.

“We finished yesterday,” Westbrook said.

“But we bought one more present today,” added his wife, Cherri Westbrook. The last present was for their son, Josh, a freshman at West Junior High School. He came along Saturday to make sure his parents got him the game he’d been wanting.

Jeff Westbrook thought last-minute shopping was a good idea because many stores have sales for procrastinators. His wife and son disagreed. Josh said that even though a present might be less expensive, the merchandise is likely to have been picked over.

Cherri Westbrook doesn’t like last-minute shopping because of the crowd.

“We didn’t even get our tree until yesterday, which is very embarrassing,” she said.

But Jeff Westbrook was proud of that one: Home Depot had recently received a shipment of new Christmas trees, and he snagged a nice, full one for $10.

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