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The Last Windrow: This Christmas gift exchange was unplanned

I've never been one to complain about a gift that someone gave me. I admit I've bitten my bottom lip a couple of times wondering why on earth someone would give me a gift completely out of my lifestyle.

It's easy to lie at times like that and act like I like the gift while figuring out how I can get rid of it. Hopefully I can find the store that sold it and trade it in for a few bucks or for something I really wanted.

My wife and I ran a full-line department store for more than 30 years. Over that time we sold lots of gifts to folks who were at a loss as to how the receiver would receive their present. Shopping for someone you don't know very well can be an anxious exercise. Guessing at the size and wondering what color they would like is not an easy task. The just-past Christmas giving season was proof of that.

Our store was very busy one season many years ago. We wrapped gifts for free and the hubbub at the wrapping counter was akin to a jail break. Our salespersons were elbowing, hip checking and tearing off wrapping paper by the yard. Ribbons flew in every direction as gifts were wrapped for the waiting shoppers.

I found that it might take a shopper an hour to pick out their gift, but when it came to getting it wrapped, patience ran out. The crowd at the counter was in a hurry and we knew it.

And so it was one year when a lady handed me a camouflaged duck hunting hat. It was for her husband, a dyed-in-the wool outdoorsman. The hat was insulated and she knew he would just love it since the hat he now wore was worn through.

It was the perfect gift.

In the women's department a husband was exploring the ladies nightgown rack. He looked at the many styles and colors and finally picked out a pink, fuzzy gown and proudly walked up to the wrapping counter with his prize. He loved the fact that we were wrapping his gift for him. One less thing to think about.

He paid for the gown and stepped back to the rear of the crowded counter awaiting his wrapped gift.

Gifts were flying back and forth over the counter as our store crew hurried as best they could. Finally all the gifts were wrapped and we closed the store up on Christmas Eve. With a certain amount of satisfaction that our store had made a lot of people happy, we turned out the lights and headed home to our own Christmas Eve festivities.

The Monday after Christmas we opened the store fully expecting to receive gifts in exchange for wrong sizes, wrong colors or gifts that just weren't wanted. It happened every year. Most folks opted to exchange knowing that their gift was given with love or respect and they didn't want to disrespect the giver.

The door opened around noon and in came a lady with a box. She walked up to the counter and started to laugh as she opened the box. Inside was a great looking camouflage duck hunting hat.

"Just not what I was expecting!" she said. "I've never hunted a day in my life!:

The salespersons assembled roared with laughter. I knew that shortly we were going to see another customer.

Sure enough, just a few minutes after the lady delivered the hat back to the store, in strode a sturdy, outdoors-looking fellow. He too had a box. He sat it on the counter and we all knew what was in the box - a pink, fuzzy nightgown.

"It's just not my size!" he chuckled. "And, I prefer camouflage!"

Again there was a roar of laughter from everyone assembled. The two customers exchanged their gifts right then and there. Life was good.

I wondered what it was like under their family trees when those two gifts were unwrapped on Christmas Eve? Might have been a lively night?

See you next time. Okay?