“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”

I lost count of the number of envelopes I stuffed this morning, and my back started to give out so I finished around noon. To ease my pain I shopped for a few Christmas presents at the Natural History Museum store.

The sun keeps appearing and disappearing, but the day is bright enough to keep me happy. Gracie, my live barometer, stayed out in the yard a long while: the longer she’s out, the nicer the day. It’s sweatshirt weather.

When I was a kid, Woolworth’s uptown was my favorite store. It was an old store with a wooden floor that sloped in places and squeaked when you walked on it. The cash registers were in the front by the windows. The toys were in the second aisle. Comic books were on a rack toward the front. We’d always pick up and read a couple while we were there. Nobody ever yelled at us to put them down. I remember the balsa model planes we’d buy for 10 cents. They’d have only a couple of flights before some piece would break, usually the tail-piece. Woolworth’s was where we bought our kites and string. It was also our Christmas shopping mecca. With a dollar in hand, we could find something for the whole family. For my dad, it was a white handkerchief every Christmas. He used handkerchiefs all of his life. My mother was a bit more difficult. I’d have to go up and down the aisles until I found the perfect gift. Perfume in small glass bottles made a great present. I suspect it smelled pretty bad, but I thought the etched bottles were pretty. My sisters got doll bottles or doll rattles and my brother often got that plane from me.

I wrapped those gifts myself and used plenty of tape so no one could peek though my sister Moe probably did. She was known for peeking through tiny holes she’d rip in the wrapping paper and was an expert at not getting caught. Over time, she has parlayed that talent into being able to guess what is in just about every wrapped Christmas present. She does her parlor trick on Christmas Eve and scores nearly 100%. Outwitting Moe is one of the challenges of Christmas. It takes ingenuity and guile, and I have both. This year Moe goes down!

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12 Comments on ““The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.””

  1. Birgit Says:

    I remember shopping at Woolworth with my grandma. She and a lot of people her age couldn’t pronounce the name, so the common pronunciation was something like “Wallwatt”.

    • Kat Says:

      I find that interesting. I wonder why.

      • Birgit Says:

        Old Germans and the unpronounceable English “th”…
        You wrote about Christmas with the family and it made me think of this modern Australian Christmas song written by Tim Minchin and sung by Kate Miller-Heidke:
        You may already know it? CoverLayDown posted it last year and I like it very much. It’s so different from usual Christmas songs.

  2. Coleen Burnett Says:

    I am legendary for my inability to wrap a gift. I have no patience and no sense of measurement. You always know its mine because it looks like utter crap. Gift bags are sent from heaven.

    When I saw this post I was reminded of the famous line from Howard Cosell during a Ali-Frazier fight in Zaire or somesuch years back: “DOWN GOES FRAZIER! DOWN GOES FRAZIER!…”

    Waving from Jersey, 🙂


    • Kat Says:

      I have a friend who says the same thing about gift bags. In my den is the perfect table for wrapping. I love to pick out the paper and ribbon. I also buy special ornaments to add to the top of the package.

      I had forgotten all about that. Maybe that was in my head when I said Moe was going down.

      Waving right back at you!!

  3. Techniques:
    1. A too-large box stuffed with loads of newspaper so the very small gift does not roll around.
    2. Box in a box in a box, etc.
    3. Extra weight in with gift.
    4. Wrap soft gift in tinfoil before putting it into box. Or little bells, of course.
    5. Double and triple wrap

    and, the secret weapon

    Buah Ha Ha

    6. Duct Tape :>)

    Oh and maybe a drink. Christmas wrapping can be such fun.

    • Kat Says:

      These are the best suggestions. I love the idea of the bells and suspect they’d drive my sister crazy! I’m thinking of combining 3, 4 and 5. Let her figure that gift out then!!

  4. flyboybob Says:

    The Variety stores in every town in America were exactly the same. Some were owned by F.W. Woolworth, others had a different name such as H.L. Green’s but they all looked the same and carried the same kind of merchandise. I think all the clerks were hired directly from Central Casting. They were all middle age woman who wore their gray hair in buns, had a pencil sticking out of their bun, wore a tan cotton jacket over their floral dresses and wore sensible shoes. Each store employed a middle aged black man who looked like the guy on the Lipton tea box. He swept the wooden floors, dusted and stocked the shelves but never rang anything up on the old cash register. The stores were a holiday gift emporium where a person could find exactly the right gift at the right price for everyone and you could buy the wrapping paper and bow at the same time.

    The larger stores even had lunch counters that served the best grilled cheese sandwiches, fountain cherry Cokes and chocolate malts. These lunch counters became the center of national attention in the early 1960s when civil right workers attempted to integrate them in the Jim Crow south. All of these stores have been now been replaced with Walmart stores in every small and large city around the world.

    Today was sunny and warm. The temperature is forecast to be in the 80s by Saturday. It’s hard to get into the holiday spirit when it’s almost warm enough to go swimming.

    • Kat Says:

      Up until the black man you had exactly described my Woolworth’s. My town back then had no blacks, just Irish and Italians. I don’t think I ever saw anyone cleaning, but you are so right about the store being a holiday gift emporium! I always found what I needed to find for everyone in my family.

      The Woolworth’s they built later in a small shopping center had that lunch counter. My mother and sister loved to go there for tuna melts, and both of them were devastated when the store closed. The women who worked the counters were old and short and had fancy handkerchiefs pinned by their name tags.

      No Walmart’s around here yet.

      I thought it was warm here at 45˚!

  5. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat
    We had Woolworths and Grants. They were on the same side of the street and in adjoining blocks. I remember buying cheap metal knitting needles at Woolworths and really twee ceramic animals at Grants. I’m not sure I have any of the needles but I think there are one or two twee ceramic animals hiding in the dark corners of this house. 🙂
    Enjoy the day, cold as it is.

    • Kat Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      We had a Grants too right uptown near Woolworth’s, but I never enjoyed roaming Grants. I barely remember what it looked like.

      In Chatham is a ben franklin’s which is just like a Woolworth’s with small aisle and over-crowded shelves. It sells all those cheap souvenirs in the summer. I like to roam the store to see what I might find.

  6. Kat Says:

    I haven’t heard this song before. I must have missed the posting-great song. It’s like an adult Christmas carol.

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