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Shopping Is For Presents – And The Birds

Andy RooneyThe shopping part takes a lot of the fun out of Christmas. The stores are crowded and the streets are even more clogged with shoppers. There are two kinds of shoppers. One shopper goes out with a list of people he or she wants to buy presents for, and the other shopper goes out to buy presents and will decide later who all the presents are for. I'm half of one and half of the other. I know who I have to get presents for, but I have no idea what to buy. I prefer small stores and big presents.

The trouble is, we all tend to buy presents we like without much thought about what the person you're giving the present to would like. Sometimes the people you like best are hardest to get presents for. (I like using the word "presents" better than "gifts.")

My family and friends have given me a lot of great Christmas presents over the years, but I don't think I ever got any present better than the Ivor Johnson tricycle my mother and father gave me for Christmas when I was about 7. I think receiving presents when you're a kid always seems better than receiving them as an adult. I rode that bike up and down the street we lived on in Albany and got thoroughly familiar with the places I had to avoid because the slate sidewalk was broken. I shoveled snow off the sidewalks, and from riding my bike on the street, I knew every crack on Partridge Street between Madison and Western Avenue.

All the kids loved it when it snowed on Partridge Street because we got rich shoveling sidewalks. The sidewalk in front of the Wachters' house was hardest because it wasn't level and there were big cracks in it. We shoveled Mrs. Potter's sidewalk for 35 cents like the others but we didn't like to because there were a lot of cracks in it and she never gave us anything extra the way some people did. We were often paid 50 cents for shoveling a sidewalk for which we were charging 35 cents, and we had a high regard for those customers for the rest of the year. We never soaped their windows on Halloween.

The McAuliffes lived on the corner of Partridge Street and Western Avenue, and we had to shovel the steps up to their house on a little hill, so we charged 75 cents. It took two of us more than an hour to shovel that. Sometimes I can't remember what day it is, but I never forget how much we were paid to shovel someone's sidewalk on Partridge Street 80 years ago.

Shoveling snow is a lot easier and more satisfying than raking leaves, although I've done a lot of both. The worst job around the house is washing windows. You just get one side done and you have to go inside or out to do the other. I'll take shoveling snow over washing windows or raking leaves any day. For one thing, you can see more clearly what you've accomplished when you shovel snow. A washed window doesn't look much different than a dirty one except you can see through it a little better. The best part of shoveling for our neighbors was that the money I earned, I used, in part, to buy Christmas presents for my parents.

I think giving Christmas presents is one of the nicest things we do for each other. I don't really care how hard it is to shop and find the right item. We mean it when we give to someone we care about. We often miss and get the wrong thing, but the idea is never wrong.

(Write to Andy Rooney at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207, or via email at aarooney5@yahoo.com)

(c) 2009 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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