Sometimes, last minute is good

Christmas is literally only hours away, and if the presents aren’t wrapped and ready last-minute shoppers may be feeling a little frantic. Still, gifts gotten in a hurry don’t necessarily mean they are haphazard and forgettable – especially when they are surprises.

According to officials from the National Retail Federation, surveys found 14 percent of holiday shoppers in the United States – roughly 32 million people – didn’t start making their planned purchases until this past week. It is further estimated that of those last-minute shoppers surveyed, the bulk are still scrambling to ensure they have something to put under the tree for their friends and family.

Kevin and Kathy Lemon, of Woolstock, followed a few guidelines in their gift buying so they could ensure they weren’t among those in a rush to cover everyone on their list. Instead of anxiously stalking through the stores, they were able to spend the weekend enjoying the energy and joyful atmosphere at the Crossroads Mall in Fort Dodge.

In fact, Kevin Lemon was able to surprise his wife by taking her into a jewelry store, throwing his arms wide and saying “pick one.”

“It’s wonderful,” Kathy Lemon said as she glanced down at the shiny blue stone and diamond ring on her finger. A blush formed on her cheeks and she smiled. “My mother bought me my first birthstone ring when I was 12. It was my first real present, something more than a toy. It was real, an adult gift. I still have it, but I can’t wear it anymore. You grow over the years, you know.”

The years may have passed, but Kevin Lemon’s most memorable Christmas gift is still easy for him to pinpoint. It was a surprise; one his father sprang on him when he was maybe 4 or 5 years old.

“We lived on the farm near Blairsburg,” Kevin Lemon said, “and my dad comes walking in with a puppy in his hands and says, ‘Look what I got for you.’ I barely remember it, just bits and pieces, but I had the dog until I was a teenager. His name was Rufus, after the wrestler Rufus R. Jones, and he was a collie mix.”

Kevin Lemon said his father, George Lemon, had gotten the pup from people who lived just down the road. It had been an impulse on his father’s part, sbut one that turned into a meaningful holiday memory.

People shouldn’t necessary act on their impulses when picking gifts for others, though. Usually, Kevin Lemon said, he and his wife will buy gifts as they can, looking and planning throughout the year rather than focusing on making purchases during a few weeks in the winter. This helps them maintain a reasonable budget, and they get items sent to friends and family farther away with time to spare.

Taylor Lennon, 15, of Fort Dodge, expects her parents took their time in planning for her most memorable Christmas gift. They rescued a dog, adopting him from the Almost Home Animal Shelter and making a place for him in their family. That place has become pretty sizeable, too, Taylor Lennon said, since he is a black Labrador and boxer mix that has packed on the pounds in the last three years.

“Even though he’s 90 pounds, he acts like he’s a lap dog,” she said.

Adopting a pet or getting an animal as a gift isn’t something most people should do last minute, she said. It’s a big commitment and a long-term choice.

“You have to walk them, care for them,” Taylor Lennon said. “You spend time with them, invest a lot of money and attention in them.”

Ron Fuller, of Stanhope, has spent a lot of time waiting on a bench while his wife finishes her Christmas shopping. She is a pragmatic present getter, he said, and she always considers the best way to give the gift recipients what they will truly want, which is why she often get gift cards.

“Most kids like gift cards anymore,” Fuller said. “That way they can pick out what they like and we don’t have to guess at it.”

For Fuller, it wasn’t guesswork that he wanted a bicycle when he was a young, but it was still a surprise when he got one.

“I was 8 or 9,” he said. “Getting a bicycle was the best present a boy could get.”