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Excitement's in Shopping--Not Buying

December 20, 1987|MAURA KAVANAUGH EGGAN | Maura Kavanaugh Eggan is director of marketing at South Coast Plaza.

"Tired of shopping at crowded malls? Galleries and museums offer unique gifts," proclaims the summary of a story in the Orange County Index of The Times on Dec. 14. That wounds me. It's not that I don't agree that unique holiday gifts abound at galleries and museums.

No, what grieves me is the underlying assumption that holiday crowds inevitably induce weariness. That I don't buy. I much prefer the attitude of those who say to me, "Your job must be so exciting this time of year!" They're right. Being marketing director for South Coast Plaza isn't exactly a humdrum occupation anytime, but the holiday season is when the pace really quickens.

I plot ways to escape from my office so that I can wander through the center in quest of the most recklessly extravagant gifts of the season. This is my fantasy shopping ritual, and it bears no resemblance to what I'll actually buy for my family. But I take it absolutely seriously.

This year I'm tempted by the Revillon/Saks Fifth Avenue offer of "a dream weekend for two of elegance, excellence, luxury unsurpassed." If I buy $45,000 in Revillon furs before the end of the year, a companion of my choice and I will be flown from New York to Paris on the Concorde, quartered at the Hotel Le Crillon and fed a sumptuous dinner at one of Paris' finest restaurants.

Then there's the double tiger necklace at Cartier I rather like. The tigers are fashioned from pave canary diamonds, with faceted emerald eyes and "stripes" on onyx. They have movable heads. The rest of the necklace is pave canary diamonds set in 18K gold. It is three-quarters of a million dollars and took two years to create.

Sometimes I happen upon a great fantasy gift very serendipitously. My 16-year-old daughter and I are heading for the "down" escalator at Bullock's when she stops cold in her tracks. Before us is a two-story playhouse. Her teen-age sophistication is temporarily abandoned as she stoops to look in a window at two children solemnly drinking imaginary tea at a miniature table. "I always wanted a playhouse when I was a little girl, and I never got one," she sighs. "Well, I wanted one, too, and I didn't get it either!" I reply with some asperity.

Children and adults are gathered around the house. An impeccably dressed woman crouches to enter through the child-high door. "I always wanted one of these when I was a child," she confides to me. Does any child ever actually get a playhouse? I wonder. In Orange County, they do. Several have been sold at $1,950 each, and that doesn't include the optional two-car garage.

The Russian sable, the tiger necklace, and the playhouse complete my fantasy shopping list for this year. I must now face the grim truth that I have yet to tackle my real-life list. I derive some comfort from the knowledge that I am not alone.

An informal survey of the merchants of South Coast Plaza reveals that many wait until the 11th hour to do their own shopping. Is it that we secretly relish the final, frenzied hours of the holiday season? I think so. Exhausted we may be, but tired of the convivial crowds that are synonymous with the energy and elation of the season? Never! To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, that 18th-Century connoisseur of the urbane and cosmopolitan, "To be tired of Christmas shopping is to be tired of life!"

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