There are approximately 487 things on my current to-do list – all of which need to be done by Dec. 25th. My list is like a sea cucumber, which is neither as salty nor refreshing as its name suggests. My list is sea cucumber-like in that if you were to cut it up into a million tiny pieces, it would regenerate itself into a million tiny lists – each with 487 separate action items waiting to be checked off. It is formidable and daunting and I’ll admit, completely self-induced. But it’s December and this is the rigor we put ourselves through in the pursuit of Happy Holidays.
So because the Happy Holidays are beating down our doors with a flail, I’m gonna make this post short. I will not take up your precious time with rants or angry outbursts about how the holiday season turns people into crazed, stressed-out, lunatics who will bite your head off if you appear in any way to be interested in the same retail item that they are interested in. I won’t go on about complacent and hostile sales associates (I’m talking to you, Wal-Mart), or how every year the holidays seem bigger and more encompassing than the year before, especially when you celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. Instead, I will tell you a story. A shopping story – filled with some of the best, if not most practical, holiday shopping advice I’ve ever heard.
It was Black Friday so many years ago that I don’t think the term Black Friday had been coined yet. I was shopping in downtown Chicago with my Dad and sister. Our tradition was to go to Water Tower Place and my Dad, being the mench that he is, would buy us each a present for no other reason than going with him to brave the crowds and because no one appreciates a good bargain like my Dad.
On this particular Black Friday, we were making our way through a jam-packed Marshall Fields. The store was so busy that in certain places we were forced to walk single file. I think it was snowing outside, which drew inside all the tourists usually content to stroll down Michigan Ave and sight-see. Tired, cranky shoppers wore, or worse held, their heavy winter jackets as they shimmied their way through narrow aisles packed with merchandise, much of it breakable. The store was hot as hell and people were mad and impatient and filled with bargain-hunting induced rage.
My Dad, sister, and I were on our way out of the store after successfully finding our just-because gift of the day. We shuffled single file through the Women’s Accessories department on the first floor filled with gloves, hats, earmuffs, and other baubles, following the tide downstream toward the exit. In the crowd coming upstream opposite us was a Mom with her son, who was probably about nine years old. The Mom looked tired but focused and was carrying at least five shopping bags. The boy looked positively shellacked with boredom. His posture, the all too familiar slumped-shoulders-jutted-out-chin combo, told us they’d been at it for a long time. As we came up upon this duo, I heard the boy asking his mom over and over, “Can we leave now?” “Can we just go?” “Pleeeeeeease, Mom, can we go home now?” The Mom was mostly ignoring him and reciting the things on her list she had yet to check off.
Just as we passed the boy, I saw him surreptitiously glance at one of the delicate looking trinkets displayed on the hip-height round table we were scooting past. He lightly touched his fingers upon the top of the nearest ceramic pretty and with a Mr. Burns-like expression on his face, muttered under his breath, “I should just break something, so they’ll throw us out of here…”
Probably no one in the entire store except the three of us heard him. And this observant-yet-sardonic nugget of wisdom made our entire experience worth the hassle. We laughed and laughed as we flowed along with the sea of shoppers out onto Michigan Ave and walked home, our spirits buoyed by the hilarious, jaded-misery of one nine-year old boy.
To this day, I cannot shop in a crowded store without thinking of that boy. His words of wisdom like an escape valve, always giving me hope that if things ever get to be too much, I could always just tip over the display of glass ornaments and end my holiday shopping agony. I haven’t done it yet, but then again there are still 5 shopping days left till Christmas and 486 things on my to-do list. (Write Blog is now crossed off.)
Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to all my fabulous readers out there! May this holiday season NOT make you want to get thrown out of anywhere. 🙂