This past Saturday, my boys and I did something that we never, ever do–we went to the stores to do our Christmas shopping. Every year I shop online, mostly through Amazon, because it’s easier and they usually have the best prices. This year I was feeling all festive for the holidays and decided I would really like to go shopping the old-fashioned way–at the mall, at retail and department stores, surrounded by pretty Christmas decorations while the subtle notes of Christmas carols ring throughout the store. Let me tell you this cheery, idealistic vision in my head was so far off base from reality!
But before I get into that, our “all things Christmas” weekend started off Friday night with a hot chocolate bar and some beautifully decorated sugar cookies downtown at Socials Café. You should really check out their Instagram page, because their cakes and cookies are so beautiful that you almost don’t want to eat them! The hot chocolate bar had a ton of toppings and I couldn’t resist the mint chocolate chips and peppermint bark for mine!
After we practically made ourselves sick on sugar, we headed off to the theater. Our town theater was redone a year or two ago, and it was upgraded with comfy leather recliners, plus a bar and on-site restaurants. There is even the option of a full-service dinner in one of the theaters. Of course all of those fancy food and drink options come with an overzealous price tag, so we smuggled in some snacks for our 7pm showing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It was such a great kick-off to our shopping weekend!
On Saturday we started off downtown because I needed to pick up a few things from a couple of local boutique stores, plus Hunter wanted to peruse Shivelbines, our local music stores, and Logan wanted to browse a couple of antique stores. I also really wanted to take some test shots with my new camera. It was frigid cold outside that morning, walking between shops, but the experience was much more peaceful than what was to come.
It was holiday open house weekend downtown, so the shops had little treats set out for customers. Bloom Studio and Gifts was hosting an event that my friends Zach and Jenny went to, so we met up with them for a few minutes and had some cookies and cocoa while we were there. Then we walked down the street with the icy wind whipping at our noses, to Pastimes Antiques. We spent a good amount of time browsing there, before heading back to the car and making one final stop at Annie Laurie’s, another antique store, on our way home for lunch. I got in lots of fun test shots on the camera, and Hunter fell in love with a guitar.
After lunch is when things went chaotic. We ventured out to finish our shopping, starting with Barnes & Noble inside the mall. We pulled into the parking lot, and I couldn’t believe the number of cars. I had never in my life seen it so busy, and I was immediately dreading going inside. We parked half a mile from the building and went into Barnes & Noble. It was relatively peaceful inside the store, but that changed once we ventured out into the mall.
We bounced off of people like pinballs as we made our way up to Bath & Body Works. The three of us somehow managed to make it without being separated, but inside Bath & Body Works was even worse! We could barely get to the products to browse for all of the people. I thought I would be able to go, look, spot something and just know it was the perfect gift for the person I was looking for. But there were so many different products, in so many different scents, and I can’t remember the last time I had such a hard time making a decision!
We finally had gifts for two people picked out and went to get in line. “Wait…where the h*** is the end of the line?” It wound from the checkout counter through the store like an unraveled yo-yo, through the first section of the store, around display tables, through the second section of the store against the wall displays, finally stopping at the doorway to the store’s third section. We found the end of the line and looked back up to the front. I looked at Hunter and Logan. They looked at me. “We’re going to be here til we die.” I paused for a moment, then turned, plopped my items down on the nearest shelf and said “let’s go”, squeezing past people and praying to sweet baby Jesus that the boys didn’t get lost behind me on our way out.
We bounced between more people making our way to JC Penney. The checkout counter at the store entrance was full with cashiers, and the line of customers waiting was narrowly better than Bath & Body Works. We gave it a big fat “nope”, and made a beeline for Barnes & Noble, our safe place! Reading must be a dying hobby in our community, because Barnes & Noble was just like any other day. Quiet. Calm. Welcoming. Logan went to use the bathroom while Hunter and I browsed some bargain books. Logan picked up the puzzle lock box he wanted, and I scored a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook marked down from $24.99 to $8.95.
We walked the half mile back to our car, not even attempting any other stores in the mall. Then we took the back way across the interstate to avoid the traffic on the main highway that was like rush hour in the city on a Friday afternoon. We went to Walmart, whose parking lot was just as bursting at the seams as the mall. Yet somehow inside was fairly tame. We found the sections we needed right away, there were few other people in the aisles, and we used a self checkout since we only had three things, with only one person in line ahead of us.
From there we went to Target to pick up a gift card and some candy. By the time we left there it was getting dark, and even the back way was getting crazy with traffic. We missed a turn lane because the line of cars was backed up so far that I couldn’t get in, and I had to turn around in the Menards parking lot, where I got stuck behind a driver who either couldn’t see, or was drunk, I couldn’t tell which. Once I got back to where I needed to be, we headed to Hobby Lobby to pick up a rain check order that had come in that day. We were resigned once again to parking at the back of the lot, then waiting in long checkout lines just to pick up an order. By this point I was more than ready to be home, in my pajamas, with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a glass of wine, and no evidence of the outside world!
We had two more stops to make, and they both turned out (thankfully) to be painless. My dad restores classic cars, so even though I’m going mostly anti-gift cards this Christmas, I still opted to get him a gift card to O’Reilly Auto Parts because there is no fathomable way I could pick out things he could actually use! I wish I could’ve just gotten everyone on my list gifts from O’Reilly’s because the store was completely dead. There was not a single other customer in the place. Which was a good thing, because it took all four employees working that night to figure out how to load my gift card! Entertainment for the night = check!
Finally, we stopped at Walgreens to pick up some photos I had printed of Hunter and Logan to give our family members on Christmas Eve. While we were downtown earlier that day I managed to get some pretty decent photos of them…actually frameworthy photos! So I had some 4×6’s printed and they were ready for me as we made our way home. Here are the shots of the boys:
One more stop for gas, and then we were home, where my light-spirited, dreamy ideas of peaceful Christmas shopping gave way to reality. I had envisioned myself all merry and bright, with paper-handled bags in hand spinning happy circles in front of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree at the mall center, with Bing Crosby singing White Christmas in the background. I ended up haggard and stressed, with my hair falling from its bobby pins and a slight limp because my knee was done with the shopping long before I was, and alternating exclamations of “I’m bored” being sung by my children.
For future years…give me Amazon or give me death!