Holiday Shopping: a series of moments between meals.

I hate shopping.

There. I said it. And yes, I heard the collective gasp coming from a hefty portion of readers, who I believe (and this is strictly based on the pitch of each gasp) were largely female.

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I don’t like browsing for things I don’t need, but would love to have. It’s torture. It’s also a little like watching the cooking channel with an empty fridge.

I don’t like trying on clothing. Because who doesn’t need therapy and a support group after five minutes in a fluorescent-lit, warp-mirrored, foul-floored changing room?

And I don’t like having to leave my swivel chair, hairy hound and Everlasting Gobstopper cup of tea in order to wrestle with the rest of the world just for a parking spot. It’s times like these when I wish I had an old armored bank truck—you know, the kind that pull right up to the front door of any shop because they’re collecting bags full of cash from the overflowing tills, and everybody outside makes a wide berth of the truck so no one suspects them of foul play.

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Yeah, that could work.

Going shopping also means I have to change out of my yoga pants. Okay, that one doesn’t really apply, but it means I have to put on nicer yoga pants. And I’m trying to keep those for a special occasion. Like when I finally have to answer the doorbell.

HOWEVER, I do make one exception to my normally Grinch-esque disposition on retail therapy.

I give in for one day.

I dress up (as long as the definition of “dressing up” means spraying on perfume),

I get it my car (fingers crossed next year it’s an armored bank truck),

and I grab a fistful of colorful coupons I’ll likely not use (save the ones with the word chocolate in them) because once I enter into the world of Muzak-droning department stores, I lose all functioning memory. So many pretty sparkly things …

Some of you may be familiar with this one day of giving in to ‘mall madness.’ It’s known to many of us as Black Friday.

Where I grew up, it was simply known as the day when deer hunting season opened and 3/4ths of the town was in the woods and the remainder just met up at the mall for a cup of coffee.

But after many years, I’ve hung up my camo pants (just kidding, I still wear them) and have happily joined the throngs of others who have opened the door a few days early to the month of December. Here, at the massive galleria of glitz and gold, we bask in the twinkling lights, hear Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby harmonize with sleigh bells, and ride on the outdoor mall’s miniature kiddie train only because my feet are aching and it conveniently swings by the lot where I’ve parked my car and need to dump off a few heavy already purchased parcels halfway through the day. (Everyone does this, right?)

I’ve spent this day with my mom for a bucketload of years. And we have a set schedule that CANNOT BE VARIED.

We’re kinda traditional. Or set in our ways. Or totally uninventive.

It doesn’t matter because it works for us and we want to relive the experience each year thereafter. Although with each successive year, I have to fight harder to get a spot on that kiddie train. Last year, after I tried to wrestle a seat away from a seven-year old, she essentially flipped me the bird when I told her Santa was watching. Okay, that’s not exactly true. She was actually doing sign language, but it was close enough to a rude gesture that after telling the conductor about this child’s reprehensible behavior, he booted her off the train. Whew.

In truth, the day begins at Starbucks. And I’m fairly happy to spend it and end it there if I had my druthers, because once I’ve had one of their magical mind-blowing concoctions, I desperately want to try them all. It’s a good thing I only cross their threshold once a year. Likely I’d have to remortgage the house if I made it a daily habit. Some folks probably already have. I don’t blame them.

Next we jump to the calendar store. And this is where we stay for the next three hours. I really only need to buy myself next year’s calendar for the kitchen wall, but somehow along the way, I made the decision that I am now in charge of buying everyone’s calendar for the upcoming year. From the postman—who will “Love this!” because there’s a mailbox on the photo in the month of August, to the exterminator—whom I won’t see until March because he already came for the winter quarterly bug defestation, I cannot leave that store without picking out a calendar for nearly all the people in my village. I even found one for the woman who used to do the sheep’s weekly acupuncture sessions. I know, ridiculous, right? You’d think there’d be a huge section for animal acupuncturists, but no, only one wall.

Now it’s lunchtime. We eat at a fabulous American chain restaurant called The Cheesecake Factory. Just walking in and smelling what the factory is pumping out on its conveyor belt brings on the need to unbutton your pants to make room for the five pounds you’ve simply inhaled.

An inordinate amount of time is spent discussing what we should not eat because we’re busy saving room for dinner, which comes in about two hours. I remind myself that I’ll work it all off by walking around afterward, and then see the kiddie train chug by the restaurant window.

Following lunch, we pop into a furniture store so that we can sit in a few dozen armchairs we could never afford. Then we stretch out on the three or four sample beds made up with animals skins and furs and generally everything one would need to keep warm if living inside an igloo. It all helps with digestion.

After this, we’re feeling a little sluggish, so we make our way to the world’s greatest cooking emporium and spend time holding spatulas that will transform our future meals. We drool over table settings that one would expect to see on a buffet board laid out by God if there was anyone he was trying to impress. There are also a slew of edible samples that come from the store’s line of We’ll make you look like a pro. Just buy the box and add water. And don’t forget the spatula. We then browse through cookbooks in order to stimulate our appetites for dinner, which is a mere minute or two away.

And at last, we’re ready for the main event: Maggiano’s, the big family Italian restaurant whose menu theme is We hope you’re wearing your fat pants.

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God, I love yoga wear.

We are seated in a huge enveloping leather booth. We are surrounded by garland and greenery and silver lights. We hear every song that Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett ever recorded. We eat piles of pasta with cheese and cream and butter and that piece of parsley garnish because we need to be able to say we had some sort of vegetable. And then it’s time for a slice of their chocolate cake. I think they call it, Yeah, you wish you could make this. I don’t mind the slam. I bought the spatula in the last store, so I’m ready for the challenge.

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On the way home, we pull out the one thing we purchased besides half the calendar store, the spatula and four days worth of food squished into two meals: we put on the season’s first holiday album. Someone sings to us of faraway family, mistletoe and food. We sing along in the glow of the dashboard lights, nostalgic and doped up on carbs.

I get home and squirrel away my parcels, but pull out my new kitchen calendar. I put a big red circle around the day after Thanksgiving.

I can’t wait to go shopping.


Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

48 thoughts on “Holiday Shopping: a series of moments between meals.

  1. Sounds great, especially the food stops and kiddie train. I bet your Mum loves Shopping Day too. We used to take both Mums Christmas Shopping, but only did them together once, so it became 2 outings as Mum-in-law was difficult and fussy (cafes a no-no, posh restaurants only, then sulks as we couldn’t afford it). My Mum loved it, as even if she didn’t buy anything, it was a good excuse going into town and have a coffee and sticky bun treat. Whoever invented the elasticated waist is my hero.
    Clothes shopping and the like though I HATE with a passion, especially as the size I thought I was had been revamped and renamed 2 sizes smaller. I ended up ordering loads from the catalogue, trying it on in the comfort of my own bedroom with its friendly lighting and even more friendly mirror, and kept what fitted.

    • I feel your pain with the ‘clothes shopping’ debacle. Hate it with a passion. If you haven’t already, click on the link at the bottom of the blog – the one marked Tim Hawkins. THIS is a song which will have you burning a few calories simply for listening to Tim’s whole take on yoga pants (and the blessings of elastic).
      I hope you’re still doing a little outing for yourself during the pretty holiday season. Window gazing and the wistful sighs of appreciation are a lovely part of the season for me. Purchases or no. 🙂

  2. Shopping, crowds and I are, well shall we say, completely incompatible. The older I get, the more I find myself like Pop’s… content with immediate family around, my IPad (for any immediate shopping needs from home), and I mean needs; (i.e. winter gloves, personals, items to keep my truck running). Anything that can be delivered via the UPS. I try to even avoid the inside of gas stations if possible.

    Cooking for a group of gastronomic lovers is, mind you, a comfort zone which is my serenity circle. Something of which I have control of.

    Great article once again Shelley. Thank you for the Sunday morning memories.

    Much love,

    Stoshu 🙂

  3. You sure didn’t make shopping look sexy, Shelley!! Mind you, high calorie pasta gets all my calorie warning lights blinking RED! I’m jealous of every calorie I get…and I hoard them for coffee and sugar (my future looks grim — so I’m buying brocolli and carrots, en masse!)

    Shopping used to be my life. It was the only outing that was mine and mine alone! But, since blogging, something has changed. The “feed” I get here is starving my shopping “need”…and now I panic at the thought of shopping! I even feel a panicky feeling while I’m looking for a parking stall…and sometimes I just bail on the idea and flee homeward.

    But I’m not fooled by myself…nor am I fooled by you. Give us both a huge wad of “conscience-less” money…we’d blaze such a trail…the noodles would simply waft in the wind behind us:)

      • Oh gosh no! I mean, you gotta prioritize here! That beautiful red cardboard cup with the $5.75 liquid inside is far more valuable than any more permanent possessions like a house or car…

  4. I am also NOT a shopper, but something about the holidays will get me out there and actually have me enjoying it. (even after I worked retail for many moons and grew to hate most things about the mall + holidays). Wonderful post!

  5. hello peakperspective its dennis the vizsla dog hay i think this is probly why dada shops frum his kompyooter as mutch as possibul becuz he cud not eet that mutch on akkownt of he duz not hav enny yoga ware!!! ha ha ok bye

    • All right, Dennis, I suggest you work on a few exercises for strengthening non-existence opposable thumbs so you can get online and type in Find your big buddy some comfy zen wear for Christmas and tell him you’ll stay in the car and guard the dashboard stereo and hubcaps while he gets himself to nearest pasta palace. In return, he brings you a “Dennis Doggy Bag.” Sound like a deal? woof. 😉

  6. I hate shopping too – at the best of times – and holiday crowds do not fall in that category. Then I am also terrible at finding just the right gift – unless I start quite early in the year – say March or April.
    However the other day I did manage a run into town and 1) found parking place within in walking distance and 2) actually found one of the items I was looking for. I am truly blessed. I decided I too deserved a calorie rich reward and once again – a parking space appeared before me.
    Otherwise … thank God for internet shopping.

    • It sounds like you’re walking under a lucky star at the moment. I suggest you run out and buy yourself a lottery ticket. If you win, I’ll meet you in town to celebrate with that calorie rich reward. Hope I don’t have to drive too far. Happy Holidays! 😉

  7. I utterly loathe shopping in stores. If you could see me shopping, you would think that I’m a man trapped in a woman’s body. I go into the store; I make a beeline for whatever item I want; I pay for said item; and then I leave. No browsing, no dawdling. My mother and sister love shopping. They have learned that if they plan to spend more than five minutes in a store, they need to drop me off at home first. I refuse to go to any store other than the grocery store after Thanksgiving and all the way up until the New Year. (And I only go to the grocery store very early on Sunday mornings, when everyone else in town is getting ready for church, and I pretty much have the place to myself.) If I find that I absolutely need something between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, I’ll willingly pay more for it online rather than venture out into the holiday crowds. I did go out to eat at a restaurant yesterday, and they kept playing Christmas music, and I sighed miserably and muttered, “I hate this time of year.” Shelley, I need to you to post another one of your songs, because my Grinch heart has shrunk again. 😛

    • Oh, Miranda! Your Grinch heart most certainly needs a hug. I feel your pain (and apart from the one day I relent, I’d swear we’re twins on the matter). And although I wasn’t planning to, I’ll see what I can do about rustling up something musically worthy of expanding the shrinkage. 😉

      • You actually make that one day of shopping you indulge in sound fun! (And hilarious, as always.) I’m glad you can get out and enjoy it. I wish I could be a better shopping buddy for my loved ones, but I’m old enough to accept my limitations. 🙂

  8. I love this post! I have such respect for anyone brave enough to venture forth on that particular Friday! Although I must admit, this tradition actually sounds like fun 🙂 I tend to stick with internet shopping as much as possible, otherwise I find that I return to the car with absolutely everything but those few things I actually needed – oh shiny distractions… I do have to say that I am in absolute agreement on the calendar store/section. I keep almost all of my appointment digitally, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need a calendar in at least a few rooms…and maybe around my office too.

    • … And one for the bathrooms and the garage and especially above the litter box because the cat deserves something nice to look at to distract her from the awful smell, right?
      Thanks for reading, and especially for sharing your thoughts! Cheers 😉

  9. “It’s also a little like watching the cooking channel with an empty fridge”
    Thanks, you just described my life…
    Very funny post I should say. As someone who lives on a small Caribbean island where we simply don’t have malls like you do, black friday has always fascinated me. I can’t say I get it entirely (like you, I’m not a big fan of shopping), but I do have a very strong craving for cheesecake after reading this. You must have struck a chord somewhere;)

    • I’m sure your craving will be a breeze to satiate. Doesn’t every small Caribbean island had a Cheesecake Factory? Or two?
      And I think all the people of your island are super fortunate that they don’t have malls. And probably very thin because they don’t have a Cheesecake Factory.

  10. I’ve awarded you the Blog of the Year Award 2013! (Forgive me if I’ve awarded you before and you declined, it’s hard to keep track of). There’s no obligation to accept, I understand completely if you don’t. Anyway, thanks for liking posts on my blog “The Journal of Wall Grimm.” I appreciate your coming by. For details about the award, please see my post Happy Holidays and have a peaceful and prosperous New Year! Sage

    • Blog of the Year? Good heavens, Sage, I’m happy if someone reports back with a simple opinion of, “Well, at least I don’t feel like I’ve wasted the last 4 minutes of my life.” I’m honored. So many thanks to you.
      I look forward to perusing more of the pages of your diary – I mean journal. Entertaining words, indeed! Cheers 😉

  11. Love the details of your shopping adventure. I also hate to try clothes for the same reasons as yours. Parking problems and the crowds always deter me from shopping. Online shopping works fine for me but not all the time. Enjoyed the lovely post. Take care and God bless.

    • Yep, shopping takes too much energy. Although, I’ll muster up whatever’s necessary to eat my way through the food adventure part for that one day. I find it’s hard to get the same satisfaction when shopping online and then only licking the computer monitor with a picture of spaghetti. 😉

  12. I avoid stores as much as possible between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That said, this year I noticed the parking lots at various retail stores were not nearly as crowded as in years past. Also read something online about how many shoppers had switched to online shopping, simply because given the choice, they’d rather avoid the crowds.

  13. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this brilliant blog!
    I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to new updates and will share this site with my Facebook group.

    Talk soon!

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