--Robert Duvall, Four Christmases
|a stocking stuffer from my Mom, 2010|
Sometime around Halloween, I procure everything I could possibly need from the suburbs for the next six months (dog food, 50 gallon drums of Palmolive... the usual). Then a week or two before Thanksgiving I issue a travel advisory, reminding everyone I know to stock up, as if preparing for the apocalypse. "I'm out of Eukanuba," they might idly observe. "GO!! GO NOW!!" I say. "You won't be able to get within a million miles of PetSmart til January," I insist. "Do you have shampoo?" I'll fret out loud. "You might need it."
Holiday traffic, like ballgame traffic, rarely "happens" to me. I plan ahead. I re-route. (I said I don't mean to be smug; I didn't say I'm successful.)
So it should be some indication of the love that I have for my mother that we ended up at Bed, Bath and Beyond two days before Christmas.
It's a mother-daughter tradition that we grab a movie and a meal sometime Christmas week. I remember the first ones were Terms of Endearment and Working Girl circa 1980s. One year was Brokeback Mountain. A couple years ago it was Four Christmases (Dwight Yoakam plays a pastor!) This week, it was Little Fockers. The movie isn't important (obviously). It's just a couple quiet hours away from the usual holiday chaos. Then we usually hit the January sales, a few weeks later.
This week, as I scoured Fandango for any movie playing as far from any shopping corridors as possible, she lobbed in a bombshell. "Would that leave us time to run in Bed, Bath & Beyond so I can use my gift card?"
I think my response was along the lines of "WHAT??!! Bath and WHAT?!! NO. That would take FOUR HOURS." I wasn't even being hyperbolic -- for once -- I'd heard tales all week of people spending an entire day trying to turn left out of the Target parking lot. (And I chuckled a little under my breath when I heard these tales. "Amateurs," I thought to myself, a little self-righteously.)
"Bullshit," she observed matter-of-factly. "I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday and it was fine. I was in and out in no time." It's "practically Christmas already," she added, along with some rationalization about how everyone had already finished shopping by now. (Seriously?)
I offered a few token protests. We were already going to have to re-route around ballgame traffic downtown. There might not be time to eat. We were all gonna die. That kinda thing.
This was met with an incredibly intricate array of shopping necessities revolving around two gift cards that were about to expire, a one-day discount that was maybe 150 percent off, and some sort of elaborate point system that I believe involved her becoming CEO of the company if she spent a certain amount before midnight.
At which point, I shut my mouth. This was obviously important to her. And when we got there, I realized why. There were all sorts of restrictions that involved one special-per-shopper and one-offer-per-transaction and spend-this to get-that. I think at one point we schlepped one load out to the car, donned disguises outta the trunk, and went back for another round. I can't be sure. I know I lost her in the crowds more than once and nearly went to the register to have her name announced to come get her abandoned child. Then I would catch sight of her little red knit pom-pom Santa on the top of her Christmas cap bobbing along just under the rack of 2-for-1 balsam candles.
As family jobs go though, there are worse gigs than Christmas Mule.
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