Shopping for the Spirit

Originally posted Nov. 27, 2007

I can’t believe I did it. I swore I’d never succumb to the insane shopping frenzy that commences before dawn the day after Thanksgiving. I’d been a snob, thinking myself too evolved to fall victim to the materialism that plagues us. Not buying that? Okay, so the truth is that even the lure of deep discounts couldn’t stir my type B self from my slumber that early.

But then I had children, and one of them wanted a Jeep Power Wheels 4 x 4 for Christmas. And it went on sale during the wee hours of ‘Black Friday’ morning.

That was six years ago, and the experience left me so dazed and crazed that I swore I’d never do it again. Sure thing.

I’ll never forget my first time. Instead of going back to bed after nursing Baby Holly at 4 a.m., I stumbled out the door, pausing only to brush my teeth.

I was psyched. I figured that in 20 minutes I’d have secured my son’s happiness Christmas morning and that in 30 I’d be back under the covers where I belonged. My cozy visions and confidence evaporated when I got to Wal-Mart and discovered that the parking lot was jam-packed.

Snagging one of the last spots, I joined the other early-birds (mostly women) in a line that stretched from the store’s entrance clear to the back of the lot. Clutching circulars and shopping lists, veteran shoppers huddled in the chilly air and plotted their strategies with their fellow bargain-hunters. I became nervous when the couple in front of me recalled a catfight over Barbie’s they witnessed the previous year.

Would kiddie-Jeeps engender the same fighting spirit?

Regretting that I’d left my breakfast power-muffins in the car (I’m not much of a shopper to begin with – I’ll take all the help I can get), I considered the wisdom of escaping unscathed and with my dignity intact. But then the line of shoppers began to surge forward toward the opening doors. The crowd began to hum, and I actually found myself getting excited, almost giddy with anticipation. I started to giggle and said a quiet “Ladies, start your engines!” when I heard the odd drone of dozens of shopping carts making their way across the cold pavement.

What possessed so many to shop for deals at such an obscene hour?

In my case it was my love for little Mr. Noah, and his longing for The Jeep.

For several months he’d been obsessed with getting it. His hands had to be peeled from the steering wheel the first time he rode one. A few weeks later, he spotted the Jeep in a catalogue.

“I need it NOW!” I NEED it! I NEEEEEED it!” he implored, his little three-year-old arms outstretched. You get the idea. It wasn’t pretty. During this episode a UPS truck happened to pull up in front of our house.

“It’s here! My truck is here!” Noah exclaimed, a pure example of the power of magical thinking. He nearly knocked the UPS driver off his feet.

After sending a baffled UPS guy on his merry way, I suggested to Noah that he talk to Santa about the Jeep – but warned him that it might not fit in his sleigh. Noah has never been one to be deterred, though, even at three.

“I’m going to Santa Land now, Mommy. Would you get some shoes on?” He pleaded, retrieving my shoes from my bedroom. “Would you do it?” He continued, causing me to laugh so hard I cried.

Aside from fretting about the cost of the Jeep, I wondered: would indulging my son in an over-the-top gift cause him to miss the point that Christmas is the Spirit of loving and giving in our hearts, as my Mom always says?

A few days later I mentioned to Noah that his white stuffed kitten, which he affectionately dubbed his ‘little girl,’ resembled the one I’d had when I was little, that I’d been devastated to lose.

“You can have mine, Mommy, for the cat you lost when you were a little girl,” he offered. Ah, but he had the Spirit, alright.

So was I tough enough to get the job done that cold, sleepless morn? There was no way a few Barbie-wielding women were gonna get in my way. Let’s just say I also had to wrestle the girls for a helmet …

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