I had last minute Christmas shopping to do today. All day long. I left about 11:30 this morning, and did not get home until 5.
One of many stops, Barns and Noble. This particular store is located in a rather large shopping center surrounded by Best Buy, Pet Smart and Pet Co (not even joking) some wine store, a Chinese bakery, shoe store, you get the idea. By some miracle, I found a parking space right in front of the store. I mean the jury is still out on if it was a real parking spot or did I just make it one, but it served its purpose for the forty-five minutes I was in Barns and Noble.
With my phone in hand, I had the image of the book on my screen that Sofia is asking Santa for. I march right up to the customer service desk.
“How can I help you today?”
“Ya, how ya doing? Do you have this book?” (Throw my phone into the face of the cashier)
“We do, follow me!”
He brings me right to the book. Easy.
“Anything else I can help you with?”
“Yeah, is this the section for 13-year-olds?”
“No, that’s over here. Follow me.”
Again, very easy.
I am standing there looking at shelves and shelves of books that are considered “young adult.” Obviously, I am looking for a book for Gracie as well. She is into mysteries.
Cue the anxiety. Every single book I pick up to flip through, I knew it was out of Gracie’s reading level. I mean there were a lot of cute ones. Some even marked by a “James Patterson recommends this book.” But, no. I knew it would be a bit much for her. Back to the section where I got Sofia’s book.
Again, I am faced with shelves and shelves of books. I mean how hard can it be to find a good ole mystery book for a 13-year-old girl who happens to have autism and may be a bit delayed in her reading comprehension. It’s freaking hard.
So I am standing there getting annoyed. Mostly annoyed because it really should not take me standing in a bookstore to realize that finding Gracie books would be a bit more challenging. I am looking around, at no one in particular. Just looking. The place is packed. Kids with parents, kids with what looked to be their grandparents. Couples, singles, it was just packed.
I am still holding the book Sofia asked for. I flip it over to read what it is about, hoping it may give me some ideas for Gracie. The book jacket tells me it is the autobiography of a lady who takes the reader through 6-12th grade. Apparently, this woman had issues with her teeth from a fall, and long story short she was made fun of in school. Cue the anxiety. Sofia herself has problems with her teeth. She has such an unusual case going on the orthodontist has rarely come across it. Is Sofia having problems in school? Are people making fun of her? Is this why she asked for this very specific book?
After going to trusty old Google. I made a selection on Gracie’s book. Large print, only about 150 pages. Few pictures, and it is a mystery. I made my up to the front and notice that there was a very long line. Like crazy long. I mean the line wrapped around sections of the store I have never been to. I ask the gentleman in front of me, “Excuse me Sir, are you in line?” Politely he tells me he is, so I settle in right behind him while going through a mental list of all the other places I need to go.
“Excuse me, are you in line?” I turn around to see a young lady who looks just as frazzled as I do. “I am, it’s a long one huh?” She laughs, the gentleman turns around and makes an even funnier comment on the long line. For about seven minutes, the three of us were just chatting in that long Barns and Noble line. Three strangers who most likely would never cross paths again were just chillin’ in line. It was nice. A nice change from the usual rudeness I see on a daily basis.
I am back in the parking lot trying to maneuver my way in between about three cars who are going to be fighting over the not so parking space I made my own. My mind is all over the place. Cue the anxiety. The traffic, the budget that is slowly dwindling. Joe’s payday, I still need to wrap presents and let’s not forget AJ and Vinnie. I still need to get their presents. These two are some of the hardest to shop for.
“What do you want for Christmas?”
“Nothing, do not worry about me.”
I am sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, in the parking lot. This is insane. People are leaving Best Buy just walking out in traffic not even stopping to see if there are any cars coming. Well, of course, no cars are moving, we are all at a standstill….but still. All it would have taken was that ONE person to see the car line backed up and wait a few extra seconds while waving the cars to go. While sitting there, my mind wanders. I start to “People Watch” all the idiots that are not stopping to see if there are moving cars.
Each person I see, the attractive 30 something man, the older couple, the young hipster, with each person I see I come up with a story for them. All of us are doing last minute Christmas Shopping. It’s like we had no idea Christmas falls on December 25th. The young attractive 30 something man is buying something for his “man cave.” His wife will most likely get on him for not bringing home what was on the list. An argument will quickly ensure. The older couple in the later years of life is busy buying last minute items. This will be the first time in many years that all their children and grandchildren will be together under the same roof. Sure, they may go over budget, but it will be worth it. The young hipster is most likely there to spend lunch with his girlfriend, or boyfriend, or both. Who knows.
Finally, traffic is moving. I only have three more places to go. And, although I have a game plan, I still feel some sort of anxiety. I am not entirely sure why. I mean this is my favorite time of year. Maybe it is money? Maybe it is because a part of me is always waiting for the “bad news.” I do not know, any of you guys like that? Sometimes I feel when things are going good, it is only a matter of time before something bad happens. I feel I am being productive, but yet I still somewhat anxious.
On my way to Fred Meyer, I stop at McDonald’s. It is late afternoon and I have not had anything to eat. I know my body well enough to know that if I order a Big Mac combo, it is early enough where the carbs will not matter and my jeans will thank me. Plus, there is just something about fountain sodas that taste so much better than regular soda.
Immediately, I guzzle my large diet coke soda. It is cold, crisp and refreshing! I am at a stop light, which is the perfect time for me to start eating the fries, except, I notice a guy, a homeless guy on the corner, pretty close to my car, with a sign that says “Hungry.”
And there my anxiety goes again. I mean all I need is five seconds and I can come up with a story, with a past for complete strangers. This guy is someone’s son, and the thought of him and many others spending Christmas on the side of the road, or in the homeless camps throughout our town, well, that is just enough to throw my anxiety into overdrive. Quickly, I looked at the light, then checked my rear view mirror. I folded up the bag, rolled my window down. He came walking over to my car. “Sorry, this is all I have, I do not even have a drink. I mean I do but I am drinking it.” The car behind me beeps. The light is green and this homeless guy with the “Hungry” sign is either looking at me like I am crazy or looking at me with gratitude. He takes the bag as the car behind beeps again. I was thisclose to getting out of my car and having some words with the car behind me, but you know, my luck I would have gotten run over or something.
“God bless you.”
I offer an awkward smile while giving the car behind me the infamous “Jen Look” but who are we kidding, he did not see me. Off I go to Fred Meyer, and my first stop is hitting the deli counter, because, well, I am hungry.
It is always a fine line with me. A juggling act of sorts. Trying to bring the magic of Christmas to my own family, while making sure everyone is taken care of, and the hurt and sadness I feel for others who are less fortunate (and do not even get me started on the animals!) Sometimes I feel guilty, sometimes I feel blessed beyond words. Like I said, it is a juggling act. A very melancholy time of year for me.
But….and cue the anxiety again, for me, it is always New Years that almost brings a sadness. New years to me represents the end of the show. You know how when you go to see a really good movie, and you are SO into this movie. You do not want the movie to end, except it does. It always does. There is always an ending, and when you leave the movie theatre and take those first steps outside, your reality sinks in. “Okay, back to the everyday grind. It was a good show, can’t wait for the next!”
Yet, there is never an encore.
I guess this is what being an adult is all about.
Sometimes, I long for the days of Santa eating the cookies and Rudolph eating half of a carrot. I long for the days of innocence, where the only thing I had to worry about is “I wonder if Santa will bring me a Cabbage Patch doll for Christmas.” I miss the days where I did not know how hard life can be. I miss the days where I did not know that people literally lived on the street and animals were abused. Do you see? It is enough to make you cry.
The other night Joe and I actually spent some time together. Without any prompting from me (and do not act like you never prompt!) he says to me
“You are my wife, I am a better person because of you.”
and then, in those moments, I know that Santa is listening.