Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not Missing Anything

Heard today that holiday shopping sales were up 5.5%, the best sales figures since 2007, the year we started experiencing hardship and I stopped shopping. I have to say that since that time, I have missed buying Christmas gifts, decorations, household items and clothing. We've pretty much used what we have already owned and haven't replaced items unless absolutely necessary.

I've just stayed out of the malls and stores as much as possible with the exception of the used book store and going to the craft store every once in awhile. There are times that I have to go to the mall or a major department store for one of the boys, but not very often. I guess over the past years I have felt deprived and as though I have been missing out on things. It has been hard. There is a sense of pride that I've made it three years without buying myself any clothing (except one top on sale for $11.00). I find when I go to the stores and see items that I start to want them. If I don't see things, I don't miss them or care.

I'm not sure why holiday sales were up this year because I think we are still a nation suffering economically. This year was better for us not so much that I had more money, but that I was able to be better able to navigate the "system" (finding out about the Christmas Store in our community that allowed me to buy new gifts for my sons at greatly reduced cost) and getting the online gift card and gifts from the kind woman at the food pantry. My sons also received gifts from a friend of their late father so actually had a total of $70.00 cash!

My youngest wanted to get his girlfriend another small gift to go with the key necklace he had already purchased. We had discussed the idea of a perfume set. So on Sunday he asked me to take him out to some stores and we hit Walgreen's first where the perfume aisle was stripped bare. The Christmas aisle was also getting empty and was full of people tossing through items - the whole scene reminded me of a mob mentality - not that bad but still crazy and chaotic. We went to WalMart next with again entire shelves lying empty. Onward to Bath and Body Works which was insanely crowded. My son and I were getting claustrophobic from the pushing and brushing up against us as others passed by. My poor son asked me to choose the fragrance and dutifully smelled the sample cards in front of his nose. But after about 15 minutes he said they all had started to smell the same and he didn't care what we got as long as we chose something and got the heck out of there!

We ended up with a cute pair of fuzzy and soft socks on sale for $3.00 and then got three fragrances for $10.00 in the Cherry Blossom scent, Midnight Pomegranate and Vanilla Berry - total amount, $13.00. Then we stood 29th in line to pay for this small purchase. Yes, we were the 29th customers in line. How nutty is that?

I haven't witnessed this kind of shopping in a number of years and it made me feel sad. Go home and spend time with your families I wanted to say to some of the people. At the same time, being in the store for an hour or so resulted in me starting to want some of the things I saw - in particular, a nutmeg scented candle even though I still have a pretty ample supply of candles left to burn.

My oldest son went to the mall to buy a set of sheets for one of his girlfriend's gifts a few days before Christmas; (I like his practicality, she needed them and had requested a sheet set) and told me he would never go to a mall again so close to Christmas - it was crowded and he did not enjoy the experience although he got a good parking spot.

My youngest son and I were relieved to leave the fragrance store and head on home. The only thing I think I enjoyed out of the experience was looking at the cute snowflake garland hung from the ceiling in pinks and reds.

All these years I've thought I've been missing out on the shopping experience and the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Now I realize that I haven't really missed out on anything at all. It meant a great deal for me to be able to have gifts for the boys this year but I realize that the past years without gifts weren't the end of the world. Gifts are nice in moderation but not worth fighting over in a Walgreen's aisle or spending the better part of an afternoon getting. Going without has made us far more grateful for what we did receive and what we have. I think all of us realize as well that things don't make us happy and that we can learn to live without when need be.

We've all become far more thoughtful and deliberate in our actions, thinking, speaking and spending. In the end, maybe the biggest surprise is that looking back, not having gifts has ended up becoming a gift. Go figure. Never would I have thought that or even considered that in 2007!