In my former life, I loved to shop. Loved it. And by former life, I mean B.C. (before children). And by shop, I mostly mean browse. Mostly. But somewhere in between Jeremiah sleeping soundly in his stroller no matter where we were and turning into a toddler with working legs and arms, shopping has become more of a need than a want.
I remember in the younger years of my life, maybe around middle school, spending the night at my Grandma Skrivan’s house on Thanksgiving night and the next day the two of us heading out to do some fun shopping. I’d usually pick out my Christmas gift that day and she’d save it to give to me on Christmas Eve. Sometimes I even got a pretty holiday outfit to sport multiple times during the next few weeks. I remember thumbing through the adds on Thanksgiving and hearing that it was the busiest shopping day of the year. And, just to be super crazy and mix things up a bit, some stores would even open as early as 8am.
But something’s changed in the last few years and turned into the madness that we have grown to affectionately call “Black Friday.” Incidentally, I recently learned that unlike “Black Tuesday,” referring to the day in 1929 when the stock market crashed, the “black” in Black Friday is about the day of the year when retailers usually go from red to black in their books and actually start to make some profit for the year.
And trust me, this isn’t some post judging those who act like greedy Americans or scolding people for turning Thanksgiving into Black Friday Eve. I actually think the whole day is really fun. As long as there are no psychos out there who are willing to hurt each other over 30% of pants. And really, don’t we all feel a bit like this when thinking about our Black Friday adventures?
So, back to my B.C. years, I can recall a few Black Fridays where I was out the door by 4am and shopping at Old Navy for coats, sweaters, dresses, etc. I mean, the whole store was half off! Actually, I think that was the year that Nathaniel had mapped out – literally – all the good deals. It was back when Wii’s were really new and completely unavailable. So, certain stores were supposed to get like 20 – 30 Wii’s for the big day, and would hand out tickets to the first 20 customers. Not for a discounted Wii, just for a Wii period. Anyways, so that year, Nathaniel was out buying the super special camera he’d always wanted which was at a huge discount, and I was standing in line at 7am at Game Stop. I remember calling Nathaniel excitedly saying, “I’m number 19 out of 20!” I bought the Wii and whatever else it came with, and that day we sold it on ebay for twice the value, which later allowed us to buy ourselves another Wii for free! Oh, when I think back to the energy I had in my B.C. years.
There really is something fun about being out with the rest of your city at such a weird hour of the morning. Some people look like they just rolled out of bed, while others look like they are ready for church. Most are pleasant and excited and chattering about what deals they can’t wait to get. And then, before most people would normally wake up for a normal day, the really good sales are over and everyone has retreated back to their beds. It kind of reminds me of the zombies on “I am Legend.”
Last year, we had just moved into our condo which had no washer or dryer or most importantly, refrigerator. Actually, we were lacking a lot of things. So, I dragged my pregnant self and small toddler out of bed at 7 am and made a ginormous purchase at Lowes, and then braved the mall for a few more hours. I think we spent 8 hours shopping that day. And it wasn’t on junk – it was on stuff we really needed for the house – with the foresight that we’d be bringing it down to Peru in a year or so. And Christmas decorations. Lots of Christmas decorations.
Well, with my Black Friday history, you can imagine my surprise when November 25 rolled around this year and I was completely uninterested in going out shopping. Completely. There wasn’t a single thing I could think of being worth braving the crowds or the early am chill (and crowds). Since Gabriella’s birth, a normal trip to the mall now makes me feel overwhelmed, dizzy, and sweaty. The crowds of people, the ginormous train of a double stroller filled with antsy children, the trying things on my depressingly shaped body, the prices of stuff, and the amount of things I find myself instantly “needing” is all just a little too much for me – and that’s on a Tuesday in September. Imagine what Black Friday would have felt like!
Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe having two kids is really kicking my rear, but I just had no motivation to participate in Black Friday 2011. It just didn’t seem worth it. My suspicions were confirmed when on our way home from Thanksgiving dinner, Nathaniel (who was planning on going out), pulled into Walmart and let me run in just to peek at all of the madness. It was around 9:50 – 10 minutes before many of the doorbusters opened, and hoards of people were surrounding various crates of things. My favorite was the 100 or so people surrounding not the ipods or computers or cameras, but the value box of tupperware for $6.95. Seriously? That was the major Black Friday (actually still Thursday) deal? I guess people had a lot of leftovers to box up still. I also realized what a sucker I am for a good deal. Because only a few people were surrounding it, I could see the Sony ipod dock station with all of it’s features now only $50. $50! I didn’t have a clue what it’s actual retail value should be, nor have I ever longed for a new ipod dock, but hey, Walmart was promising that it was a Black Friday deal, so I was instantly tempted to buy it. Thankfully I had left my wallet in the car.
So, when Friday morning came, I stayed snuggled in my bed, still full from the night before, while Nathaniel pulled on his warm coat and headed out to see the deals. I know he enjoyed his time out – and I enjoyed having the house to myself to finalize the details of his surprise 30th birthday party that night. How was I supposed to bake a cake with him hovering in the kitchen all day!? The details of the party is for another post (maybe), but the point is, I found so much joy in the quietness of Friday. And unlike so many of the years past where most of what I bought was not Christmas presents for anyone besides myself, last Friday really was about someone else – Nathaniel, his party, and having a nice day with my kids.
A few weeks after I wrote that post about Hoarding, Nathaniel and I started to seriously consider the idea of not taking down a container, but rather 10 large suitcases and duffle bags of our most special things, and selling the rest of what we own here. We planned to re-buy everything in Peru and start over more simply. I was excited about this prospect, but also actually finding myself grieving as well. Everything I looked at in my house was all of the sudden not mine, but something I was going to have to give away or sell in a few months. Everyone likes to think that they are the kind of person who could just give everything up at a moments notice in exchange for what’s really important in life, but the truth is, we would all really struggle. And so I was, and a few weeks later, the pendulum swung back, but this time more in the middle. Now we aren’t hoarding everything to keep living as American as possible while in Peru, but neither are we selling everything we own to start over as complete Peruvians. We are still taking down a container – not the biggest size they offer, but a container just the same. And almost giving everything up has made me appreciate all the more what we already have and how much little we actually need to feel good about our lives there. I am still feeling that urge to purge and get rid of things we just won’t need in Peru, and creating a much smaller list of things that would be smart to bring down there. (make up is at the top). But something in me is really shifting into feeling like stuff is just stuff. I am really finding the joy in being creative with what I have (thank you, Pinterest), in playing with my kids, and in the lost art of relaxation. Shopping just isn’t fitting in to that lifestyle anymore. And with the advent of Amazon Prime, I have also discovered the unmistakable value in online shopping. Don’t get me wrong – I still like stuff, I still think of things that I “need,” but there is also something in me that is just so much less of the way I used to be B.C. And I feel so much lazier when it comes to taking the two kids anywhere with me.
And so Black Friday, I thank you for the memories. And I’m really looking forward to telling people in Peru about you. I know they will be amazed. But for now, I think we need a break from each other. It’s not you, Black Friday, it’s two children in car seats and strollers and feeding schedules. We may reconnect again someday, but until we do, I’m gonna hang out more with Cyber Monday – she doesn’t require that I get dressed, do my hair, or even see other people. And that’s just my kind of shopping for this phase of life.See what else the G's are doing: www.servinginkas.com