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Black Friday Mayhem

No, I did not get into a Wal-Mart tug-of-war or hair pulling fight over slippers during the Black Friday pandemonium today, like you think I would have. I am rather smitten about cozy clothes. It is tempting especially at this time of year. It gets chilly up here in Canada. However, that is no excuse for all out insanity.
Last year I ventured out though and it was life changing…
I quietly browsed the sales racks and discount bins. Keeping low key, staying out of the way but noting the crazed look on peoples faces as they hunt down meaningless bargains for stuff they don’t need. I told myself, nothing here could make me act like them. Besides, no sale was that good. Shaking my head, I walked out without purchasing a thing.
You would have been so proud of me. “Way to stick it to the retail man Jess! Don’t let this superficial corporate money grab get the best of you!” You would say that… but then a funny thing happened…
I curiously and almost automatically drove my car over to Old Navy. What could be the harm? Maybe some good sales! As I scoured high and low for a parking spot, I wondered if it was busy. I felt a little tinge of excitement burn in the pit of my tummy. I parked the car and walked over. Nothing could have prepared me for what lay inside. I mean nothing.
Store buzzing. People everywhere. Employees with headsets. Unattended children running around. The frantic moms. Toddler puffer vests. Hiking boots, half off. Teens stocking up on tank tops. Eternity scarves. Every imaginable color. Young and old hunting for the best deals in town.
The scene was overwhelming. The steam of furious madness smacked me right in the face. “I am out of here!” I said out loud as the door closed behind me. “I better go home.”
As I turned to walk away, something magical happened. A display of wonder and awe caught my eye. All of heaven shone down and beamed its marvelous glory way back in the far corner of the store. There they were. Beautifully. Delicately hung. Proud and declaring 75% off. The fleece pullover hoodie.
I stood there frozen in the midst of bargain fever. It had been much too long since I felt the sweet caress of new fleece on my cheeks. I needed it. Now. All reason escaped and my desire turned savage. I felt floods of panic and fear wash over me. “Is it too late? I had to have one. How many are left in my size?”
GO, JESS, GO!
It was less like the power walk I had intended and more like an awkward prancercise but, nevertheless, I blazed through the crowd. As I passed the line-up that wrapped around the dressing rooms, everyone stared at me. I clipped an old man’s walker with my purse because the gravitational vortex of speed that I was travelling made my bag trail paces behind. I stepped on a little girls foot and made her cry. I almost knocked over a T-shirt stand. Nothing and no one would get in my way. Seniors nor small children. I was on a mission.
When I arrived at what felt like my destiny, all of time stood still. Before me, only possibilities: brisk winter walks, reading books by the fire, Sunday afternoon drives. Laughter. Puppies. Bliss in the soft enchantment of fleece.
When I came to, I was frothing at the mouth. “Get it together Jessica! Grab it and go!” I searched for my size but when I went to pull it off the hanger, I felt a sharp tug. No way.
She was a haggard and mean looking woman with a scowl on her face and a bad attitude. She had two screaming kids with her who looked tired and annoyed. Behind her was a very large shopping cart full of clothes. It looked as though she had been there all day. One of those crazy, coupon clipping nut bags who set up camp days before.
There was no way that I was going to let her have the only size small white pullover fleece hoodie in the whole store with that haul she had in her basket. Oh hell no! I did not like her, the look on her face, or the fact that her dirty hands were on my fresh white sweater. She was the only thing standing between me and the pursuit of pure happiness. I had no choice. I tugged back.
I pulled gently enough not to stretch the precious fabric but strong enough to send a message, “This pullover is mine and you need to just walk away. Take that cart, those hungry kids and that mountain of sweat hot pink pants and proceed to the check out before I check you out.” I thought to myself. She looked at me and said “I saw this first.”
Really, are we playing that game?
It was one of the first widely celebrated Black Fridays in Canada and I am a responsible grown woman, but I let out an embarrassingly childish “No you didn’t! I saw it first!”
That was it. The defining moment when I realized I have committed and this is war. We both stood steadfast in our determination, unwavering and unashamed. “Come on, It’s thanksgiving!” She said….
What?
Her words were sobering. Does this lady not know where she is? This is not the States. We had thanksgiving last month. Where am I? Is this all a dream?
As I woke from the fog of consumerism, I realized my need for fleece was not real. I did not need resemble a snow capped mountain top to be happy. The dream of comfort and leisure was advertised to me. It was not the glory of heaven beaming down; it was well positioned LED display lights.
I realized that I could not win the fight with this woman, nor did I want to. Her blind conviction to consume even at the expense of her disinterested children saddened me. I can’t take down corporate America, or change the hearts and minds of other people. It was not ethical to battle my neighbor for something so insignificant.
I looked down at the sweater, let go of my death grip and replied “Listen…you’re totally right.” And in true Canadian spirit finished with “I’m so sorry, it’s all yours, Happy Thanksgiving.”
I left the store empty handed but not empty-hearted. The visions of cozy afternoons frolicking like a polar bear midst the wilderness of British Columbia in a crisp white pullover vanished. My dreams were crushed but my heart was proud, of myself and of this country.
While our American neighbors celebrate thanksgiving this weekend, I find myself sharing in gratitude, again.
I am grateful for the fact that although we have big corporate box stores in our city, we do not need to worship at the alter of the “bigger is better” Church. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to show peace instead of succumbing to retail war. I remembered happiness is real and is never scarce, no matter how many signs state LAST CHANCE. TODAY ONLY.
There will be sales again, they will make more fleece.
O Hallowed Be Thy Name-Brand!
So in the spirit of religious shopping that has nothing to do with gratitude or thanksgiving at all, I hope you and you’re loved ones find great bargains today. I hope your lines move quickly and that you find parking close to the door. Watch for children and seniors and try not to hurt anyone or don’t beat anyone up while shopping. It’s just not worth it.
If anyone needs this Canuck this year, I’ll be at Timmie’s, gratefully not participating.

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Teachers Strike

When I look at your face sleeping, I see how much you have grown. You are still little enough to carry but not for too much longer. I need your help now, “Hold on tight, kiddo, you are getting so big.” I know I only have a short time with you, in these precious childhood years. They go by fast and very soon you will be a man.

Mr. Dylan, they will call you, forgetting about the summer of 2014 when you were known as Dill Pickle and never wore a shirt.  Lately, you have been talking about who you will be when you are a grown up; the things you will do. As much as I encourage you to dream, I want to tell you to just slow down and enjoy it. The time is now kid, these are the best years of your life. Do not worry about when you are old: with the bills, the job, the responsibilities, that will come.

What will not come again is the sense of freedom that endless play and a long summer gives. The feeling of laughing at your cousins with dirty faces, sticky popsicle hands and skinned parkour knees. Taking late night drives with your mom to see the super moon, holding her hand the whole way because you still think it is cool. This is the time to cherish. Maybe this is too philosophical for a five year old. Perhaps, the insight is not for you, but for me.

As parents across our province scramble to find care for their kids, I am blessed to have this extra time with you. I do not have to work and I took a semester off of school to be home. For this special time, I am truly grateful. I have been reminded how much of an honour and privilege it is to be an educator. Although we are not in our regular routine, we are adapting. Learning and teaching each other. No schools. Just us. Mom and kid.

So, tonight I hold your hand while it still fits in mine. I tell myself not to worry about the degree, the career, the laundry, the teachers strike and when you will go back to school because that will all come. What will not is cotton candy kisses and little arms around my neck. Stick figure drawings of us and hearing your infectious laugh lingering through this extended summer break.

The dishes can wait.  I can fold the clothes later. No lunches to pack. We can sleep in tomorrow. Right now, I just want to watch you sleep while you are still small. Night little guy, sweet dreams.