The confirmation I received from the airline, also came with a list, one that contained new baggage limitations. Two bags, I know, should be plenty, and with the restrictions given by most airlines, two bags are a luxury, but it is not the weight, but the content that is the problem. A box of cereal takes up a lot of room; two boxes equals the space for at least three pairs of trousers, and a pair of boots. However, my social calendar over Christmas is not such that I require a different outfit for each day. As long as the washing machine keeps working, I can rotate through a couple of pairs of jeans, and some tops, with the knowledge that if I have to buy something additional to wear, I will have plenty of room in my case for it to be packed on my return journey! (On top of the twiglets of course!)
With the food products purchased, and the supermarkets wondering how long the run on M&M's will last, Samantha and I tackled Phase I of 'the list' and went to the outlet mall to the north of us. It was obvious that although it 'tis the season', the 'jolly' had been replaced with 'irritated', and the Fa la la la la, la la la la, had turned into another phrase beginning with the same letter. Pulling into the large parking area, we looked for departing shoppers, and followed them along the lines of vehicles. Most did not remember where they had left their car, and soon we realised that we were on a wild goose chase. Standing in the car park, arm extended, pushing the key fob, can only work if no one else is doing the same thing. Lights were blinking in every aisle, and several people would gather around the same car, shaking their heads, before extending their arms and pressing the fob, again. Eventually some were fortunate enough to find their automobile. A change in temper also occurs around this time of year. For eleven months, we experience well mannered, considerate drivers. As soon as the month begins with a 'D', all changes. It would appear that an invisible sign by the hooter suddenly starts to glow, 'hit hard', and all respond accordingly. It also doesn't matter whether someone has been patiently waiting for the family with six children, two pushchairs, a dog and enough bags to fill a warehouse, to exit their space, whomever gets their foot to the accelerator first, wins! We had spotted a woman with a suitcase walking to the 'back row', and crawled along until she reached her car. We considered this to be a safe bet, as it is easier to find your car along one line, rather than having to check several. I was careful not to block the lane in which she was to back into, but was conscious that there were a few stalkers keen to see me lose the bid, and tackle each other for the podium. Little did they know that I come from England, home of the 'pouncer', when it comes to trapping a parking space. The reverse gear 'comes into its own' during this time, and it is not uncommon to see a car zoom backwards at the speed of light, performing a handbrake turn, and relaxing into an area slightly wider than a razor's edge. Fortunately, the latter two tasks were not necessary today, but I kept my wits about me and edged along, slowly, as the suitcase lady started her car. Samantha was ready to jump out of the car, and park herself in the spot, should it be required, but a mini can squeeze into a smaller space than a jeep, and as the vehicle left the allotment, my foot was swifter than my competitors.
We walked triumphantly to the entrance and were overwhelmed by the goodwill to no one. Our mission was to buy for our Secret Santa person. This year, as our family has doubled, with each of my mother's grandchildren now having a 'significant other', and it was agreed that it would be a more efficient use of our time, and money, to buy one present. Although the concept was much easier on the pocket, the thought process was just as intense. Samantha and I were also charged with the assignment of choosing for Dana and Edward's chosen participants.
Once again, in the stores, we were frowned upon for not giving our telephone numbers, and more so for not taking up the offer of 'buy one, get half off another'. It was quite impossible for the saleslady to understand that I did not want to spend more, in order to get a coupon for further reductions, to spend next month. To suggest that the contents of her store were not particularly of interest to me, was considered a heinous crime. What woman, in the half century age group, would not want to fill her wardrobe with sportswear?
We left the mall still smiling. Several small crowds congregated with arms extended, key fobs in hand, and then ran to the nearest group of blinking lights, before turning 180 degrees, and trying again. The version of Fa la la la la, la la la la was still being repeated throughout the area, and we found the exit which took us to the freeway, and we drove home, to find Edward asleep in Samantha's room, and Dana attempting to entertain the dog. As we had not eaten, the three conscious beings went out to dinner, and left the comatose young man to his dreams, and the quadruped. Our dinner was most enjoyable, and uneventful. Several people were smiling, even laughing, which made a welcome change. The shops surrounding the restaurant were full. As we drove out of the center, a young woman with two children left one of the stores. Laden with goods, and looking far from being jolly, she appeared to be ignorant of her young, as they stepped into our path. 'Fa la la la la, la la la la', or similar, came spilling out of her mouth. Obviously we were incredibly inconsiderate for driving along the road, just as her children decided to jay walk. 'Seasons greetings to you', seemed to be rather a taunting retort, so we just drove away, with her continuing to scream, as the children played dodge-kid with other moving vehicles. We headed to do the weekly grocery shop, where we encountered yet more unhappy people, anticipating their efforts will distribute joy in two weeks.
I fell asleep watching television, and woke less than refreshed this morning. Having little to do, I checked my emails before having a cup of coffee, and saw the list included one from my sister. 'Update', it read. Thankful that I had delayed buying the items on her list until Phase II.
My suitcases are almost packed, and many preferred personal items of clothing will again forego a trip across the ocean. With less than two weeks to go, there is bound to be some more Fa la la la la, la la la la-ing, and next week we have the second round. My kitchen is full of Christmas Tree Cupcakes, and the likes, and a very colourful gingerbread house. I shall not be attempting to cram these into either case. Perhaps 'jolly' will return and 'reason for the season' will be restored, and remembered, before the Halls are Decked with something less festive than Holly. With less than two weeks to go, there is plenty of time for more sibling 'updates', another last minute 'sorry...but...' request, together with lots more festive cupcakes, and of course....another story.