It was freezing in Austin this week. I don't just mean freezing from my perspective, but the temperature dipped below zero for a couple of nights. My plan to get my winter coat, and suits, cleaned during the eleven months of warmer weather, once again went by the wayside. Along with the coat came out the hat, gloves and scarf. The urge to do 'all things winter' suddenly came upon me, and the knitting needles were sought out from their hiding place, in no other place than the coat cupboard. It is like Christmas morning, looking in the 'coat cupboard', as from one year to the next, I do not remember the projects I started the previous season. Fala-lala-la, la-lala la!
However, despite the large box of yarn, which takes up half of the floor of the 'coat cupboard', there was none to satisfy my latest crave. I was going to make scarves like they had never been made before. Unfortunately, my extended shopping list was going to have to be put on hold, due to Saturday being the last weekend for us to shop before heading home for the holidays. Our usual plan is to go to the outlet mall after I have finished my housework, and come home whenever we feel we have accomplished all. This year, of course, was different. Samantha had to deliver a cake that she had made to a child's party, between noon and 12.30, and Dana and I had theatre tickets for an eight o'clock performance. Although I agreed to fore go my usual Saturday chores at the beginning of the week, by Friday afternoon, I had begun to hyperventilate. Dana assured me that if the floor needed to be vacuumed during my absence, he would do it. Of course, the word needed is translated differently in my brain. I relented, but compromised. We rose reasonably early and I completed the basics, so that the house was clean, if not sparkling.
Samantha arrived just after 8:30am, and we were on the road by 8:45. I had my list which included my items, and those which I had been charged to buy. It is a bitter sweet experience shopping with other people's money. I enjoy the picking and choosing, but then agonise over whether I have the right items. The shopping center opened at 9am, and although we arrived a little after 9:30, there were plenty of parking spaces. We parked in the middle of the car park, and walked along to the one end. Our first port of call, was to a clothing store, which advertises its products with scantily clad men and women, thus not really showing the wares, but the desirable body on which they should be clad. It was surprisingly empty, and we made our purchases very quickly, aware of our two hour limit, before we had to return to Austin. After each store, I had to 'regroup'! The group that needed to be 're'd' was me and my list. Each year I write a list, and each year I wish I had been more specific.
The outlet is split into four parts, two on one side of a main road, and two on the other. All but one of our stores were on one side of the highway, and by the time we had left our penultimate store, the cars were prowling along the lanes looking for a space to rest. The Christmas spirit was all around the shops and pavement. It had not yet reached the roads. Everyone appeared to be testing their hooters at the same time, as well as their vocal chords. The air on the sides was clean and pure, but on the tarmac it was very blue. We decided it would be more efficient to cross the highway on foot, rather than drive across and risk joining the endless flow of traffic. Taking our life into our hands, we dodged foul language and entered our final store. 'Hey, how ya doing. Can I help you find anything?' asked the jolly salesman as we walked in. 'Just looking', Samantha answered; 'Re-grouping', said I. Checking my list twice is definitely not enough! When he asked me if there was anything he could help me with, I do not think he expected such a specific answer. He had no idea what I should buy for my ex-nephew but was sure there would be something suitable around. Samantha dragged me away before I asked my next question!
Our departure from the mall was not pleasant. All those who had not found a space for their vehicle, realised they were unlikely to do so within the next couple of hours, and decided to stop and drop off their entire family, right in front of me. It is amazing how many people can fit into a mid-size saloon/sedan, all of whom appeared to have taken 'downers', as their speed was slowed considerably until they reached the pavement. I realised, all too soon, why there was so much joy, and cheer, on the outside, and frustration and irritation in the center. The words 'Merry' and 'Christmas' were divided by less conventional acceptable words. Eventually, I rounded the corner, just as a couple were about to cross the road, and apologised for not letting them walk in front of my car! They found it rather amusing, especially as Samantha put her hand to her head and made a circling movement with her finger, towards her temple! I drove towards our City, and made my way home so that Samantha could collect the cake heading to the party. Samantha had been invited to stay, so I played hooky from the plan and headed toward the craft store to seek some new balls of wool. I had several coupons, which allowed me helpful discounts. The absence of an 'app' on my phone, and the fact that I wanted to pay cash, was not fala-lala-la, la-lala-laughable to the cashier. My several printed pieces of paper were crumpled and torn, having been in my tiny handbag, together with my list, with which I had not re-grouped with for a while. After being berated for not being technologically equiped, I put some petrol in the car and headed back to the supermarket. It was very busy, and I made the mistake of not queuing to have a person check my goods. The scanner was definitely having a fala-lala-la, la-lala-laugh, as it stopped on every item. 'Unexpected weight', was the first incident. 'Wait for an attendant', it snickered. I had scanned a loaf of bread! The next item, a bottle, was 'unidentified in the bagging area'. After having to call the attendant five to six times, on my fourteen items, I pressed the 'finish and pay', button. With 50c left to put in the slot, it shouted, 'Unidentified item in the bagging area!!!'. The Christmas spirit, and any other kind of seasonal joy, was not present. Keeping it clean because of the children present, I told the machine that it knew all the items in the bagging area, as it had just charged me for them, and I was in the process of paying for them! 'What is unidentified? Go on, answer me'. It took me a while to realise that it was not the machine laughing at me, but the sales assistant who had been called over to help, along with several other patrons, enjoying the pantomime! I left with my proverbial tale between my legs, and fala-lala-la, la-lala-legged it to the car!
I picked Samantha up from the party, and we made our way to the mall, to finish our shopping. We were fortunate enough to find a space, without having to use the petrol I had just acquired. My list refused to re-group and I decided to call it a day. All that was left was to puchase, was a suitcase. Samantha had acquired a nice set of three cases, several years ago, before her immigration problems, and used the large one on one occasion. I had bagknapped the larger case, and used it for my trips home in the interim. With Samantha making the long haul flight this year, she was in need of her large piece of luggage, and I would have to purchase another piece. By the time we reached the last shop, my nerves were frayed, I was tired, and with my list and I having a bonding problem, I was dragging my feet. I had to get home, have a shower, and go to the theatre in a very short space of time. Fortunately, we found a very nice suit case, reduced drastically. 'Are you having a nice day?' was responded to by a kick from Samantha to keep me from telling the truth. When the assistant rang up the sale, it was far from the reduced price advertised. The sobbing mess on the floor brought out the sympathetic side of the sales assistant, and she went to check out the stand on the floor, which advertised the item. I crawled to where she was standing, and explained that the price shown did not actually pertain to any of the cases. I waved to Samantha and told her we would have to find another bag. How was I to know that the sales-person was indeed the Christmas fairy. She waved her wand, spread her wings and flew back to the till, where she told me I could go to the ball, and have a fala-lala-la, la-lala-lovely time, with the suitcase for the price shown on the stand. I thanked her as profusely as I could, from my almost comotose state, and we left the mall, with Samantha pulling the suitcase with one hand, and dragging me along with the other, and the comment that mother's should be left at home when kids go out to do Christmas shopping! I tried to tell her that I was not a Grinch, but a bit grinch-ish!
I managed to get home, take a short nap, have a shower and be ready to leave for our evenings entertainment, enjoying a very nice meal beforehand. The show, Billy Elliot, was phenomenal. We arrived home at 11:30, and I was exhausted, but on a high. The day had been a success, despite my lack of joy to the world, and fala-lala-la, la-lala-love for others.
We ended the weekend with our annual treck around the neighbourhood to 'oooh' and 'aaah' at the lights that bedecked the houses and apartments. We stopped at Dairy Queen for the Annual Ice Cream blizzard, where the computers were down. What a fun experience that was, but I shall leave it for...............another story.