Tis’ the season. It’s the time after all, to be merry and joyous and remember why one should definitely avoid TJ Maxx between the hours of opening and closing, generally every day of the week between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But here I find myself, waiting in a line that possibly rivals the first McDonald’s in Soviet Russia complete with a rather large ensemble of (presumably) well-meaning, somewhat delirious-looking women fraught with fig-scented candles and Moose Munch.
I’m not sure, to be honest, what I came in here for but I’m pretty confident whatever it was did not involve facial exfoliating sponges or snow globes or those egregiously fuzzy footies that only further enable me to sit on the couch with a hot toddy and something called The Christmas Chronicles.
But right now, I feel like I’m trying to leave a casino and the only casino I’ve ever been into, in fairness, is Mohegan Sun, but I think it’s safe to say that minus the slot machines and blackjack tables and possibly that pretty waterfall that changes colors, (okay, so there’s more than a few minor discrepancies), that TJ Maxx is arguably a close second. Seriously, I have no idea how long I’ve been in here … Two minutes? Two hours? Too long, for sure and I still can’t remember the actual item I came in for.
But it’s not just TJ Maxx or Home Goods or any of those other pashmina-peddling paycheck sucking stores that have me reconsidering any objections I’ve mounted against my hubby’s desire for a “no presents policy” or at the very least, a trimmed-down version of the gift getting craze, the one that’s typically got me singing All I Want for Christmas is to Never Stand in this Line Again.
Rather, it’s the idea that we all have enough already.
My kids have enough crap. We all have enough crap — enough fig-scented candles and Moose Munch, enough face sponges and snow globes and hot toddy tootsie warmers to fill Mohegan Sun six ways to Sunday.
So why do I have this compulsive need to consume, this bottomless desire to debilitate myself with more debt, more delirium, more designer labels I can’t afford but feel the need to shower my loved ones with anyway?
I guess I’ve decided if there’s one thing I’m rich with, it’s guilt. Guilt, insecurity, lots and lots of lotions, little notebooks I will definitely never get around to writing in, mugs … they’re all waiting for me on the end cap like my kids are waiting for me at home. You know, the ones who want for everything and need for nothing, the ones who insist that every child in the entire Town of Wilton is not only getting an iPad but an (insert pricey little number here), an iPhone, an inground swimming pool, an investment portfolio that would put Bill Gates to shame … you get the idea. I get a lot of pushback. The gifts are never quite good enough, the globe never quite snowy enough, the irony never quite lost on me that we’ve spent many years trying to create a simple, quiet life devoid of material possessions when in fact we’ve apparently cultivated the exact opposite.
I have this sudden urge to abandon the cart mid-line, mid-sentence, and to shout (loudly) at all these shiny happy shoppers to go home and ‘For the love of God, stop buying more candles you don’t need!’ or notebooks they’ll never write in or lotions they’ll never (nevermind, whatever I say will inevitably just come out sounding dirty).
I smile at the woman in front of me and she shrugs apologetically, unloading an apocalyptic arsenal of candles, chocolates, paper goods. “Hanukkah,” she says, composing her expression into something polite, secretarial. I roll my eyes sympathetically, to say, ‘I feel your pain (and your candles) and the mother in law you also likely have to contend with who definitely will find a not so subtle way of letting you know the items you purchased are “fine” but not the kind of candles, chocolates or paper goods she would have purchased and so really as “not fine” as your parenting choices.’
After paying for everything, minus whatever was the one thing I had wanted to pick up in the first place but couldn’t remember as soon as I stepped foot in the TJ Maxx door, I headed back out to the parking lot, my heavy bags topped off with the feeling of having forgotten something. I stepped out into the crisp, cold air wafting with the scent of Boston Market.
I was suddenly hungry for chicken and at the same moment realized I had no memory not only of where I parked my car but of driving here in the first place. This happens an alarming amount of time in my daily life and after some sideways glances and presses on the panic button, I finally located said vehicle, and returned to the questionably happy home from which I hailed.
Which is when my oldest daughter asked the question that makes me question it all (not the least of which is my memory):
“Did you get the airpods I asked for?”
Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.