Our family seems to be in a transition era. It used to be that every Thanksgiving we’d gather at Aunt Norma’s house. She would cook and bake and hug and tell the best stories. Uncle Frank had this crazy laugh. When they lived on the farm, we’d all squeeze into their very small house. She was so creative with games and ideas, especially when it came to entertaining the kids. I remember one year we had a hayrack ride. My cousin Michelle drove the tractor and we had so much family on that hayrack that the front end of the tractor came up. Isn’t it the crazy stuff that you remember?
A few years ago Norma had a heart attack. She’s recovered, but now Uncle Frank has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Wisely, she’s stepped away from that tradition. This year my brother Chad took over. The circle of family is smaller in this case – my parents, my siblings and their kids. It was a very nice warm time together. Still lots of food. The kids played lazy twister after dinner…..because gosh, who can really play twister as it’s intended with a bellyful of dumplings? Yes, dumplings are a part of the tradition. We’re Czech. Chad said my mom would likely have been banished to the porch if she didn’t bring the dumplings. Nobody makes dumplings as good as hers. The kids fight for the leftovers, if there are any.
The past three years we’ve started a new tradition. My kids and I have gone Black Friday shopping. We don’t really do it for the bargains. We do it for the wackiness and the together time….and as a test of our flexibility, patience and endurance. The first year that we stayed up all night, the funniest part was in the very long slow line at Shopko. This line weaves through the various aisles of merchandise. The Boy got particularly funny going through the aisle with pet toys. I can’t even remember what we laughed about, some goofy squeaking dog toy, but our stomachs hurt by the time we got out of there. Last year one of my daughter’s friends from college came to our house for Thanksgiving. Bridget is incredibly sweet and naïve, and had never been Black Friday shopping, but was completely game for the adventure. We indoctrinated her. We went to WalMart. She witnessed the insanity. (We didn’t repeat that stop this year, by the way.) Our strategy calls for avoiding the injury locations. Last year we went out for a stretch in the evening and then came home to wait for the stores that opened at 4:00am. Bridget made toffee. We had trouble staying awake. It was like some slumber parties I remember. The last one awake wins. We lost part of the group, but the hardiest of us made it last year until dawn….even surviving a false alarm stampede through Younkers when people thought they heard gunshots. We got a nice tour of the storage room and then gathered our wits and kept shopping.
This year many people griped about the stores opening even earlier on Thanksgiving. And yes, it meant changing traditions. With our kids getting older, the wish lists are smaller but the items carry a bigger price tag. We had less shopping to do. We decided to avoid outdoor lines and the stores with stampedes. We left the house at 7:00pm. I do enjoy bumping into people we know, and making new friends in line. I have a good friend who talks about how much better the world would be if we just worked to find common ground with strangers. For all the bad press that this crazy shopping night gets, I witness lots of wonderful people out there, who are kind to each other and open to a new experience.
One funny part last night was when we went through the McDonald’s drive through, twice, around midnight. We were still hungry after the first time. We pulled into a parking spot to eat and I lost the cap to my highlighter. I had a very detailed strategy map. I got out of the car and started searching under the seat. I started laughing at the thought of how this looked. Me with my rear in the air – looking in pitch darkness under a car seat. Of course it beat all odds and the cap went into a deep crevice under the carpet under my seat. Note to self. Next year, bring a backup highlighter.
At one point in the night The Boy found a Warhead (candy) and challenged me to taste it. He acted nonchalant like it was some interesting candy that I really should sample. That boy is evil. And he says YOLO a lot. That should have been my first clue. I could not get that terrible taste out of my mouth. I tried not to touch my tongue on my teeth or on my lips lest I taste it again even after I’d spit it out. I thought he’d wet his pants from laughing. He’d bend over laughing and stumble around and look at my face again and laugh some more. Don’t let your children do this to you. Around 2am our energy was flagging and our feet hurt. The Boy started getting surly. The Warhead comedy routine had worn off. We were in Penney’s and he offered to wait for us in the food court where he could get wifi on his iPod. The picture above is how we found him not long after. It was time to go home. Back to Penney’s. Up the escalator. He was so tired he sat down on the escalator. “You’re going to regret that when your crotch is shredded,” my daughter said. I should probably keep a log book of the comedy from these nights. The kids won’t be these ages for long. And I’ll want to remember this.