In our own backyard... Shop 'til you drop

It was an understandable mistake, given the circumstances. I was in dire need of a white turtleneck to wear under my red and white Christmas sweater, and since I had shopped all afternoon for Christmas presents for others, I felt I was entitled t...

It was an understandable mistake, given the circumstances. I was in dire need of a white turtleneck to wear under my red and white Christmas sweater, and since I had shopped all afternoon for Christmas presents for others, I felt I was entitled to spend a little of the wealth on myself.

The trouble was that I was drop-dead tired from battling the frantic, pre-holiday crowds and the even more frantic shoppers themselves. As I waded through the women's clothing department, casting my weary gaze across the crowded racks of clothing for some sign of turtlenecks, I inadvertently strayed beyond the far perimeter of the women's department - and into the maternity department.

Perhaps it was due to the fact my wandering eye had finally settled on a rack of turtlenecks, and in their midst was an entire section of white ones! Anxious to bring my shopping to a close, I found my size, grabbed the turtleneck off the rack and hastened for the checkout lane.

It wasn't until the following week, when I decided to wear the new turtleneck under my sweater, that I realized the error of my ways. It was, most definitely, a maternity turtleneck - one that draped generously out in front and back and made me look as though I was wearing a giant, white pup tent!

Alas, however, it was too late. I was running behind and after all, the only thing that would go decently with my Christmas sweater was a white turtleneck.


"Oh, heck," I thought to myself, "all that will show is the neck itself. No one will ever know I'm wearing a maternity top..." And wear it, I did.

That just goes to show how holiday shopping can sometimes mess with the mind. Don't get me wrong - I love shopping. But to head out into the fray just two weekends before Christmas is a different experience entirely.

Last weekend, my husband and I decided to "put an end to it all" and finish our shopping, no matter what. And so we set out with lists in hand, a large dose of dogged determination - and plans to reward ourselves with dinner after all was said and done.

As we plunged in, I gazed out over the jostling throngs of shoppers as a half dozen renditions of various Christmas songs played determinedly from every direction. The resounding din was amplified still further by the animated cell phone conversations of what appeared to be at least one out of every three shoppers.

Taking a deep breath, I thought to myself, "I wonder if this was what God really intended Christmas to be like...."

It seemed that everywhere I went, some sort of situation developed. Some stores had such long lines that I left without buying whatever it was I came for, and at others, I watched as the very last one of some item I had on my list was spirited away right out from under my nose by some other motivated shopper.

As I wandered through the children's book department of one store, I searched high and low for a book on the Transformers for my four-year-old grandson. To my delight, I finally located one, complete with buttons to push that made sounds like the various Transformer characters. I was trying it out when I got that strange feeling that comes over you when someone is watching you. I pulled my gaze away from the pages of the book and looked down into the eyes of two small boys.

"Isthereanotherunlikethat?" one of them said.


"What was that?" I questioned.

"Isthereanotherunlikethaat? You know, with the sounds?"

The light finally dawned and I helped them rifle through the crowded book shelves looking for another copy of the book, until I finally had to turn them over to a helpful book store clerk who offered to bring a copy out from the back room (after all I'd been through, I wasn't all that eager to part with mine!).

Then there was the episode in the video department. A teenage boy was apparently trying to get an idea what his kid brother, who was about five years old, wanted for Christmas.

"I want Santa to bring me 'High School Musical'" piped up the little kid.

"How about Scooby Doo instead?" his brother coaxed.

"Scooby Doo sucks!" retorted the youngster.

Later, as I wandered through shelves, tables and countertop displays of fragrances, looking for the exact one my daughter had on her Christmas list, the sales clerk I approached told me in clipped tones, "We don't carry that any more. It's been discontinued." It was a young woman, pushing a baby carriage and struggling along with two toddlers in tow, who piped up helpfully and said, "Oh, I used to wear that, too! Now I wear that one over there [as she pointed to a display]. It's practically the very same scent! I'll bet your daughter would love it!"


And so it was no real surprise that by the time it came to trying to find a simple, white turtleneck, my shopping prowess was completely shot.

But hey, even at that, I assured myself that no one was likely to ever know I am mistakenly wearing a maternity turtleneck - that is, until the other day when I had it on under my Christmas sweater as I went to the clinic to get my flu shot.

"In order for me to give you the shot, Mrs. Johnson," the nurse said, "I'm afraid you'll have to take off your sweater...."

Pine Journal columnist Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: .

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