so today . . . was apparently "black friday." i say apparently, because we used to just call it "the day after thanksgiving," but it seems as though now it has it's own special name. i have heard more than one explanation of the origin of this term, but to us it simply means "get up well before daylight, and shop until you can't see straight."
this tradition started for us many years ago when my mom and i began collecting hallmark ornaments like they were solid gold bars. we both loved christmas ornaments, but those tiny hunks of colorful plastic were expensive--unless you waited until the day after christmas. in those early years of post-thanksgiving collecting, we would get up shortly before dawn (because the stores opened at 7:00--don't we wish for those days again?) drop diandra off at my grandma's house so that she could have a fun day, and then spend the day zooming from one hallmark store to another in search of those special ornaments that we needed to continue our collections.
then socks entered the picture. when we lived in southern oregon, there was a department store that started putting all their socks on sale for 50% off for the first few hours they were open. socks are expensive. so my mom and i would get up early (because the stores opened at 7:00 and we had to drive 20 minutes to get to one,) wake up diandra (because she was now old enough to go along,) and buy enough socks to last everyone for the next year. then we would eat breakfast at mcdonald's and move on to the hallmark stores.
slowly we started to realize that while we still needed socks, we had about all the ornaments our trees could hold. that seemed to coincide with diandra entering her high school years, which meant a good portion of the day was now spent in dressing rooms while she tried to find the perfect pair of jeans--giving the term "black friday" a whole new meaning! so now we had to get up earlier, because the stores were starting to open at 6:00 a.m. we would go get socks, and then only enter the hallmark stores at the mall, because the mall is apparently where the perfect jeans were always hiding out!
the first year we were in socal, my mom and dad came down for thanksgiving. as we looked through the ads, my mom kept mentioning that it was time for a new computer. fortunately for us, best buy had great deals on computers that year. unfortunately we decided we needed to be there at least by 5:00 a.m. in order to have a chance at one. so we got up earlier than ever, bundled up (because even in socal, it is cold at 5:00 in the morning!) and navigated the dark and nearly empty streets to best buy . . .
. . . where we realized that the streets were nearly empty, because apparently everyone else had rolled out of bed earlier than us and were already parked in the best buy parking lot and standing in line. in the dark. and cold. as we discussed whether or not to stay in line and possibly freeze to death, or lose our place and go to the car and crank up the heat, the topic turned to wondering if we would even be close enough to the front of the line to get a computer. pros and cons were weighed, and then a miracle happened! a store employee started down the line handing out "golden tickets" for the hot items. the store knew just how many computers they had, and so apparently to avoid a stampede they were handing out tickets to those who were already standing in line. we watched that stack of tickets dwindle as it neared us and had already decided to go to walmart if we didn't get one. we waited and watched, and were ultimately rewarded by being handed the very last ticket for a computer! we put that computer in the car, and then we proceeded to mcdonald's and the mall.
the last few years my mom and dad have not made it down for thanksgiving, but diandra and i still get up early and hit the cold and dark streets. this morning was no exception. last night we went through the ads and made our lists--although there wasn't much on them this year--the ads were somewhat disappointing. we decided not to go to kohls, which opened at 4 a.m. (and is a nightmare!!) but instead to start at target which opened at a more reasonable 5 a.m. we got one of the last remaining parking spaces and arrived at the doors just as the store was opening.
and that was apparently our last bit of luck for the day . . .
the coveted item at target was already just an empty space on the shelf when we got there. and the lines were too long to stand in to buy a few dvds. so we went back to the car and drove to the next destination on our list--office depot. it is just across the street from target, so it was a short drive.
"are you sure this is where office depot is?" diandra asked me.
"yes," i said. i have been to office depot many times, but it is kind of tucked back in a corner next to babies "r" us, so it is hard to see from the street. diandra seemed unsure.
"i don't see any cars," my darling daughter said.
"well, i guess that means we are the first ones here. yay!"
that is not what it meant. what it meant was that office depot had apparently closed it's store at that location, and the next nearest store was several miles away.
ok, apparently we needed a new plan. so we headed to one of the malls.
once we got there, our luck started to turn around. well, except we still had to stand in some lines, but none of them were too long. (actually, there were some pretty long lines, but diandra refused to stand in any.) so we went to jc penney and bought some shoes, then we went to the gap and bought some jeans (those elusive, perfect jeans apparently live at at the gap,) and then took a break--complete with diet coke. we hit another store, and then stopped for pretzel bites. we took our bags back to the car, detoured to the bathrooms (for the fourth or fifth time--hey, those sodas apparently work their way through pretty quickly when you are walking around!) and moved on down the mall to another target.
our coveted item was still represented by an empty shelf. of course by now it was 10:30, so we were not surprised. we were starting to drag--we had been up and moving since 4:30, you know. so we called rollie to see if he wanted to meet us for lunch, because we hadn't eaten in almost an hour . . .
we refueled with rollie at subway and then went to the cerritos mall. apparently to look at bull dog pups, which diandra is dreaming will show up under our christmas tree. while i can say with some certainty that a bull dog will never live at our house (unless a stray shows up--you know how i am a sucker for strays . . . and no, diandra, don't get any ideas! i would know if you planted a "stray,") nothing with four furry feet and a cute face will be joining our household this year. but i guess a girl can dream . . .
at which point rollie called to say our dvd player had chosen today to "give up the ghost, and were we anyplace where we could pick up another one . . . " we were at the mall--not the cheapest place to buy electronics. but i was starting to lose diandra--sometimes you have to know when to call it a day. (perhaps those should be the words on my tombstone. it seems like i say them a lot . . . ) so i took her home where she could check "take a nap" off her list, and braved walmart. apparently i didn't have to be all that brave . . .
by 2:00 this afternoon, walmart wasn't the zoo it had been earlier in the day. the lines were short. the sales people knew what they had and what they didn't have. and people were moving about in a normal manner instead of at warp speed.
i quickly picked up a dvd player and paid. i knew if i didn't get home and throw myself down for a nap soon, i might spontaneously combust. i walked out into the california sunshine, put the top down on my car, and cranked the stereo up. i could barely keep my eyes open. my wallet was empty. my trunk was full. my body ached.
and yet, i smiled. you can't help but smile when you are cruising around in warm sunshine on the day after thanksgiving, listening to the beach boys sing christmas songs, with a trunk full of stuff that was at least 50% off!
apparently for us, black friday is one of our favorite days of the year! even if we have to get up at 4:30 in the morning . . .