Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas from the Inside

Sights of the Season

It is 10 AM, and a weekday, so even though it is just one week from Christmas, the parking lot still has some blank territory. A Honda minivan, with a, rusting scrape on the passenger side door, pulls into a space near the edge of the lot. An overgrown middle-aged woman emerges from the driver’s seat. She has parked at this little extra distance because at this end of the lot she could pull through with the van facing forward. The back window of the van is so dirty it might be hard to reverse in what will certainly be a more crowded parking lot an hour or two later, when it will be time to retreat. There will be toddlers and shopping carts and other people reversing in this parking lot. She looks at the welcome mats and sidewalk salt stacked outside the doors and is clearly tempted, but resists. She goes through the sliding doors and gets a cart.

If she weren’t so tall, and her coat so black she would not be very noticeable in the crowd of other middle-aged becoated women who are also at this store. The coat, however, a bargain buy at Target three years ago, still attracts a little attention. It is nice looking, with a faux fur collar. A closer look reveals that it only has two of its three buttons, and they are hanging precariously from threads. The middle button has gone.

Its wearer, alone, also knows that the right-hand pocket has lost its bottom. It is not much use for keeping her right hand warm, nor is it safe for keys or gloves, several of which have disappeared into it: a Bermuda pocket.

No one is paying that much attention, however. The bad haircut, puffy face, slightly crooked glasses and Timberland boots dispel any positive impression the coat might have made; more slattern than soignée. But ... It’s Vermont. “Soignée” hardly ever applies, and certainly not at this store. Gloves are cheap, she notices. There is a swimming-pool-sized bin of them near the entrance. They are $3.99 a pair, with Thinsulate, no less. But not today. A complete pair, bought last year right here, is in the van, having survived a full year in her possession. Today’s trip is about getting kids stockings stuffed. No gloves, no clothing of any kind, would be welcomed there.

She patrols the store in a haphazard manner. Curtains? No. But she looks at them. A giant wall clock from the “Edinburgh Clock Company, of London” (Made in China). Not today. Lamps? Hmm. She cleaned the boy’s room yesterday and the lighting there is terrible. She personally threw the old desk lamp that had been next to his bed into the skip at the dump earlier that morning. Here’s a nice lamp, suitable for a bedside. The box is good. These lamps have been liquidated from Target and the design is good. They are $4.99. They go on when you touch the base. He will like that. Even though it is a lamp, he will like it. It won’t fit in the stocking but it will count in his mind as a proper gift. When he tells his friends at school after New Year’s what he got for Christmas, he might even put this lamp near the top of the list, near the bicycle that is waiting in the back of the van, having been secured from WalMart just half an hour ago. Into the cart it goes.

[Oh, I could go on and on, but I won’t. At least not now. I can’t swear I won’t do at least one more shopping post. Oh, I promised the Hot Dog vendor outside the Christmas Tree Shoppe in Williston, Vermont (see above) that I would Blog about him. Hello if you stopped by, hot dog man. Note well, he’s only going to be at his stand there til New Years (back in the spring he said) and if you are looking for the best $3.75 lunch in Northern Vermont, see him soon or wait til spring. He has the gift of gab, I should have asked if he was from California or something, he’s that outgoing. He makes great hot dogs and he was right about the sport peppers and Diet Pepsi Max with ginseng he recommended to me].