It wasn't the parking lot that did it - but being pushed in the mall hallway between Victoria's Secret and Barnes and Noble. I was shoulder-checked, and the person didn't even bother to say I'm sorry or look back in my direction to see that I had fallen over backward. That's when I lost it. Red in the face, breathing heavily, I was suddenly filled with rage toward all of these people overcrowding the mall. The holiday mood was spoiled. The mall's lighting had become too bright, the cheery Christmas music blasting seemed a bit overkill. And if I could, I would have torn the wreaths, red ribbons and garland from the walls.
Something happened to me that day. Christmas was supposed to be fun, and at that moment, it definitely wasn't. Was it the large crowds? Yes. Was it the fact that I couldn't find anything for the people on my gift list? Sure. But it was also due to the fact that I had stepped into the commercialization part of the holiday. The overemphasis on spending during the month of December. "We've got to save the economy," someone would say. "Stores are depending on more people spending money this year," a reporter will state on the television. It's all about saving our red-inked nation through Barbie dolls and video games.
And so we go to the malls and big-box stores, fight the crowds like the mad people we are. On that fateful day, I thought it wouldn't be so bad. Sure, last year was chaotic but I will go earlier in the morning.
"Is that so?" I thought, as I grit my teeth, slowly maneuvering my car through the parking lot. Horns honking, people frozen in their vehicles, spending precious minutes hoping one shopper is heading to their car.
Finally, you get in the mall. Each store with more ads than the next. Twenty percent off! Buy one, get one free! Deals, deals, deals.
Going shopping for Christmas used to be a lot of fun. As a child, you'd see the toys that hopefully would await you under the tree. Now, I just see the credit card bill coming in January. The fact that maybe I'm going over my means to fit in with everyone else. And that here, in the mall, spending is all that anyone seemed to care about. Not that people were getting pushed or that manners were out the window.
So I stood there about to scream until I realized that people would think I was crazy. And I would agree with them.
Taking a deep breath, I looked around and saw a little kid mesmerized with a toy train a few store fronts down. The mall had opened up a small toy and calendar store specifically for the holiday season. He looked around five years old and just stood there watching it go around and around on its track. You could almost hear his thoughts, "I want that. It's so cool." He wasn't concerned with the traffic, the burned-out shoppers or the wincing of people as their credit cards were swiped at the registers. He was just there, in the moment, enjoying something as simple as a toy. I had to smile.
And although the thing I wanted most was to get out of this noisy mall, I remembered what it was that I enjoyed most about Christmas. The innocence of it all. A child sees it as this wonderful season focused on a beautiful story. A magic seems to exist with the thought of presents, Christmas programs, cookies, Santa, being out of school and spending time with family and friends. It's just thrilling to think about.
And when you are an adult, the days before the 25th seem to fly by. You think about work, budgeting and the stress of just living. It's hard to slow down and find that childlike quality once again. It's there. You just have to look. And I found it in that chaotic mall - a glimmer, to say the least. But it was there, all the same.
Here's to hoping that everyone can find the innocence that exists inside during the Christmas season. Cheers.
"It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." - The Grinch