Holiday Shopping

I went shopping twice over Thanksgiving weekend. One trip was on Black Friday. I, like countless others, attempted to purchase every Christmas gift I possibly could at deeply discounted rates. I spent about $150 with moderate success and a long list still to go.

The second trip, however, was purely experiential. I was assigned to occupy my 8-year-old niece while my mom took her older brother shopping for clothes. It started simply enough. I got both of us hot chocolates at Barnes & Noble ($5) and spent an hour roaming around while she read everything in the children’s section.

After that, we went to a department store at the mall, which was practically desolate compared to the morning before. We took the glass elevator to the second floor, arriving well before the people on the escalator – much to my niece’s delight. She pushed the buttons, of course. Upstairs in the holiday section, we each picked our favorite Christmas decoration without buying a thing. (This took quite some time as we debated the pros and cons of each ornament.) After that, we headed downstairs (again on the elevator) and entered the hallways of the mall at large.

We walked past countless kiosks and spent several minutes throwing pennies into a wide black funnel – the object was to make your penny take longer to get down the funnel than the other person’s. She won, 3 out of 3. And I spent a total of six cents.

We passed a couple of children’s rides – too young for her for the most part, but she liked the “simulated” roller coaster so we decided to give that a go. For a dollar, she sat in a belted seat that rocked around simultaneously with video footage of an actual roller coaster ride. We gave that experience a “B-.”

Then we found the escalator in Sears. We jumped onto the same step and when we got to the top, we hopped off hand-in-hand. That was a surprisingly good time – which we experienced over and over again! It never failed to produce giggles from both of us (and from any salespeople standing nearby). If you haven’t done that in a while, I highly recommend it.

Finding ourselves in housewares again, we eyed the mattresses on sale, but since jumping on those side-by-side mattresses would most certainly end in our being escorted out of the mall, we decided against it. So we went to Claire’s – every pre-teen’s favorite shop – and killed an hour looking at a seemingly endless supply of hair bows, brushes, headbands, earrings and hordes of jeweled pink junk.

A quick stop by Build-A-Bear allowed us to hear every sound you can put into your stuffed animal at the touch of a button – from dogs barking to wolves howling to sing-a-long songs to cool phrases like “You’re my BEST friend!”

As we passed the food court, we spotted a colorful carousel for just $1.75 per ride. Luckily, I convinced the guy to let me ride for free if I didn’t get on a horse. Caroline was in heaven. And it was the best $1.75 I’ve ever spent.

All in all, it got me thinking how much more fun my trip shopping with Caroline was than the trip the day before. I was much more in the holiday spirit. And the two of us laughed all morning long. In my mind, this proves what I’ve always believed: THINGS (as cool as they may be) can never compete with experiences. And after spending a total of $7.81, my shopping day ended with these words from my niece:

“I love shopping with you, Aunt LeAnn.”