The after-Christmas sales are nothing like they used to be.
I was at an after-Christmas sale a few years ago and there were a dozen checkout lines open with no wait at any of them. A TV crew stood by the front door sipping Starbucks waiting for more than one shopper to walk through the door at the same time, so they claim it was a crowd.
The last best after-Christmas sale was 25 years ago. It was before the sales started as soon as you pushed back from the Thanksgiving table. It was old school— the day after Christmas, when men and children stayed home and women went out to do what they were born to do—fight for 50 percent off. The last best after-Christmas sale was the one at which my mother nearly lost her teeth.
It was bitter cold as Mom and I stood with a growing throng outside the locked doors of a shopping mall in Kansas City, Missouri. We were all there for the same reason—to make a run on the half-off Hallmark cards and gift wrap. It was when women cared to send the very best, before the advent of photo cards and scrapbookers who make their own cards. It was a time when women judged one another by the brand of cards they sent and the quality of gift wrap they used. It wasn’t just a sale, it was your reputation on the line.
The doors opened. The crowd surged through the doors, stampeding through housewares, knocking over Santa mugs on display and sending cookware crashing to the floor. I quickly lost sight of Mom in the crowd, assuming she was threading her way to the front. She’d been on the track team in high school and had long legs.
As for me, I cut a path to the religious cards, aware that aggression should be kept in check when wrestling for cards picturing the Madonna and child.
Across the way, Mom was scoring big-time in wrapping paper. She reached for a roll of foil wrap (something neither of us would ever never pay full retail for) at the same time another woman grabbed the other end of the roll. The other woman began tugging on her end of the roll, at which point my mother, being a courteous person, let go of her end, sending the other woman flying. My mother began laughing so hard that she started to cry. Tears clouding her vision, Mom tripped over another shopper, the force of which partially dislodged her false teeth.
My mother never took her false teeth out for entertainment purposes like her twin sisters did, which, of course, made those aunts immensely popular with myself and all 24 of my cousins. The fact that my mother, had risked the humiliation of losing her false teeth in public and was still laughing about it shows that shoppers were a dedicated breed back then.
It was a good after-Christmas sale. Maybe the best ever. I wish you could have been there—but only if you were slow and stayed at the back of the pack.