While visiting my in-laws in Amish town,
Ohio last Christmas, my mother-in-law, Bonnie, my sister-in-law, Edna, and I decided
to do a little “day after Christmas shopping.”Prior to leaving for what I believed would be an hour or so
excursion, we compiled a list of essentials needed for that evening’s dinner
and dessert. Applewood bacon. Refried beans. And of course, caramel sauce for a
traditional dessert in the Phile family, Better Than Sex Cake. The cake is
delicious--chocolate cake with a layer of caramel sauce, whipped cream, and
topped with bits of Butterfinger candy bars. Prior to marrying into this
family, I had never even heard of such a cake, and on this particular day after
Christmas, I was still unable say its name with a straight face. Not around my
“We can check out the after Christmas
sales!” my mother-in-law exclaimed, as the three of us hopped into the car. Of course, I thought. We can buzz right through the remains of the
Christmas bows, stale candy canes, and gingerbread houses.
In Ohio, the Amish own and operate salvage
stores. Generally, these stores contain name brand items like Starbucks coffee
and Rice a Roni for a discounted price. While these stores are fun to browse
through, they serve as a scavenger hunt of sorts. You need to check the dates
on the items, because purchasing a bag of Doritos for 25 cents and then
realizing that the date is “sell by 12/2011” will just leave you out a quarter—unless,
of course, you like stale Doritos.
That day the three of us bounced through
a few salvage stores, an Amish bakery, and Dunkin Donuts (per my request),
before we spent our grand finale at the Middlefield, Ohio Wal-mart. Since we
had written a shopping list, I assumed we would quickly grab the items on our said list, stand 15 minutes or fewer
in the “20 items or less” line and escape the terror.
Almost immediately, I realized I was
mistaken. Just a few steps into Wal-Mart, just past the greeter, the carts, and
the bin of half off Christmas candy, I heard Edna exclaim, “Well, Hello,
Louise!! Hi Jimmy!!” My dear sister-in-law and mother-in-law then began greeting
people, hugging people, and exchanging Christmas greetings as if they were at
an actual Christmas party right smack dab in the Wal-Mart entrance. I smiled
awkwardly for a minute, and then shyly stepped away to investigate the
Christmas clearance items, since checking out the Christmas clearance items was
what we had planned.
Five minutes later, sister and mom were still
talking. No biggie. I checked my phone. No new calls, texts, emails, or Words
with Friends games. I consciously breathed, like I had been taught to do in
yoga class. Breathe in hold…for five
seconds. Let it out…I browsed the marked down Christmas cards and
ornaments. People scattered around me, also interested in the Christmas
clearance items, and I smiled politely.
About ten minutes later after the
“goodbyes” and “so great to see yous” Bonnie and Edna wandered over to me in
the Christmas clearance section. By this time, I had finished browsing and held
two small Christmas tins, only .99 each, to vouch for my time. Two minutes
later I heard my sister shriek, “Alberta!” and she scuttled over to yet another
person of interest in her life. I glanced at our unmarked list and willed
myself to be patient and to chill out. I felt borderline panicky, ready to
leave. I knew there wasn’t really
a time limit; although at some point we had to go home to make dinner.I told myself that this shopping trip
would not last forever; this was only a test in patience and surviving
awkwardness. Yes. And I would ace it.
But the theme continued. Every few steps,
Edna saw someone else she knew from her thirty-something years of life and
stopped to talk to him, her or them, and I grumbled as I tried to find natural
peanut butter, refried beans, and of course, caramel sauce. We had been in
Wal-Mart nearly an hour and she could not even walk five steps without
stopping. She needed blinders,
like the Amish horses had.
Around three hours later (ok, maybe not
that long), we were finally in the check out line with way more than we
intended to buy. Everything on the list was finally checked off, and I had
written more items on the list, after they had been dropped in our cart, just
for the satisfaction of checking them off.
As we placed our refried beans, caramel
sauce, and clearance Christmas bows on the conveyer belt, Edna’s cell phone
rung. It was my other sister-in-law, Martha.
“Hi!” Edna chirped. “Yes, we are still at
Wal-Mart….We need sour cream and vegetable oil for dinner? Yes, we can grab it.
Yeah, we are kind of in the check out line, but no worries, we can go back.”
of in the checkout line?
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
I froze when I heard this new
information. There was NO WAY we could send Edna BACK into Wal-Mart when we
were this close to finished!My
face probably gave away my feelings because then Edna said into her phone, “Actually,
we can stop at Giant Eagle on the way home, and Renee can run in. Mom and I
will stay in the car. No problem. See you soon. Love you bye.”
Shew. Relief. That was so close. I slowly let out the breath that I had been holding.
Realization that I was kind of being a jerk and needed to chill slipped into my
thought process.I wanted to be
one of those people who could just go with whatever happened, enjoy the
journey, and not always fixate on the end goal. By this point in my life I
should have known that “things” never go as planned, even when, especially when,
I made shopping lists and went to Wal-Mart the day after Christmas with my
sister and mother.
I started laughing. “What’s so funny,
Renee?” Edna asked. “Are you thinking about Better than Sex cake?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly it.” I chuckled.
Suddenly, everything about this shopping trip from the “Hi Bob and Marys!” to
the half off Christmas lights, to the caramel sauce for the cake, was just
We stopped at Giant Eagle on the way home
for the sour cream and vegetable oil, and to PROVE that I had changed my
attitude, I said, “Edna, you just run in. Mom and I can stay in the car.”
“No, you run in, Renee. It will be
quicker,” mom said. Oh yes it will be,
I thought, and run into the store I did, and was out within four minutes (but
who’s counting? Oh, just me). Back at my in law’s house that evening we cooked
a delicious dinner of tacos, rice, and beans and yes, Better than Sex cake, and
all was good and fun.
See, everything turned out just fine, and
I lived to write about it. I may not have aced the patience test, but I at
least got around a B- or C+; plus I said “Better than Sex cake” without
smirking. I’m making progress, one day after Christmas in Amish town Ohio
Wal-mart shopping trip at a time.