When I saw that Macy’s had a 40% off sale on towels, I had to overcome my aversion to department store shopping to replace our nearly threadbare bath linens. Armed with a credit card and as lust for a bargain, I headed for Macy’s. Even though I arrived at 10:00 a.m., there stood a towel clutching line of customers, a line which snaked back and forth across the department like Christmas ribbon candy.
Undaunted, I loaded my arms with towels and took my place at the end of the line. Why didn’t Macy’s have shopping carts for sales like this?
A mature husband and wife team stood in front of me, both of them laden with sets of towels in five different colors. Bored to death just standing there, I struck up a conversation.
“You must have a lots of bathrooms for that many towels,” I said with a smile.
“No, theses aren’t for us,” the lady said as she peered over the top of her stack. “These are Christmas presents for our five married kids.”
“Aren’t you smart to get Christmas shopping done in October.” I smiled again.
“We have to shop early because we are going on a cruise at Christmas,” the man said, as his chin rested on top of his tall stack. “Actually, we’re leaving before Thanksgiving.”
“Are your children going with you?” I asked. We prison shuffled two steps closer to the register.
“Oh, no,” they said in unison and laughed.
“A couple years ago,” the lady said, “we realized we’d had our kids, their husbands and wives, grandchildren, some of ‘em babies, in and out of our home from the weekend before Thanksgiving until the first of part of January.”
“And,” the man continued, “Mama and I were tired, really tired, until the middle of February.”
“Everybody was good about helping out,” the wife said. The man nodded in agreement. “They helped with cooking, dishes, laundry, even paid for groceries.”
“But that didn’t cover the PG&E, telephone, or water bills.” The man pressed his lips together tightly.
“There was always someone up early in the morning, like the babies. Someone walking the halls at night going to the bathroom and such.”
The towel line advanced three steps.
“So Mama and me talked it over and we decided we were going to have to do something different.” The man tilted his head to one side.
“We were afraid,” the woman said as she nodded in agreement, “the holidays were going to put us both into our graves.”
“We found us a really inexpensive cruise that started Thanksgiving week and ended after Christmas.” The man smiled for the first time. “Nothing fancy, you see. Just something that got us out of the house for the holidays. We didn’t even really care where we went.”
“Then, we told the kids.” The woman raised her eyebrows.
“That’d they say?” I asked as squeezed my towel bundle tighter.
“Well, the girls cried.” The woman shrugged. “Said it wouldn’t be like Christmas without us. The boys didn’t say much. And, after they thought about it, the girls wanted to wanted to know if they could all stay at our house while we were gone.”
“What’d you say to that?” I asked. Our line crept four steps forward.
“We told them no,” the man said. “There was still wear and tear on the house and all those utility bills to think about.”
“Then, they wanted to know if they could use my eighteen place settings of Christmas Spode china and my sterling silver since none of them had enough for everyone.” The lady displayed a toothy grin. “We told them no again. Nearly broke my heart, though. But, we thought it was time for them to figure out how to celebrate the holidays on their own, without me and Papa.” The lady shrugged. “After all, we’re not going to be around forever anyway.”
“I told ‘em they should rent a hall somewhere,” he said. “ One of those places that already has dishes and so forth for banquets.”
“You both are brilliant to figure this out,” I said. “And, I admire your determination and your ability to stick with your plan.”
“Well, it wasn’t easy to do.” The lady dropped her load of towels on the checkout counter. “Not an easy decision to make.”
“But, we have to survive.” The man dropped his towel load next to his wife’s and reached for his wallet. “And, besides, on a cruise Mama and me don’t have to cook, grocery shop or clean.”
Three Kings once followed a star with gold, frankincense, and myrrh in tow.
Two current day wise people bore stacks of towels and chased a sale.