Bargain-Hunting Blues

Dearest Rachel –

Back in the day, on the years when we were downstate visiting your folks over Christmas, we would generally make a habit of driving those five minutes or so to the edge of town, where the big box stores were located, in order to go shopping for after-Christmas bargains the day after all the festivities. This was usually done with as little notice to your parents as possible, as it always struck me that they were devout in a belief that such establishments were a blight on the town’s landscape – vampires of commerce, bleeding the town square (the true heart of the community) dry – and thus, never to be patronized save for the direst of emergencies.

Would they have accepted it if they knew that our purchases were essentially loss leaders, a situation where they were taking a financial hit in order to rid themselves of excess inventory? Probably not; every dollar spent out there was one more that was not going to the more worthy mom-and-pops that adorned the real downtown encircling the county courthouse, as far as I could analyze their thought processes.

So, most of the time, our shopping trips were done on a somewhat sub rosa basis. Often, it was as we were on our way out of town, and thereby leaving their orbit, and they had no right or opportunity to express their disapproval at that point. At other times, when our stay there was otherwise extended as my vacation time would allow, we would make an effort to slip out with as vague a description of our planned errands as possible, as a means of getting out of the house before I would go a little stir crazy. Thankfully, there were a few places there that were acceptable in their eyes – the largest grocery store was on that same road leading out of town (as was the local Aldi, where they would get their Christmas stollen), along with a Farm King store, which had the virtue of being employee-owned (like the grocery, for that matter), and having dealt with a pension scam years earlier, so they felt obliged to shop there when they could in support – so we would take the opportunity to pick up things from those places as well, while also hitting the Walmart and Kmart.

Of course, that last store reminds me that they did live long enough for that chain (and thus, the location at the edge of town) to essentially go out of business; we helped in picking that place (and, on our way down to see them, the one in Galesburg, as well) clean. I don’t recall, however, if we made them aware of the fact, or if we did, whether they managed to get any satisfaction from it, as I might have expected from them. If I remember correctly (and there’s no guarantee of that), that was only a few months before your dad’s passing – and he’d had a small stroke just before we came down to see them, as well – so there were other concerns at the time besides schadenfreude, for them and for us.

But normally, after-Christmas shopping isn’t supposed to be all that mean-spirited. It’s always been just a means to pick up bargains afterwards; stuff we’d never have bought at full price for Christmas, but when it’s marked half (or more) off, hey why not? Not to mention, there’s always the Christmas supplies like wrapping paper and tags (and now that it’s worked reasonably well, gift bags and tissue paper – although considering that I got those at the dollar store this year, I don’t see them likely to get marked down much further, but you never know) I ought to get my hands on for next year. I think I got rid of that plastic box you stored all your rolls of half-used and reusable gift wrap (at Jan’s urging), so I probably shouldn’t go overboard with all this.

Likewise, I probably ought to be careful about bargains on Christmas foodstuffs, too. Lars is helping me stay on the straight and narrow with regard to exercise (and for Christmas, the folks renewed my membership at that local park district place between our places that you would go to and swim at when it was allowed during 2020), but I need to watch what I eat, too, and not just to make sure I don’t miss my mouth in the process. And in my defense, I’d like to point out that I’ve not gone out and stocked up on chocolates and candy in the day or two after either Easter or Halloween since you had to leave, like the two of us (or, in many cases, just you, since I would be at work the following day while the clearances were going on). But some stuff – like those miniature shortbread mince pies we found up here in 2018 – I’d still like to find, and try, again. And there’s always the possibility of finding a decent hot cocoa, which is always welcome, given that winter is going to hang around for the next three months.

And that’s the point of today’s excursion – for which I’ve decided to take a day away from the ‘office,’ just as I’ve found something in the way of a project to really sink my teeth into –just getting out there, visiting a few places, and seeing what might be available to bring home, for the fun of it. I’ll grant you, it loses its charm to not have you at my elbow, pointing out this or that thing that might interest you but would otherwise fly under my radar, but there might yet be something worth looking at, or keeping in reserve until next December, just like we used to do. And by carrying on our old traditions, maybe I can sense your presence just a little bit in the process, don’t you think?

Anyway, keep an eye on me, honey, and wish me luck; I’m going to need it.

A quick postscript: It shouldn’t come as a surprise; business come and go, just like people. However, it is surprising when my first stop, turns out to be closing out on more than just Christmas wares (of which there are virtually none at this point already – why stock up on inventory when you’re about to close entirely?)

I did momentarily consider helping them out by buying one of those combination grill/air fryers piled up to the right – there were stacks of them scattered throughout the store – but even at half off, $150 seems a lot to pay for something I already have (an air fryer) and might very well never use (the grill).
Elsewhere in the store, it was like a picked-over garage sale. They were even selling off their acrylic price displays – perfect for displaying pictures, I suppose…

I did make a few other stops, and collected a handful of things, but once I got to Walmart, on my way home, I found a little more to be disappointed in…

Either I was already too late to get in on the bargains, or they’d been setting this up even on Christmas Eve, but it seems as if the Christmas stuff has been completely replaced by Valentine’s Day stuff already. Sure, Japan conflates the two holidays already, but that’s a story for another letter.

So, I’ve given up and returned home already by one o’clock, not quite empty-handed, but not laden with stuff like I might have hoped for. Then again, maybe I’m just not meant to have so much stuff going forward, and this is life’s (or God’s) way of reminding me of that.

Published by

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

One thought on “Bargain-Hunting Blues

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: