What I Learned Going Black Friday Shopping with Mom and Aunt Neil
I do not go shopping on Black Friday sales anymore. That is, since I lost my mom and Aunt Neil in Walmart several years ago.
I’ve always been the designated driver when Mom and Aunt Neil wanted to go shopping and I enjoyed it. It gave me a chance to spend time with, listening to their stories about the ‘good old days’ and the newest, juicy gossip, while I drove. Although, half the time I didn’t know who they were talking about because everyone my mom and Aunt Neil’s age have nicknames.
The last Black Friday sale I attend, the sales started Thanksgiving night at midnight. The plan were for me to drive Mom and Aunt Neil to our local Walmart and then back home. Sure, no problem. Except, the two sisters had other plans.
Our small town of Pembroke, at the time had a population of 3,000, plus around 10,000 students and facility at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. And since it were the beginning of the holidays, I estimated there were another 2,500 out of towner’s visiting family, maybe more.
That night, the air was frigid, it felt like it could snow. At 9:45 pm, I made my way into the den at my mom and dad’s and warmed myself in font the wood heater.
“Here.” My dad greeting me, tossing me a set of keys to his Buick Lacrosse. “It’s gassed up and ready for y’all. Have fun and don’t hurry back.” He chuckled and settled into his love couch next to the hearth and TV.
His chuckle and joke about not hurrying back, should have been my sign for what was to come of our midnight shopping extravaganza.
Cruising through Pembroke at 10 pm was a breeze. No traffic and to my surprise, all the lights were green. As soon as I turned into the drive for the parking lot at Pembroke, I was forced to slam on breaks. The parking lot were full with cars, and people were everywhere like ants at a Sunday picnic. A few drops of rain splattered on the windshield and I made the decision to drop Mom and Aunt Neil off at the door, and circle around until I found a parking spot.
It was easier said than done. We would roll a few feet and stop for what seemed forever and then roll another foot or two. Shoppers were walking haphazardly into traffic, darting between cars, with no sense of direction as I navigated traffic to the front door. By the time Mom and Aunt Neil were able to exit the car, I was sweating bullets. It took me another twenty minutes to circle the parking lot to find a sparking space directly by the highway. By the time I got inside Walmart, it took me another fifteen minutes to find Mom and Aunt Neil, talking to someone next to the jewelry counter. As soon as they saw me, they split and went in separate directions. Thinking back as I write this, I wished I could have videoed my mom. She was a funny sight to me that night, wearing her green coat, and a hat on her head, sitting catty wompers, her purse in the crook of her left arm, pushing a shopping cart down the crowded, standing room only, main aisle, saying, “excuse me, pardon me. Can I get through, please?”
The aisle opened, she nodded her head, greeting and speaking to anyone who made eye contact with her and that knitted hat I made her, bouncing to and fro. “How y’all? There sure is a lot of people here tonight. Hey girl, it’s good to see you. How y’all been? Call me girl, my numbers in the book.” Mom moves forward with ease while speaking to people she knows and don’t know. “Good to see y’all. Thank you. Pardon me, thank you.”
I don’t know if it was because Mom appeared to be a harmless, white-haired lady, out on the town for the night to experience all the pre-Christmas excitement, or what. The aisle opened up like the Jordan River and just as soon as I came behind her it closed again. “Pardon me, can I get through? I need to follow my mom. Can I please get through?” I begged to no avail. Silence and stares of unbelief greeted me. Forced to turn around to avoid the throng of shoppers gathered at the pallets of sale items in the middle of the main aisle, I circled Walmart, searching for my folks while dialing their cell phones.
‘The number you dialed can’t be reached.’
Don’t you just hate those recordings when you’re in desperate need to get ahold of someone? And for the love of chocolate, can someone tell me why my mom, still to this day, will not turn on her blasted cell phone when she leaves home?
Twenty minutes later, I made my way back to the jewelry counter. No Mom and no Aunt Neil in sight. In a panic I called dad.
He picked up on the third ring. ‘You’ve already lost them, haven’t you?’ He chuckled at my expense.
“Dad, this ain’t funny.” I’m darting my eyes here and there, twisting and turning, searching for Mom and Aunt Neil in the throng of people. In Pembroke, it’s easy to recognize locals and I’m always running into someone I know at Walmart. Except for this particular night, I didn’t recognize a soul, which increased my anxiety and my worry.
“Did you call their cell phones?” I could hear him sipping his coffee and giggling between swallows.
“Yes, and the phones are off. Why do they have them and won’t turn them on?”
“Beats me.” Dad’s laughter was starting to annoy me. “Where are you at?”
“At the jewelry counter.’
“Stay put. They’ll circle around directly.”
Twenty minutes later, mom came wheeling from the grocery side and Aunt Neil from the direction of Heath and Beauty. I was ever so happy to see them. “Y’all ready?” I ushered them to the check out and ran to go get the car.
Instead of going home that morning at 1 am, Mom and Aunt Neil talked me into driving them to Laurinburg, a town in the next county, 17 miles away.
One would think, keeping up with two older women was an easy task at 2 am in the morning because they would be moving slow, right? Not my mom and Aunt Neil. As time passed, their energy level went in to another gear. And to my horror, the same scenario was repeated again at Walmart’s, Belk’s, Goodies and Big Lots. It was a lost cause for me to try to do any shopping that night, because every time I stopped to look at something, they disappeared.
That was the last year, I went shopping for Black Friday and since then, I have discovered on-line shopping with free shipping. No more anxiety going into orbit because of two golden-age, sisters getting lost while on a shopping trip with me.
Do I still take Mom and Aunt Neil shopping? Yes, I do, on one condition. They need to be ready by 9 am to beat the crowds and to preserve my sanity.