Thursday, January 3, 2008

Christmas Shopping Trip

The tradition began in 1979, our first year in Paris. It was December and we were just learning our way around northeast Texas. My good friend, Toni, suggested that we take a day and Christmas shop in Dallas. Twenty-eight years later, we continue to make that yearly pilgrimage to the land of boutiques, malls and late hours.

Some Parisians travel to Dallas so often they don’t consider it a trip. But it is. When you stop and think about, it is 100 miles. In the northeast United States, you could be across the borders of three states. As with all traveling, you have to think about what you’ll need for the day (or week-end). Who's driving? Do you take the north or the south route? Should you throw in your tennis shoes in case your feet wear out? How about an umbrella for possible rain? You have to map out your stops and plan your meals. The salesclerks and waiters are strangers. It’s truly a travel experience.

The first years of our Advent journey were intense, especially after having children. The shopping list seemed to get longer and the stores bigger. We started going on a week-day to avoid some of the crowds. Our pattern is to start south, sometimes in the Knox-Henderson area, but always including Northpark Mall. Shopping with a woman is different than shopping with a man. If you ask a man his opinion on a possible purchase, you get a hurried "sure, that’s fine" or a shrug. Only a woman friend will tell you if that chartreuse colored sweater is really that cool or that weird. A woman will help with the analysis needed to determine quality and value This is true whether you’re shopping in Dallas or Hong Kong. Women don’t tap their feet while you detour into one more store. And women also see things that are not on the list, which is actually the very best part-- finding something you had never considered and loving it. I still sing in the shower with this corny plastic sing-a-long book Toni found once and we have never seen again.

After the run through Northpark, we always head to a book store, Borders being the favorite. It’s easy to lose yourself and time in this store. After a coffee break, we hit (interesting shopping term) the Container Store for wrapping goods. Originally, the Galleria was the next stop. The houseware department at Macy’s always has great bargains and Nordstrom’s lovely piano music distracts you from the headache you get breathing mall air. In all those years, we’ve only had one scare-- in an almost empty Galleria parking lot at night. As we emerged, loaded down with shopping bags on a vacant second floor of the parking garage, a car sped towards us, stopped and some menacing guys started out of the car. We ran awkwardly, throwing things into our van, and then another car rounded the corner and they sped away. After that experience, we learned to take advantage of store security guards who will accompany you to your car if you are out late.

And, finally, the last stop-- Toys ‘R Us. We once arrived at this toy mecca at 10 p.m., a very good time to be there. It was almost empty and we could seriously play with any toy we were considering. I think that was the year that we got stopped for speeding at midnight in Melissa. The highway patrolman asked where we were headed and why we were out so late. After our reply, he flashed his light into the back of the car because he couldn’t believe we were just coming home from a shopping trip. The sea of shopping bags must have impressed him as he let us go with a warning.

The trip has changed over the years. Toys ‘R Us is out for the moment. There are more stores at Northpark and we don’t always make it to the Galleria. Our lunches and coffee breaks are longer as we talk more and shop less. We look more for stocking stuffers than big items. And we are usually home by 7 or 8. Being glad to get home is the final reason a drive to Dallas is truly a trip.

We continued the tradition this year. Expanded choices in Paris have increased our purchases here. And the ability to order and mail items over the internet to our spread-out families has shortened the Dallas shopping list. But we will always go, even if it’s just to have the time to visit on the way there and back. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. So until the next column, remember "a friend you can shop with is a friend indeed".

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