“I picked the wrong line,” I muttered aloud as my fellow shoppers did their best to pretend they hadn’t heard. I had gone to the Monmouth Mall to exchange an item that I had purchased as a Christmas gift for my son. The Christmas shopping crowd at the register in the men’s department had somehow convinced me to head to the other end of the store.
But the line there was just as long, and then I heard the cashier extolling the benefits of the JC Penney credit card to the woman currently checking out. “15% off this purchase, which amounts to $45, plus more savings throughout the year – and you can cancel at any time,” she said as the customer nodded. “No!” I cried out in my head, but the woman was sold. “I need your license,” the cashier said as she began what would surely be a drawn-out process. I frowned and eye-rolled and sighed, and then muttered something about “not enough cashiers on, as usual.” The young woman directly in front of me on line was clutching a box containing boots and lobbing snarky remarks to the unlucky person at the other end of her cell phone. “Is she still using those crappy heated curlers? Oh, she bought new ones? There goes that idea. Well this conversation has been spectacularly unhelpful, I still have no idea what to buy her” she said. “Where am I now? I’m at Penney’s, buying boots for myself! Why? They’re on sale for like 70% off!”
Looking for a distraction from this negativity, I glanced at the Sephora display – nothing new there, really – and then toward the nearby jewelry department. A woman walked into my line of vision and stood at the counter. She was nicely dressed with blonde layered hair and a kind and pretty face. In a word, she was classy. They say that everyone has a double, and in this case – I realized after a few moments — this woman had a great resemblance to my sister-in-law Robin’s Aunt Doreen. I just love Doreen. She is lively and generous and a lot of fun. Doreen was raised in New Jersey but now lives in California – still, she and Robin have been able to maintain very close ties.
As I looked on, the woman at the jewelry counter was joined by another woman who appeared to be in her thirties or forties. There was a resemblance between them, although the younger woman was much taller and had curly hair. She too was tastefully dressed and appeared to be a very pleasant person. I noticed the two ladies commiserating over a piece of jewelry as a sales clerk looked on. The three of them began engaging in conversation, and – in a nice change from all the hustle and bustle going on around them – they seemed to have all the time and not a care in the world. I figured that they were most likely an aunt and her niece. There was an ease about them that I couldn’t attribute to mothers and daughters. (Even at the ages of almost 90 and 58 respectively, my mother and I can’t fully eradicate what I call the “hex” factor – the air of mild tension/power struggle that hangs over us whenever we try to shop or make other important decisions.)
The aunt was trying to make a choice, and her niece was giving her all of her attention and appeared very happy to be doing so. It made me smile, and I realized that this must be how Robin and Doreen appeared to onlookers when Robin visited Doreen and her family California. It gave me a warm feeling, and a renewed hope that perhaps I too could manage my stress levels and try to enjoy the Christmas season a bit more than I usually do.
The shopper at the register was finally approved for her JC Penney credit card, bringing to joy to the cashier who had upsold her and relief to those of us waiting on line. I realized in that moment that my mood had changed since I first entered the line. When I focused my attention toward the women at the jewelry counter, I had been rewarded. I had witnessed kindness and patience in action. And it had turned my thinking right around.
There is plenty to be negative about this holiday season. But there will be bright moments as well. We just need to look for them. Or even better, like Robin and Doreen and the ladies at the jewelry counter, we need to step up and make them happen.