My credit card got denied at Target this week. We tried twice to get it to swipe correctly, but nothing was working. The woman at the check out could see my frustration, with four small children staring at me and a cart full of odds and ends, I did the only thing I knew to do in the moment. I threw up my hands, huffed loud for everyone to hear, and headed towards the door.
The bananas, grapes, and milk. The kitten mittens for the toddler, three ornaments my kids each picked out, two strands of Christmas lights, a storage basket, six advent calendars, gingerbread men cookie cutters, a pair of pajamas for my son who has been sleeping in his clothes for a week, some conditioner, and lotion for my dry, winter skin. I left it all right there at the end of the check out line.
The kids didn’t understand what was happening, why we couldn’t take anything with us. “Our card doesn’t work!” I shouted.
I motioned for them to go grab their promised piece of free fruit from the cafe before we stormed through the automatic doors back to the car.
They were all fine of course. Smacking on their free bananas, unfazed by the whole card fiasco. I called my husband to vent and to see why the card was denied, thankfully he didn’t pick up.
I drove home reflecting on the situation, trying to figure out where my agitation was rooted. I knew it was deeper than the fact I had wasted hours of my day, toting rambunctious children up and down the aisles, only to come home with a few banana peels.
The truth was all week I had been trying to get myself in the Christmas spirit.
I wanted to feel excited about buying cute red pillows for the couch, a few wreaths for the doors, the yearly ornaments for the kids, cookie cutters, twinkly lights, maybe even a tree for the entry way this year, in addition to the one we put up in the living room.
It also needs to be mentioned here that before stepping foot into Target that day I had, just moments prior, abandoned my cart at the Hobby Lobby five minutes down the road. The sheer amount of red and green decor, walls of garland, and fake trees sent me spinning into sensory overload.
Two carts deserted in one day, am I the Grinch or what? I wanted only to add a few simple Christmas items to our seasonal collection, but I couldn’t even do that without feeling flustered and annoyed.
When we lived in South Africa and Europe I didn’t associate Christmas with purchasing junk. It wasn’t even in my mind to decorate my front porch like a Pinterest board. (I didn’t even known about Pinterest until we moved back to America.)
Christmas is complicated here. Unfortunately, our consumerist culture reaches a climax around this time of year, all sneakily hid beneath the banner of giving.
Tangled up in our sparkly trees and multi-colored lights is the incessant pull to acquire more things to make us more happy.
My heart withers under the heaviness of this lie. Once I manage to shake my initial frustration for being a Grinch, I feel grateful for my sensitivity and uptightness towards this weird Christmas spirit thing that wants to steal my credit card.
I actually want to step into Target or Hobby Lobby on high alert. I want to be able to laugh at the ludicrous amount of holiday clutter available to me with a little swipe. Then, I want to be able to walk out of the store with only a complimentary banana for the kids.
We all know Christmas isn’t about the stuff, but we fall for it every year.
I’m thinking we could all take up the lost art of abandoning our full carts right in the middle of the gift wrap aisle. Choosing instead to unwrap ourselves from the fingers of consumerism, dancing out the doors of stores, driving home with an empty trunk, some Christmas music blaring from the radio, and a heart ready to experience the freedom (and the gift!) of less.