Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thinking Out Loud on the Homefront: Oh, the Things We Do

Hello again. It's been far too long since I graced this virtual space with some thoughts. I'm sure the bosses are thrilled. But they know life happens while you're making plans. Right? I think that's the phrase. Anyway, let's get to it, shall we?
For all you parents out there, I have a question:

How many times in your children's lives have you gone to multiple locations of the same store looking for a certain item while on the same shopping trip? Once? Four times? None?
I think I'm up to four overall, although not necessarily on the same trip.
If done right it can be fun. If done incorrectly? That's a different story.
Nearly two years ago for my daughter's sixth birthday she decided that she wanted to be "curiouser" than normal and have an Alice in Wonderland themed party. My wife found her a well-made Alice costume online and we also had purchased some different playing card-type of decorations.
As for party favors, we noticed a few weeks before the party that Target was selling young reader versions of classic stories, and included among them was Lewis Carroll's famous tale. So instead of sending our daughter's party-going friends home with a bag of candy or something similar, we picked up the half-dozen copies of Alice that were in the store we were visiting.
The problem was we were expecting about 15 favor-getting guests. So while I don't remember whether we went to a different Target that day, or whether I went out a day later to two different ones on the same trip, I do remember that after visiting three stores in total, we had the required amount of books. Our daughter wrote a thank you note in each one to each of her guests, and voila, a worthwhile party favor.
I am fairly certain that the Balavan added close to 200 miles to its total over those couple trips, all for a party about two miles from home. Two round trips, including one a bit longer than the other, and the miles add up.
And just last night (Friday), we did it again. We drove from one store to the other looking for a matching set of book cases.
I suppose I really shouldn't complain. As my colleague Craig Bacon wrote, there is no such thing as too many books. He's right.
But despite that, it is entirely possible to run out of places to put them all.
That is what has happened to our son, who reads so many different genres it puts some of my relatives to shame. However, it has become difficult for him to keep his room clean because of the various piles of non-fiction, historical fiction, action, sci-fi, mystery, and tween books that have essentially bought plots of land on his floor and created mini-villages.
It is because of this fact that my wife and I agreed on a new five-shelf bookcase, and when the time came and we all agreed on one, we also agreed on a second, identical one.
Only trouble was I had to drive another few miles to Big Box Store's sister down the road. I did, and the matching book case was waiting for us there. (We had called ahead.)
Elsewhere on this site, it was written yesterday that virtual marketplaces have created a vacuum with regard to the physical shopping experience. I agree.
Had my wife and I simply gone online, we could have found the same thing and had it shipped to the house for free, according to the store policy.
Maybe, though, down the road - far, far in the future - when our kids realize how their parents tried to go the extra mile to do something nice for them, perhaps that realization will lead to a positive memory of their youth. Maybe some day in the future my wife and I will get a phone call from our daughter and she'll tell us how she's watching Alice in Wonderland or reading the book to her child, and maybe we'll reminisce a bit about her sixth birthday party and the hoops we jumped through to make it just right. Or maybe our son will call and tell us he's designed a house with built in shelving units in every bedroom so that no one has to worry about where stuff will go as it multiplies, and then we'll laugh about how he needs to visit to clear all the books out of his old room off the shelves that were not built in, thus leading to that extended shopping trip years prior.
Maybe those things will happen. They could.
As for what has already happened, the reason why is simple: Oh the things we do for the people we love.

Howie Balaban meant to write a column about going on vacation to a tourist trap with one's entire family. That still might happen, but life needs to stop getting in the way.