I feel sorry for Thanksgiving. It’s a stepchild holiday, caught smack in between the juggernaut consumer holidays of Halloween and Christmas. It’s the holiday that is always in the back of the family photo, forgotten behind Aunt Easter’s ugly sweater and Uncle 4th of July’s crazy long Kentucky waterfall gloriously cascading over his shoulders. Mostly, Thanksgiving garners the favor it does not on its own merits but on its place in the holiday timeline. It marks the halfway point of the holiday season…
And just one day after that is Black Friday. If a race starts with a pistol, then Black Friday is a Howitzer, laser focused on igniting consumers in a blaze of spending that won’t end until 11:59:59 on December 24, Christmas Eve.
As a family, we enjoy Black Friday. It’s a long established family tradition. Your grandfather maps out strategies for door buster plundering like he’s General Patton planning his assault on Europe.
Your mother and I, we do the bulk of our holiday shopping every year during Black Friday. This year was no different, except for the obvious fact that you were present for this one. Because you were present, we did not do any midnight raids or anything similarly crazy. We went on Friday afternoon, and in our tiny window between your afternoon nap and bedtime routine, we managed to get about half of our Christmas shopping done.
And we got American Hustle on Blu-Ray for $6. Score.
Giddy on savings, we left the store and drove home, ready to start dinner. Then, the unthinkable happened.
“Uh Mike…where is the backpack?” your mother asked.
The backpack is your diaper bag, Blue. It has your shoes, your blankets, your hats, you diaper changing pad, your bottles and I left it all in the shopping cart back at Target.
Generally speaking, I was overdue for my DuhMike moment. I average about one per year, and thus far, I had managed to avoid the moment for entirety of 2014. Past DuhMike moments (in case you’re wondering what qualifies) include missing a flight by an entire day, putting a pair of pants into a washing machine…with an ipod in them, and getting my car stuck on a fire hydrant. The fact that I had lasted an entire year without one of these moments while sleep deprived and exhausted was a minor miracle.
We drove back in a flash. I looked in the cart and it was gone. I asked a man in an SUV nearby if he saw anything. “No,” was the answer.
Curse words, my response.
I checked in the store and it wasn’t there either. They told me to check back in a bit to see if it has shown up. Then they took my number to call in case the backpack arrived. Two hours passed and we got nothing. Through all of this, we started going through the different stages of grief. By the third hour, we were moving through acceptance. It sounds silly to be this ate up over a backpack, but it wasn’t just any backpack. It was YOUR backpack, and I lost it. I felt terrible.
Feeling this way, I decided to give Target one last try. I went back to the store and again get the same response. The backpack had not arrived in the store. Dejected, I Charlie Brown sadwalked to the back of the store, resigned to begin the long process of replacing your lost things. I started with Tommy Tippee bibs.
As I was walking back to the front of the store to pay, my phone buzzed.
“Hey, this is Target Guest Services. Were you just looking for a pink and black packpack?”
“Yeah, the one with the baby stuff?”
“Yeah dude. It’s here.”
What the what?
I made my beeline to the front, doing that weird walk run that is somewhere between a powerwalk and a pee walk. Sure enough, it was your backpack. And it was back in our possession! How was this possible? Was it just floating around in the parking lot for two hours? Did no one notice it? Did the guest services people just miss it?
Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
Here’s my theory:
I keep going back to the man in the SUV. We’ll call him Roland. Roland was there when we left, there when we got back and he had a kid in the backseat. We were in a section of the parking lot that was not heavily trafficked so it was doubtful someone would have picked up a cart from the corral where I left it.
Unless they saw me leave the backpack there, which Roland did. He takes the pack, then lies about it and hightails it out of there when his wife is done shopping. At home, he tells her about the backpack he found. His wife, Ethel, tells him that she thought his days with sticky fingers are long gone, and that she’s disappointed with him.
This triggers a huge outburst from Roland because he’s stressed out about finances, particularly after Ethel just bought a $1000 worth of Christmas gifts from Target. In his mind, he has to steal because how else can they get by? Not on his The two of them trade bitter resentful comment after bitter resentful comment for close to an hour and a half. During this time, their 2 year old kid, Tom Bo, decides to go check out the backpack Roland picked up from Target and begins to rummage through the contents.
The fight continues. Ethel and Roland graduate from verbal jabs at each other over each other’s actions at Target and go straight to throwing marital haymakers. You know, the kinds of things you say you can never, ever take back and shake a marriage right down to its foundation.
So marriage in shambles and divorce lurking nearby, Roland takes a deep breath, sighs, and says, “Fine. I’ll take the bag back.”
Before he does, Tom Bo drops a block into the backpack, which we find later that night. It is this block that was the key to the whole story, because we had blocks just like it. In fact, we thought it was one of our blocks until we counted them up. We had all 12 of them, which meant this block, the 13th block, came from somewhere else.
It came from Tom Bo. And even though he didn’t get to keep the rest of the baby stuff, Tom Bo did get to keep his parents together.
Or that’s our story anyway. Regardless, it was a miracle that pack ended up back with us.