To rack up "Time already served in Purgatory" points.
I took my saintly aunt shopping last night. It's been a few years since I've done this. Having little ones that were nursing was one reason I didn't take her. The real reason is my kindly, sweet, compassionate aunt transforms into evil personified every time we go shopping.
I thought I could handle it, I really did. But, since it's been a few years that I've dealt with taking her shopping at Christmas, I had silly thoughts of, "Just how bad can it be?" running through my head.
Well, it was bad. Very bad. My aunt, or shall I call her Mr. Hyde, started by complaining incessantly about my driving. Not just a gentle, "Slow down dear, it's slippery out." Oh no, nothing tame like that. Instead, I got the grovelly, deep, demonic, "I hope you don't drive like this with those babies in the car." Every stop sign we approached had her clutching the door handle and bouncing around like her seat was on fire. I was accused of driving too fast, even though I told her I never made it over 30 miles per hour. She rebuked me that it was still too fast for the conditions...you must drive according to the conditions.
It's only a few miles to the nearby Target, but it was a nightmarish, not-quick-enough, jaunt. A car spun out in front of me at the entrance to Target and I thought my aunt was going to have a coronary despite me being several car lengths back and managing to stop at least one car length away from hitting anything. She shrieked like a banshee for a full two minutes.
Once we were in the store, she hit her stride, barrelling down the busy, crowded aisles with her cart, daring anyone to get in her way. First order of business was to buy a Christmas present for my son, so we headed to the toy area. As we approached the first aisle of toys, she demanded to know what it was that my son wanted so we could find a clerk to tell us where to find the toy on the shelves. The store was very busy, chaotic even, probably filled with other well-meaning nieces taking their suddenly psychotic aunts shopping. At times like this, I don't like to ask "clerks" questions unless I've given my search the old college try. My aunt, on the other hand, doesn't want to spend a moment more than necessary looking for anything.
I did manage to find one of the items my son wanted without clerk intervention, but when I finally located it, I deemed it too expensive for my aunt to buy (even though she has more money than God Himself). Because of this, I got the cold silent treatment and the pursed lips, a clear sign she did not approve of the wild goose hunt. Time to think quick, down-grade toy expectations and just grab something for her to buy.
A suitable toy was found and it was off to the men's department for her to find some socks for my husband. My aunt had planned to buy my husband a sweater vest, yes, a sweater vest. I did manage to nip that disaster in the bud a week prior when she mentioned it to me, knowing hubby would not approve. She wanted to know what else to buy him, so I suggested socks since it was something I knew he needed. So, socks it was. Except as we got to the sock aisle and I quickly grabbed a pack of socks off the rack and tossed them in the cart, trying to spare her any more time and trouble, she balked at the socks I picked and then went on a rant about how awful they were. It took about 15 minutes just for her to settle on some socks, all the while grumbling about the crappy socks I had picked out...even though they are the socks my husband likes and wears.
She wanted to stop in the women's department to find some slipper socks for a friend who is in a care facility suffering with Alzheimer's. After about a half hour of going through every pair of socks and slippers in the store, none were deemed suitable. Dread now set in since it was time to look for a gift for me.
I had no idea of what to tell her to buy me. I've hated this routine ever since I was a child and she secreted me out of the house so I could get my ears pierced. I wanted to get my ears pierced but my mom, a nurse, didn't think it was something a nine year-old should do. But, Auntie knew better and took me anyway while my mom was taking a nap. Honestly, I was more afraid of my aunt than dealing with my mom's anger.
My aunt asked what I wanted and I blurted out something kind of incoherent about a cake pan, since it was just the first thing that popped into my head. Nope, not acceptable. So, off we went to find a better present. We passed the electronics department and I suggested a memory card for my camera, which is something I really could use. It took a little convincing, but I finally managed to talk her into buying the memory card.
"But, what about your birthday present?" I still had to come up with some idea for a birthday present.
Back to Plan A and the cake pan. No. Rejected. Dismissed. She was trying to make me believe that if I didn't come up with a better idea, I was just going to have to do without a birthday present. I heard angels singing, thinking my suffering was over and the present search summarily abandoned.
Off to the grocery department for candied fruit needed for her fruit cake recipe. Except, this is Target, they didn't have any candied fruit. I knew they wouldn't, but my aunt had to find a clerk to ask. Instead, she found a butcher and had him search high and low for the candied fruit. He walked through aisle after aisle looking with us, called the grocery department to talk to someone more knowledgeable about whether the store stocked candied fruit, and was basically quite sweet and helpful. But, when the bad news arrived that Target, gasp!, didn't carry candied fruit, she dryly told him we would just go to Walmart and get some there.
Sheepishly, I caught his glance and thanked him for his help.
After a detour into the housewares aisle (she was now aware that her threat of not getting a present wasn't phasing me) and not finding the cake pan I wanted, we were headed to the check outs. For some unknown reason, when my aunt swiped her credit card through the reader, it kept asking her for a pin, even though she was using a credit card and not a debit card. The cashier was doing all she could to help, but after repeated tries, each time she swiped the card it asked for a pin. Then my aunt started giving some heat to the cashier about how she's been shopping at Target for YEARS and has never had a problem before. And, as you probably could've guessed, now there were five people in line behind us, all of them not too thrilled with the hold-up. Over and over the card was swiped through and a request for a pin appeared each time. I thought my aunt was going to grow horns before my eyes. I said a quick prayer in earnest, "God help me!!!," and suddenly the credit card was accepted.
Not so fast. Now my aunt wanted a gift receipt for the toy she bought my son. The poor cashier looked at her like, "Lady, have mercy on me." Meanwhile, I glanced at the folks in line behind my aunt, which was definitely a mistake.
As we were walking out to the car, I kept telling myself it was almost over. I kept repeating those words, hoping to keep a stiff upper lip and a cool temper, reminding myself that she's in her 80s and kindness shown to a mean ol' ex-saintly aunt will be handsomely repaid.
My aunt carped about how we wouldn't be able to find my car, a black Honda, because it looked just like every other car in the lot. Then she started back harping about how awful I drive and hoping again, repeatedly, that I don't drive like that with "those babies in the car."
"God help me," kept running through my head.
This time I left a good eight car lengths between me and anything that remotely looked like a car and she was still doing the hee-bee gee-bees in the seat. As we rounded the corner to her house, she said, and I quote, "I hope I get home before I crap my pants because of your driving...if I should live so long."
Ah, Christmas. Doesn't it just warm your heart and calm your soul.