I wasn’t home from Vancouver for a full week before I started packing for the next trip… The Trip. It didn’t take me as far from home or last as long as most trips do but it was one I looked forward to with great anticipation. I spent the past weekend in Edmonton with six friends from church on our 10th annual Christmas shopping trip; a marathon of shopping and fun!
Over the years, our number has varied from three to more than a dozen ladies. I’ve missed only once, the year we lived in Japan.
We’ve learned a lot since our first trip. In the beginning, we’d leave very early Saturday morning, spend one night in a hotel and return home completely exhausted the following evening. Then, for several years, the mother of the one gal who’s been on every trip offered to host us in her home. That’s when the trip became a two nighter. Deb’s mom now lives in a care facility and we’re back to hotelling but we continue to spend two nights in the city.
One year we simply couldn’t find a weekend that worked for enough people so we squeezed the trip into a single day leaving Sedgewick in the wee hours of Saturday morning and arriving home well after midnight! Never again! That was simply way too grueling.
A couple of days after that trip, I met my across the street neighbour in the grocery store. “I almost called you in the middle of the night on Saturday,” she told me. “There was a van backed up at your door and I thought maybe you were being robbed!” I assured her that that was just me arriving home from my annual Christmas shopping trip and unloading all my purchases!
Our accommodations have varied from last year’s dingy motel where, on one of the coldest weekends of the year, one of our rooms had no heat (we were eventually moved to another room) to this year’s luxury digs where Pam and I soaked in the hot tub after a long day of shopping.
Unlike last year’s dingy motel, however, this year’s hotel didn’t include a complementary breakfast so we brought our own picnicking on muffins, yogurt, fruit, juice and coffee before setting off each morning. We also came well supplied with wine and chocolate!
Another lesson we’ve learned is to ensure that we have enough vehicle space for the multitude of bags and boxes that join us over the weekend. We still laugh about our first trip when two women purchased guitars at the very last store we stopped at. There were seven ladies packed into an eight passenger van and it was already fully loaded. We managed to add the guitar boxes to the top of the pile in the rear of the van but every time the driver touched the brakes they slid forward stopping only when they encountered the heads of the poor ladies in the back seat! This year there were seven of us again but we took the eight passenger church van and a large SUV!
Where do we shop? Well, over the years we’ve been many different places avoiding only West Edmonton Mall which is just too big and too crowded at this time of year. In recent years, we’ve settled on a route that works well and takes in the widely varied needs and interests of a group that ranges from a very young mom to grandmothers like me.
On our way to Edmonton, we stop in Camrose usually taking in at least Walmart and the Christian bookstore, Wisemen’s Way. The staff at Wisemen’s has learned to expect us at this time of year and have even kept the store open late for us several times. This year we left home early enough to get there during regular store hours.
On Saturday morning, we try to be in the parking lot of Greenland Garden Centre in northeast Edmonton when the doors open at 9:00 a.m. At this time of year, Greenland is transformed into western Canada’s largest Christmas store. Whether or not we buy anything, we all love spending time there soaking up the ambiance and getting in the mood for a full day of Christmas shopping. We also pose for our annual photo in front of one of their gorgeous trees. There’s always a staff member willing to oblige and act as our photographer. One year when there were only three of us, we even had staff members stand in for regulars who were missing!
After we leave the Christmas store, we make our way toward the south end of the city stopping first at Londonderry Mall and then Kingsway Mall. Further south, we visit Blessings, another Christian bookstore; Southgate Mall and several stores in South Edmonton Common. This year a few of us also made a side trip to Cabella’s, a huge outfitting store on Anthony Henday Drive. We also added a Toys R Us store to our usual itinery.
On Sunday morning, we go to church together before hitting a few more stores and then heading for home. This year we broke with tradition and included a Y chromosone on Sunday morning. Michelle’s youngest son is in his first year at the University of Alberta so we invited him to join us for church and lunch.
Being our tenth anniversary, we spent a lot of time reminiscing and laughing over past fun and foibles, retelling stories like the one about the wayward guitars and the year that Tracy walked into a pillar bending her glasses out of shape! She was blind as a bat without them so a trip to an optician was quickly added to our agenda. On the same trip, she stumbled and fell in an underground parkade managing not to injure herself or break the fragile gift she was carrying! Tracy moved to Saskatchewan several years ago but we still miss her!
We also instituted a new tradition this year. We stopped for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Camrose on Friday. When we opened our fortune cookies someone suggested that we purchase a Lotto 649 ticket using the numbers on the backs of everyone’s fortunes. The draw for $3.5 million was to take place on Saturday and we’d have seven chances at the jackpot. Split seven ways, we’d each win $500 000! We had so much fun all weekend exclaiming over the things we’d buy or the adventures we’d go on if we won that we’ve decided to buy a ticket every year from now on!
On the way home we stopped in Camrose again to check on our luck. Since splitting our $2 win seven ways wouldn’t work very well, we invested in another ticket! That draw is on Wednesday and the jackpot is an estimated $8 million so the dream goes on. It would probably be easy to guess how I’d spend some of my winnings. After all, here’s what my fortune cookie had to say!