My family has never been one of those Black Friday families.
We’ve never felt the need to get out of bed in the middle of the night the day after Thanksgiving to stand in line at Wal-Mart at 4 a.m. with our minds focused on the heavily discounted electronics and appliances and whatever else people go Black Friday shopping for (Tickle Me Elmo? Furbies? Turbo-Man?).
Frankly, we just never cared.
The Williamsburg Premium Outlets™ hopped on the Black Friday bandwagon. They decided to open the doors to every store in their shopping center right at midnight to give customers the opportunity to spend all night and all of the next day prodding and perusing and purchasing.
This is not what interested us.
As part of their Black Friday promotion, the Williamsburg Premium Outlets™ promised a free gift bag – which included a set of pajamas and matching socks! – to the first 100 customers.
This is what interested us.
The Marsh Family love for free stuff, competition, and pajamas overrides our complete apathy towards Black Friday.
So immediately following our store-bought Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by Ukrop’s and Grandma Betty Marsh, my Brother Brian™ and Cousin Eric™ and I™ piled into the car to the Williamsburg Premium Outlets™, driving way over the speed limit in an effort to be among the first 100.
Along the way, we speculated about what kind of free pajamas we’d receive in our (what we assumed would be) gift bag overflowing with ample and generous gifts. Premium Outlets has so many great stores to choose pajamas from, we reasoned.
Would they be a silk set from Calvin Klein?
Footy pajamas from the Gap?
A COZY FLANNEL PAIR FROM L.L. BEAN?
Upon arrival, however, our shiny spirits were mildly dashed when we saw the length of the Free Gift Bag Line™. Based on the amount of people, there was frankly little hope that we’d be among the first 100.
Sure, we thought about giving up. We thought about getting back in the car. We thought about going home.
But we were already there – not to mention over-caffeinated – so we got in line and crossed our fingers that we’d make the cut.
Or that the people ahead of us would leave before getting their gift bags.
While waiting in line, we offhandedly chit-chatted about our disappointing-as-usual Thanksgiving dinner, mentally drifting off with visions of L.L. Bean lifetime warranty flannel pajamas dancing in our heads.
We’d pretend to enjoy each other’s company, but each secretly count the customers in front of us to see where we landed in line – meanwhile subtly shuffling ahead of each other just in case only one of us could make it into the Top 100 (Top 100™).
Finally: midnight arrived and the Williamsburg Premium Outlets™ Free Gift Bag™ line started moving. The line crawled forward (WE JUST WANTED TO KNOW IF WE’D MAKE THE CUT), the customers toward the front of the line comfortably accepting their free gift bags because they must have gotten to the Outlets at like noon, I don’t know.
While the gift bag pile lowered, our anxiety increased, not wanting our first Black Friday experience to be a total failure.
But finally, the moment came: We Three Marshes arrived at the Free Gift Bag™ pile, only a few left in the bunch but ENOUGH. BAGS. FOR. EACH. OF. US.
We victoriously accepted (actually “grabbed” is probably a better word) our gifts from the Williamsburg Premium Outlets™ bag passer-outers, stepping aside just far enough to let fellow customers pass us while we ripped open our gift bags to see what was inside. We waded through all of the rest of the swag (which just ended up being a bunch of mediocre coupons for other stores in the outlet) until we finally found our free pajamas at the bottom of the bag.
It was like the episode of Full House where Michelle sent for a Rigby the Rhino toy in the mail and when it comes – instead of the large stuffed animal that was advertised on the commercial – she receives a small, bottom-of-the-cereal-box sized Rigby action figure. (Side note, will someone come over on a regular basis and watch TV with me so I have more up-to-date pop culture references?)
While we had looked forward to a set of plush, cozy plaid flannel pajamas – the kind you see families wearing in Christmas commercials, the kind you wear next to a roaring fireplace inside a log cabin in Vermont, the kind you want to sew onto your body because they’re so comfortable you can’t imagine taking them off for the rest of your life – we instead found a nightgown.
It had elbow-length sleeves (it wasn’t even long sleeved), and hit somewhere around the knee (it didn’t even go to the floor), and had this little bow at the collar (it didn’t even have the decency to let you pretend you didn’t look like an idiot). It was made of this cheap fleece material, like those blankets they give you at the end of marathons as an extra reminder that you made a huge mistake.
Oh, and the color, you ask? Brian’s nightgown was a soft baby blue tint (if it were a Lowe’s paint chip, my guess it that it would be called something like “Easter Egg Blue” or “Hospital Sock”), while mine and Eric’s were that newborn-baby-girl-swaddle shade of pink (“Off-Brand Bubble Gum,” “The Polo Lindsay Lohan Wore in Mean Girls”).
Unlike that episode of Full House – where Rigby the Rhino comes to Michelle’s house (after Joey takes her and her friend Denise to the mall to protest the injustice only a privileged child of a well-off suburban family would bother protesting since they don’t have anything else to get upset about) and gives her the full-sized toy advertised in the commercial – we were never given replacement pajamas because unfortunately not everything works out in real life like it does in Full House life and that’s a huge bummer.
But, in addition to the pajamas, also promised to the Lucky First 100 Customers™ was a pair of socks that matched with the pajamas. We didn’t find these socks in our bag, but in between all of the coupons (oh, I mean swaaaag (that’s supposed to be read in a very patronizing voice)), we found a voucher for the free socks to be redeemed at Dillard’s.
Even though we’d been disappointed once, we still had worked hard to earn these socks so we decided to go cash in our vouchers.
And who knew, maybe “matching socks” meant “better pajamas,” so we elbowed through the crowd to get our other amazing (amaaaazing) gift.
Upon arrival to the designated sock retrieval spot, we wordlessly presented our slips to the Dillard’s employee, hoping to get our free gift as quickly as possible so we could go home.
Since these (sweeeeet) gift socks were supposed to correlate with our pajamas, she asked what color we’d gotten so we could have matching socks. Brian got his pair of male-gender-reveal-cake blue socks and she handed me a pair of best-Starburst-flavor pink ones. When Eric told her he also needed pink, she shook her head and said, “Aw man. You got pink? That sucks.”
Later on in the car ride home, amidst my sleepless delirium, I was thinking about what that Dillard’s employee had said.
“As if” I said to Eric, gasping in between breaths of laughter “you getting” more laughter “a baby blue” laughter “nightgown” laughter, gasping, tears “would have been” so much more laughter, I mean lots of it “any…BETTER” followed by probably like half an hour more of laughter, but at least once I finished my sentence the laughter wasn’t just my own.
In between the initial disappointment and the helpless-laughter-brought-to-you-by-4-o’clock-in-the-morning, we had all agreed to give our fleece nightgowns (and socks) to our grandma for Christmas.
And we did just that, however – for the many years after this incident that Grandma Betty Marsh lived – I never actually saw her wearing any of those nightgowns or socks, nor do I have any idea what she did with them.
But we never did feel the need to go Black Friday shopping again – at the Williamsburg Premium Outlets™ or elsewhere – and that, my friends, is truly the greatest gift of them all.