When you walk your sweaty, smelly, completely beaten-down-by-the-seemingly-never-ending-summer self into Hobby Lobby in mid-August and find that same self immediately and perhaps unexpectedly assaulted by Christmas paraphernalia and cheer, you’ll react in one of three ways. You may find yourself repulsed by the fact that you’re being manhandled into the busiest season of the year despite not even having completed your to-dos for the second busiest season of the year, back-to-school; you may feign indifference (although you’re not fooling anyone); or you may embrace the opportunity to transport yourself into a winter wonderland while strolling in your tank top and flip flops with a grande nonfat iced vanilla latte in hand. I’ve had all three reactions, and as impossible as it is for me to believe I’m saying this right now, I’m endorsing the third. You’ve got to lean in, baby.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve had my days of tsk-tsk-ing through the store with other world-weary shoppers, wondering where it all went wrong and what happened to the good ol’ days when the hardworking people of the retail world waited until after Thanksgiving—and not just one minute after the clock struck midnight but a full eight hours after we all fell asleep in our tryptophan-induced comas—to reveal their Christmas splendor. I, too, have refused to walk down the jolly, red-and-green studded aisles of Christmas decor, pretending to turn a blind eye to their brilliance and instead clinging to the last shred of seasonal bliss I could find in the severely disappointing 90% off spring and summer clearance section (the retail equivalent of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree).
But the truth is, even if I turn my nose up at the merchandise, refusing to buy until the timing is more appropriate, my fellow shoppers won’t, and my loss is most definitely their gain. I learned this lesson the hard way last year after I refused to buy fall decorations until the temps took a dip below the 90-degree mark—which, as we all can correctly surmise, kept me waiting for a good long time after August made its curtain call. Boots on my feet and unnecessarily heavy cardigan swathed over every inch of my hibernation-ready body, I marched into Hobby Lobby ready to dominate the Thanksgiving decor game. My swagger didn’t last long, however, because much to my unadulterated bewilderment, the fall section of Hobby Lobby had been picked barer than the turkey carcass at a Duggar family Thanksgiving.
I wandered the desolate aisles in a stupor feeling like the only non-zombie to roam the wastelands after the zombie apocalypse. How had I let this happen? How had I been so naive as to think I could buy fall decor in late September? Yes, anyone could see I had been a fool, and I had clearly earned myself the meager leftovers the decorator gods had bestowed upon my plate. I left the store with a gaggle of rag tag, pathetic-looking burlap pumpkins that I never would have dared to place in my basket under any other circumstances…but these were desperate times.
So this year, when I walked into Hobby Lobby in August and felt the rush of endorphins hit my veins, I didn’t even try to resist the impulse to go a little bananas in the holiday decor department. After three solid months of being forced to endure nothing but completely irrelevant (to my completely landlocked lifestyle, anyway) nautical rope door stoppers and distressed wood “Welcome to the Beach House” signs, the change of scenery was nothing short of intoxicating. All of a sudden I found myself going on a frenzied treasure hunt, eager to find wreath picks to adorn my dried grapevine wreaths, cloches to display twigs, leaves, and pinecones, and chunky wood candle holders for my mantel and tablescapes. The more gilded, elaborate, and sparkly, the better.
Spurred on by the glowing red 40% off signs at the end of every aisle, I couldn’t put the merchandise in my cart fast enough. I felt like I was on one of those game shows where you keep everything you manage to cram in your cart in 60 seconds—only this time, there was no ratings-hungry producer to foot the bill. Let’s face it: shopping the aisles is fun, but paying at the cashier’s station is not. And let’s face another hard truth while we’re at it: the sale system at Hobby Lobby is a complete insult to humanity. It’s an effective tactic—don’t get me wrong—but it is totally bogus. If you ever pay full price for anything at Hobby Lobby (much like if you ever go to Hobby Lobby with your children), you are doing life wrong.
After I got home and the buzz of a seemingly wildly successful shopping trip wore off, I looked at the aftermath leaning limply to one side in my car’s trunk (yes, maybe I did take the turn out of the parking lot with a little extra gusto, but who could blame me?). I saw before me a sea of burnt orange, the blinding glare of glittering gold chevron stripes, and an impressive selection of gilded Christmas deer and angels. The sheer volume of my binge hit me in that moment, but I really realized the magnitude of the problem when I started hauling in the bags of wreath picks. I had bundles of acorns and pilgrim hats, quite a few dwarfed gourds in varying shapes and colors, and more than my fair share of pine needle and red holly berry sprays. Wreath picks? Really? I mean, who am I? I used to mercilessly make fun of people like me. I might as well start handing out pairs of socks and underwear at Halloween. I have become that person.
And while we’re questioning everything we know to be real—let’s be honest—why do we even pretend to celebrate fall in Texas? We have no fall. But that trivial little detail doesn’t stop me from buying bags upon bags of autumnal-hued leaves and pine cones dipped in glitter to scatter all over my house like a wood nymph with a few too many pumpkin spice lattes coursing through her sparkly pixie veins.
I really don’t know when I started feeling divinely ordained to decorate my house for every holiday, both real and manufactured alike. I certainly wasn’t born this way. While it’s true that I’ve always insisted on a real live Christmas tree and stockings on the mantel, I have to say that beyond those compulsory items, I never, ever felt the need to dip my toes into the waters of seasonal decorating. As I look back, I’m pretty sure that my induction into this silent and seemingly benign obsession coincided quite perfectly with the opening of a Hobby Lobby in my general stomping grounds. Up until that time, I could only get a fix from Michael’s (which, while more than sufficient for wreath picks, was undeniably lacking in more suitable stand-alone decor), Target (which definitely fits my—and every other mom’s I know—style to a T but is generally limited in selection), and Pottery Barn (which, speaking frankly, is best suited for those among us who wouldn’t have any objection to using dollar bills as toilet paper).
If I had to compare my relationship with Hobby Lobby to something, I’d liken it to a freshman who abstained from alcohol until she got to college. I didn’t grow up going to Hobby Lobby, so it was a whole new adventure for me when I first entered its pearly gates a year and a half ago. I (narrowly) survived my freshman year of pretty embarrassing stylistic mistakes and overindulgences in the wall decor department, but now, midway through my sophomore year, I’m proud to report that I am a somewhat more sophisticated purveyor of Hobby Lobby’s offerings. I have lived and learned and slowly but surely built up a slight tolerance to the more unsavory aspects of the store’s enticements.
Although I have matured in my habit since last year, there is still no denying that I have a long way to go until I can calmly and contentedly enjoy a visit to Hobby Lobby without getting the tingly, electric feeling that comes with being new to the game. So mamas, I hope you’ll forgive me if I stir the oversized (and affordably priced!) cauldron a little and insist that we stop trying to convince ourselves that we’ve entered the back-to-school season and instead just proclaim this glorious moment in time for what it is: the back-to-retail season!
And if for some deeply regrettable reason you haven’t yet started to collect your decorative gourds and gilded reindeer for the year, might I suggest you get thee to your local Hobby Lobby store before those of us with a serious addiction clean out the shelves in a true FOMO (fear of missing out) frenzy. And while you’re there, when you see me prowling the aisles—which you will—with my wide eyes scanning wildly, my mouth agape in wonder, and my cart overflowing with decorations that will only see the light of day in 30-day intervals each year, please do me a favor and slap me out of it. Shake me a little if you have to. I might not be able to acknowledge it at the time, but in the end, my overly cluttered home, overly extended wallet, and overly exasperated husband will thank you!