I took to heart those news articles about global supply chain issues affecting Christmas after I was lectured about the tilapia.
My parents eat tilapia all the time, so they purchase it by the bag. I mean, by the bag. These are large bags, crammed with four or five tilapia filets.
These bags are ten dollars. But with the global supply chain issues driving up food prices, the sacks o’ fish are now eleven dollars.
This was the tinder for the lecture.
My feeling is this: If you don’t like paying eleven dollars for tilapia (“That’s a 10 percent increase, Wendi! Ten!”), don’t buy tilapia. I guarantee you won’t miss it. It’s not critical for life like chocolate chip cookies or a good stout. Just skip it.
That was how I learned if your parents are mad about the 10 percent cost increase in tilapia, they’re not going to think your suggestion to forget the tilapia is valid. Or funny.
Not only was the tilapia more expensive, but my parents’ grocery store was out of it. As in gone. Empty.
I’m not sure who out there is buying all the tilapia. But I’d like to tell you there are other proteins available. If you could leave a bag or two of tilapia, it would sure make my life easier.
I headed to my grocery store, Sir Galahad to my parents’ King Arthur, my quest one for fish instead of the Holy Grail.
I did not share Galahad’s success.
No tilapia. None. Even at $11 a bag, people were gobbling tilapia faster than the global supply chain could replace it.
Staring at the empty tilapia shelf, the dots connected in my head. If people are buying $11 bags of tilapia like they’re Rockefellers with terrible palates, I might not be able to get Christmas gifts.
So I got to work.
By Halloween, half of my Christmas shopping was done.
I was feeling pretty good. Until I was hit by the equivalent of a cardboard box.
If you have kids, you know what I mean. You buy the Leapfrogs and sensory tables, hoping to impress teachers with your kid’s genius. But the most fun your kid ever has is the day there’s a cardboard box in the house.
Well, my cardboard box was a secondhand shop we discovered near our cabin.
I have scoured the internet for things to do at the cabin. When it rains, or turns bitter cold, the hikes don’t cut it, and the ice cream stand closes.
What I really should have done was ask my father-in-law, who grew up with the cabin.
Last weekend, he told us about a secondhand shop a short drive from our cabin. I loaded the kids up in the pouring rain on Saturday, the shop in my sights.
I took two pandemic-battered teenagers to a secondhand shop in rural Pennsylvania. I figured it would go over about as well as the time I brought home my pierced and tattooed boyfriend to meet my Marine Corps dad.
Instead, it went as well as the time I brought home an Army officer to meet my dad.
He didn’t speak in grunts like the pierced guy.
The shop was a sprawling complex, easy to lose a kid or two in. Old-fashioned sodas greeted us at the door.
I spotted one of my kids trying on a purple suede jacket. The other I found giggling at a bare-bottomed sculpture. They were charmed by old Christmas ornaments, baffled by cassette tapes.
“They’re obviously movies,” one of my kids said. “But what for? How do you use them?”
Nothing makes you feel old faster than explaining Bobby Brown cassettes were how you listened to music in 1986 because iTunes wasn’t invented and CDs were for rich people.
Nothing, that is, until you find a VHS of Dirty Dancing and that Army officer your dad likes so much calls it “antique.”
I didn’t argue. What’s the point when both Jerry Orbach and Patrick Swayze are dead?
The kid we code named Silas followed us around with a thick roll of red ribbon, assuring us the $5 price tag was the key to all happiness.
But $5 gets you halfway to a bag of tilapia. We passed.
The kids bought a small, gold duck. They bought the old-fashioned soda and a pack of Mallo Cups. They challenged their dad to pinball in the arcade.
“He’s so good!” the kid we call Titus exclaimed. “It’s because he’s tall.” Which I didn’t exactly agree with but couldn’t factually dispute either.
It was about this time I began thinking this could be a cardboard box Christmas. I could keep the global supply issues from my door by finishing my Christmas shopping with small business. Secondhand business.
And if that secondhand shop could sell some tilapia, I’d be all set.