Thursday, December 08, 2011

Balance and a Philadelphia Christmas

It was still cloudy when I rushed out the door this morning for yoga class. I barely made it on time, but it was worth it. I needed it after all the trouble yesterday! Class went fairly well. We concentrated on inversions and working our shoulders and stomachs. Not my best moves, but I did get a nice stretch in my hamstrings.

There wasn't much to do at the Collingswood Library when I arrived after class, which was probably just as well. I had other things I wanted to get done today. I shelved a few DVDs and did a quick organizing job. I also donated records I didn't want or had accidentally bought extras of from yard sales, which I've been meaning to do for months now.

After I left the library, I rode right over to the PATCO train station. By this time, the clouds had vanished, and it was a brisk, sunny day (though not quite as cold as I thought it would be, probably in the mid to upper 40s). It was the perfect day for Christmas shopping in the city. I hopped a half-full train into Philadelphia around 11:30.

After running into huge crowds at Macy's and on Market Street during the lunch hour last year at Christmas, I learned my lesson. This time, I got off at 12th Street and started with lunch at Mama Angelina's, a basic pizza parlor about a block from the train entrance. I had a slice of cheese, a slice of vegetable, and a very small Diet Pepsi.

Mama Angelina's is a block from the Avenue of the Arts. I was at the FYE near City Hall in no time. It took me a while, but I did find the things I wanted to here. I picked up my sister Rose's present, and something Mom told me my stepdad wanted. I couldn't find anything I thought he'd like for almost an hour and a half...until I happened to look at a display in front of the upstairs DVD section and see the perfect thing.

I spent the next half-hour wandering around Philadelphia. I wanted to go to the Shops at Liberty Place, but I got lost. When I finally did find the building, the Toys R Us and book store that were there last year were gone. The only stores Liberty Place had were clothing stores. There was absolutely nothing of interest anymore, so I moved on in annoyance.

Headed down to City Hall and made a right turn onto Market Street. This time, Macy's was busy, but nothing out of the ordinary. I was able to buy my presents for Jessa with no wait in line. There was a short line for the Dickens Village, but it wasn't going half-way across the building. This year, they had people in Victorian costumes greeting guests as they passed through the lines. I thought it was a nice touch.

The "Dickens Village" is an Audio-Animatronic-style display that shows scenes and snippets from A Christmas Carol. It's really cool to see all the little details they add, like references to other Charles Dickens novels (such as the Pickwick Club or Mr. Micawber being the seller of the prize goose). Kids love the black-light room you walk through right before the end, after Scrooge has been shown his future.

Got downstairs just in time to catch most of the Macy's Light Show. I always enjoyed seeing footage of this Philadelphia holiday tradition on Channel 6 as a child. I'm so thrilled to really be able to see it in person! Everyone in the enormous main floor oohed and ahhed as sugar plum fairies danced, snowmen waved their arms, clocks ticked in time to the music, and the fabulous tree glowed with hundreds of glittering LED lights. Julie Andrews does the narration.

Here's an older version of the show sans the tree.

Left Macy's as soon as the show ended. I made my way back to Market Street, then down to the Gallery Mall. I still had to shop for most of the kids on my list, including my two older nephews. I got incredibly lucky. One of the first things I saw after entering the Gallery Mall was a huge Toys R Us Express. It's the only one I've seen so far this year. They didn't rent a store in Audubon again. Despite the crowds, I was easily able to find presents for my nephew Collyn, my younger cousin CJ, and my two pre-teen and young teen cousins Ethan and Matt.

I had one kid left on my list. I stopped at Books-a-Million to find a book on space for my nephew Skylar, who apparently loves space and space exploration. It took me a while, but I finally found a short book that was simple enough for a 7-year-old.

The Books-a-Million in the Gallery Mall is actually pretty close to the entrance to the 8th Street PATCO. It was around 4PM when I hopped on a standing-room-only train back to Collingswood. I'm surprised at how little time it took to shop this year. I don't think it was even four hours. I'll remember to start at 12th Street instead of 8th Street next year, too, especially if I take the train later in the day.

When I got in, I spent a couple of hours wrapping presents. I had a late dinner of leftovers and honey-glazed carrots while running one of my favorite Rankin-Bass specials, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and baked banana bread as it finished. A tired Santa opts to take a year off when it seems like no one cares about Christmas. His wife, two elves, and a little boy from a town in the American Deep South are determined to prove otherwise, come heck or interference from the Miser Brothers, who control heat and cold and are constantly at war with each other and anyone who seems to support one brother over the other!

I get a kick out of this one. It's a tad campy, with the Miser Brothers' numbers looking like something out of an early TV variety show, but not as bizarre as some later Rankin-Bass specials. I especially like Shirley Booth as Mrs. Claus.

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