I apologize. Profusely. I was not in control and couldn’t help myself. But I have to come clean. If any of you decide to head out to Amazing Savings to buy some toys, you won’t be able to. I bought them all. I’m really sorry. My husband and I came for a short visit to New York after a long hiatus due to COVID. We were only in town for a few days with a very long to-do list. It wasn’t really possible to do it all so we did activity triage and prioritized the goals we wished to accomplish. Pretty much every hour was scheduled. We took into account the locations of our visits, parking availability, as well as traffic trends when mapping out our schedule in order to maximize the short amount of time we had in town. We spent a lot of time visiting family and friends. We also went away overnight on a foliage trip, something I haven’t seen in the twenty-three years since I made aliyah, and still miss. We also threw in a bit of shopping, but not much. We had a short list of specific items we wanted to buy focused on those things. We were quite disciplined. But with all of our planning and organizing, there was never a moment of doubt that Amazing Savings would be on our itinerary.
When Amazing Savings opened around the corner from the home I grew up in, I believe my mother may have made a “shehechyanu.” With a brachah. None of this “a few perakim after davening” business. A smart businessman does his research to find out where he will have the most customers and plans accordingly. The owner of Amazing Savings knew exactly what he was doing when he opened his store on Main Street off 70th Avenue. We could walk over whenever we wanted and never even had to deal with parking. It was heaven - for them and for us.
Then I got married. There was a branch of Amazing Savings in Florida where my husband grew up but he and his family didn’t experience the same thrill as my mother and I did as we strolled up and down the aisles, taking in the wide array of colors and shapes of containers, browsing the broad variety of eyeliners and hand creams, envisioning our delicious homemade creations in the large selection of bowls and serving trays which we would remove from our ovens with those adorable oven mitts and place on those stylish trivets on our table. We would imagine our exotic vacations while in the luggage section and explore our creativity as we meandered through the endless display of art supplies. And as we took inventory, we socialized with our friends and neighbors who we would inevitably meet in the store. We actually exercised in the store as we repeatedly raised our arms to pick up an item and then lowered it into our wagon. Lift up. Lower down. Up. Down. It was a physical workout that was actually enjoyable. There was no problem lugging our purchases home such a short distance away. And if it was too much, we could always come right back again. And the next day. And the next.
But my husband’s family had a very different view. My father-in-law renamed the store “Amazing Spendings” because he felt that people ended up spending tons of money there on things they would never ordinarily buy. I had to admit that there was some truth to that, but just a little. Most of what we bought, we put to good use. At least some of it. Sometimes. I shlepped my husband with me to the store when we first got married to give him the proper experience. Imagine his surprise when we walked out of the store carrying service for twelve of a beautiful a set of China for which we received innumerable compliments from our guests over the years and which we still use until this very day. He began to see the light, and wondered if it might have been better had our first apartment been in a location closer to Amazing Savings.
Once we moved to Israel, Amazing Savings was just one of those things to keep on our “What we still miss about America” list. Even when we visit the US, shopping in Amazing Savings has never been the same. With the luggage restrictions and all, we have to be very picky about what we buy. And we can only buy small items. So, my husband has returned to his original view of Amazing Savings. “Do we really need yet another set of measuring cups?” he will ask me. Of course we do. We need one for wet ingredients, one for dry ingredients, one if they get lost or break, and one just in case a neighbor needs one. And besides, they’re lightweight and take almost no space in a suitcase. He rolls his eyes and puts up with me - although I do sometimes hear some very low murmuring about spending the money saved by shopping in Amazing Savings on chiropractor bills.
My trip to Amazing Savings this time was different. Baruch Hashem, I am now the proud grandmother of a beautiful baby boy. Tell me please, which toy does my little prince not deserve to have? He needs baby toys to stimulate his development. He needs books to expand his mind and his language. He needs balls and building toys to develop his motor skills. He’s not painting yet, but he will someday be”H. What? My precious grandson should be deprived of Melissa and Doug puzzles? Bath toys? Not a chance! We were entitled to an extra suitcase, so it was my chance to buy buy buy! And that’s just what I did. I was going to fill that bag with as many toys as possible! I hope to have more grandchildren one day be”H, and I had them in mind as well.
So, once again, my sincerest apologies for those of you who were expecting to get an early start on your Chanukah shopping. But in truth, you are all okay. For the first time ever, I visited New York and didn’t make it to Queens. I did my hoarding shopping at another branch of Amazing Savings. You can all get ready for Chanukah any time you want. I am already ready… up to the year 2025!
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.