Christmas shopping

I went shopping on Black Friday only once in my life. I packed up three kids and we drove to the newly opened Corry Walmart. They had computers at a greatly reduced price, and we needed a new computer. Furthermore, we also needed the ‘greatly reduced price’ thingy too.

We made it an adventure. Cara’s friend, Sarah spent the night. We got up at o’dark thirty, had breakfast at McDonald’s and then drove to the Walmart minutes before the official start of the sale.

My first inkling that there was going to be trouble was the cram-packed parking lot. We pulled into a distant parking lot and hiked to the store. The sale had begun, the place was packed, and people were running (RUNNING, I tell you!) for the last remaining half dozen carts. The kids were so anxious to get that computer that I am embarrassed to admit that I ran for a cart as well.

It was a darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation. We would not be able to get that desktop computer and a printer to the checkout without a cart. However, once inside the store, we realized that getting a cart down the aisle to electronics was going to be impossible. The place was packed.

We are a resourceful bunch. We came up with a plan. No one was grocery shopping, so my job was to get our cart to the back of the store by way of the grocery aisle working my way in to electronics from there. Dylan’s job was to get his hands on a computer and wait for me to get to him. Sarah and Cara would head into the madding crowd for the printer we wanted.

Our plan worked far better than we could have dreamed. Back in the dairy section, the warehouse doors opened, and a pallet of sale computers was wheeled out. People rushed the pallet tearing the plastic away. Unable to get the computers to the electronics section, employees just got out of the way. In less time that it took to write this, the computers were disappearing off the pallet. By the time I got over being shocked, there were only three left. I grabbed one.

Within minutes, I saw Dylan pushing his way out of the crowd to me with a frustrated look on his face. He had been unable to get a computer. I listened to him complain, as I stood in front of the cart. When I stepped away, he was shocked speechless at the sight of that large box.

All that remained was to find Cara and Sarah, and Dylan dove back into the crowd.

Cara is short, and she’s adapted to her size deficiency. She and Sarah caught sight of a very large fellow who was confidently pushing his way through the crowd, heading in the same general direction. They stepped in behind him and let him clear the way. They thought they were being discreet, but at one point, he looked back with a big grin and bellowed, “Stay with me girls!” They did, and they were able to get the printer we’d picked out.

Dylan caught up with them, and they all got back to the cart where I waited. We headed back through the grocery section and straight to the checkout a mere 20 minutes after we walked through the doors.

The kids were agog at what they’d witnessed. Cara and Sarah had seen a woman throwing armloads of games into a cart. An elderly woman happened by and saw the games all piled there, and mistook it for a display. She picked up a game. The younger woman began screaming obscenities at her and began to kick at her. They’d seen people pushing and shoving, even grabbing things from each other, treating each other badly all for a chance to get Christmas bargains. It was noisy, crowded and unkind.

As young as they were, the kids seemed to see the irony of it. This debacle took place on the day after Thanksgiving, a day set aside to thank God for his many blessings.

Black Friday has traditionally been the kickoff to Christmas shopping, but to boost profits, retailers have begun offering sales on Thanksgiving Day. I think that is a shame. I will probably be strangled with a string of Christmas lights for saying it, but I wish that every person reading this would simply vow not to shop on Thursday.

Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving. Let’s count our blessings and eat turkey. We can celebrate with everyone who trickles in the front door, even as we miss the people who couldn’t make it. We can play games, and fall into deep tryptophan induced sleeps in front of football games. We can drink wine and laugh hard. We can recount memories even as we make new ones.

It just seems right to me that we take a moment to be grateful on Thanksgiving Day before throwing ourselves into the excesses of the Christmas season. Surely, one day of gratitude is not too much to ask! If you are not a person who believes in gratitude, avoiding Thanksgiving shopping would be a kindness, allowing store employees to enjoy a quiet day with their own families.

What you do the day after Thanksgiving is your own business, and I don’t mean to imply that every single person in this world behaves like an animal on Black Friday, but that one Black Friday experience was way too much for me. As for me and my house, I can tell you what we will be doing that day.

We will haul the Christmas decorations down. We will spend the day decorating. Each tree ornament comes with a story, and we will remember them all as we hang them on the tree. We have small trees, one for William’s little room with unbreakable shiny ornaments. There is one for the second floor with the ornaments that Sarah and Cara made through the years. There is another with just lights for the third floor window. We have two little urned trees for the side porch, and lights and decorations for outside.

At the end of the night, we will sit in our decorated house listening to Christmas carols admiring our work in the dark as we drink hot cocoa. There will be no pushing or shoving. No one will get kicked. There will be no grabbing and no swearing, unless the brand new prelit Christmas trees bought last January at a 90% off sale don’t work.

Isn’t that what it’s all about, really? In the end, isn’t that what really matters? The time spent with family? I think so. 30 years from now, not one child is going to remember what they got for Christmas in 2013. What they will remember is that they were loved. They will remember the stories of the Christmas ornaments. They will remember decorating the tree and singing Christmas carols. They will remember having fun. In the end, the memories will be far more valuable than anything that has been bought for them.

Let there be peace on earth. You’re not going to find that in a store. Think about it, folks.

Happy Thanksgiving.