The season to go all out in shopping for Christmas now that Thanksgiving is diminishing in the holiday rear-view mirror, all but the turkey leftovers. Such has never really been the habit of sensible people like myself and the Daughter Unit, although we have been known to indulge in considerable bargain-foraging. Not in a mall or a big-box store, however, and certainly not in the wee hours of Black Friday morning, amid a mob waiting for the doors to open. Frankly, I can’t imagine wanting anything so badly as to indulge in unseemly fisticuffs or getting out of a warm bed at 2 AM in order to stand in the freezing dark for two or three hours just for the chance purchase it. We are civilized people, and civilized people have much more efficient ways to organize Christmas presents for our nearest and dearest.
The Daughter Unit admits to having deliberately gone to a local mall on Black Friday, once – but she was much younger then. I will also admit to this kind of recklessness, but my excuse is that for a good four or five years I was employed in an office just across the street from North Star Mall and was in the habit of spending my lunch hour traipsing through the place. Now and again, curiosity drove me, on those Black Fridays when the office was open, to venture within. (The office was a consultancy dealing with inventors and intellectual property, and most of our clients who were employed would have had the day off, so they could meet an appointment with us … so the office was open on Black Fridays.) However, several years previous to that term of employment, the Daughter Unit and I were both temporary employees of Marshall Field, which once had their store in North Star Mall; we both endured the brutal retail-sales marathon of Black Friday from the other side and survived. There is a reason that most sensible retail associates wear running shoes or comfortable sneakers on that particular day.
But enough – these experiences were outliers in our lives. Our lived experience had us ignore all this Christmas shopping in December practice, because for the major part of twenty years, I was stationed overseas, and tied irrevocably to the necessity of mailing Christmas presents home to the family by mid-October. Which meant that Christmas present shopping had to be done in September, or even throughout the year. Whenever we found something present-worthy for a particular loved one – purchase at once and stash it away until time came to mail it all away in the fall. I think I reached a limit in March sometime in the late 1970s, when I bought a porcelain Japanese tea-set for my sister and stowed it under my bed in the barracks for six months. Such habits early-engrained have remained; the bounty of suitable present purchases accumulates on the upper shelves of the master-suite closet until sometime in November when we haul them all out and reassess what is to go to whom. And the Daughter Unit prefers to shop for Christmas decorations and assorted “stuff” after Christmas, when it is all marked down by an eye-watering percentage off.
And then there is the internet – the shopping opportunities of which we knew not of until a bare decade ago. Is it a good thing that Cyber Monday now seems to be a thing for all the week after Thanksgiving, instead of just Monday itself? My email inbox is overflowing with notifications about bargains and coupons offered by various specialty retailers with whom I do regular business, but I’ve only used one of them so far – for items required to complete a sewing project for myself. The Christmas present for my sister and her family was sent in the spring, for my daughter, I am funding repair and restoration of a lovely English antique ladies’ pocket watch that she bought on eBay, and the nieces and nephews get books of an improving nature (Yes, I’m the Auntie From Hell when it comes to that, and they ought to be deeply grateful that I haven’t given them all bunny-pink footie pajamas.) The sibs and I came to the conclusion about a decade ago that really, we should skip gifts to each other; only for the kids mattered. Stuff – we have enough of it.
For everyone else – and the list on the front of the refrigerator now lists north of thirty individuals and local institutions – they get gourmet home-made fudge, and we’ll start making that next week, in near-industrial-sized batches, such is the length of the list of those to whom we feel that we owe a bit of sweet, chocolate Christmas cheer.