One of the emails I got in the early weeks of Black Friday Month (or “November” as it used to be known) was a plea from a politician to support his bill to make retailers to pay their employees three times their regular rate if they were forced to work on Black Friday Month’s 4th Thursday (or “Thanksgiving” as we called it in the olden days.) It was then that I realized things had gotten a little out of hand. (“Really?” you ask. “Not the mobs in the Walmart parking lots beating each other with their own children?”)
I’m as surprised as you are.
My usual mode of handling this stressful and challenging time of year (Black Friday Month and Shoppingmas) is avoidance. During the years of single parenthood I had to nearly beg borrow or steal the gifts my children found under their bright and shiny tree decorated with love. This of course means it was largely decorated with handmade ornaments. Empty paper towel rolls, remnants of last year’s ribbon, buttons that never got sewed back on to sweaters were all fair game if they could be glued onto construction paper and threaded with red and green pipe cleaners. When the time came that the kids “knew” and didn’t expect Santa-wrapped presents under the tree, I relaxed a little. I didn’t have to go out there and battle crowds and my poor-parent’s guilt to fashion some sort of holiday out of my meager income. You’d never know it by looking, because my wonderful kids were always happy and appreciative of their bounty and if they weren’t - they didn’t let on. (Thanks, kids.)
Time rolled by and my income wasn’t always so meager, but my feelings about gifts, giving and holidays began to change. What I liked about the holidays was that it was a great excuse to have everyone together in one room. Eating, drinking and laughing was an extra added bonus. The old-fashioned Thanksgiving and Christmas were whole days that I didn’t have to do anything. Well, clean a little. Maybe go grocery shopping. Oh, and cook. But the family would be there and that was all that mattered. To me, anyway.
I know people who like to shop. Like? LOVE to shop. Some right in my own family. They have barely digested their pumpkin pie before they’re out the door to get the best deal on cashmere sweaters or martini shakers. And you know what I think about that? Good for them. And good for the stores that open up and let them. I don’t think that those big, bad box stores are the 21st century’s version of Simon Legree. I think they just want to run a business and if they have employees who would like to have a turkey sandwich and come in and make a little money, then that’s okay too. The reason I think it’s okay is that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to sit around at home moaning about having eaten too much. Maybe some of those folks need the extra money for their kids. Maybe some of them are alone for the holiday and working gives them something to do instead of sitting around an empty home. Of course there are some jerks out there who are unfair to their employees and make them do stuff that they don’t want to do. Like work on a holiday. Being a jerk isn’t illegal. But we don’t need a bunch of politicians getting their hands all over a Thanksgiving minimum wage. You guys want to legislate something? Legislate insurance companies.
At this time of year, I like to buy very little, eat very much and be grateful for all the things I have--mostly people, but I’m grateful for my new furnace, too. (I’m not kidding - we had to turn the heat DOWN the other day! Yippee!) Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. If you don’t like my opinion on this, that’s okay, too. You know where to find me. I’ll be home for the holidays.