Well, Hubby and I managed to get through Black Friday without purchasing anything! We did take our daughter out to dinner at a nice Thai place nearby just hours before her flight to New York. I console myself in thinking at least our money was kept in the local area.
While Hubby actually enjoys going out to malls the day after Thanksgiving to see the hordes of shoppers, I’ve hated it for years, ever since our Pittsburgh years when we got stuck in a shopping mall parking lot the day after Thanksgiving and spent an incessantly long time simply trying to get OUT of it in order to drive home. I was still what you would call a “country bumpkin.” How was I to know about the shopping frenzy that would become known as “Black Friday?”
As children, my siblings and I were treated to one shopping trip to Lake City (Florida) for Christmas. We always arrived early in the morning to claim a parking place in one of the vertical parking slots that lined two sides of a small park. Located on the southern end of the shopping area along the main drag, as we called it, on North Marion just north of East Duval, near the City Hall and Courthouse, it was where local and state politicians gathered in election years in a small rotunda with limited seating in the round to debate the local issues of the day.
As the youngest, I was usually left under the supervision of my three older siblings who took turns alternating their own shopping forays while our parents took care of business “up the street a ways.” It was not a hardship at all for me because I was good at waiting. I could prance around near the car watching people go by or enjoy Christmas music piped all around the square. Bing Crosby sang to me about Christmas in Kilarney, and Gene Autry implored me not “to pout, or shout, or cry,” because Santa Claus was Coming to Town!
To my surprise, one day while I was waiting there at the edge of the park, Santa did indeed arrive. He was in a red firetruck and he “ho ho hoed” all to the way to the small rotunda where he settled himself down in a big red velvet chair placed there just for him. He took the children on his knee and talked to them one at a time, while one of his elves wrote down notes for his Christmas list for the children around Lake City and surrounding countryside.
I told him I wanted a doll buggy, certain that he’d understand that I wanted to put my baby doll inside wrapped in a blanket to keep it warm while I pushed it around the yard. Santa must have had as hard a time hearing as I did that year because, instead of getting a doll “buggy” he brought me a baby doll “stroller” made out of painted metal. Nothing soft or warm at all! And my babydoll was too small to fit in the seat so she had to lay there on a hard seat. As if that were not bad enough, she kept sliding out through the leg spaces only to be run over by the stroller wheels.
After an undiscernable amount of time, family members made their respective ways back to the car and then it would be my turn. Daddy would tell me about the walking soldier or the talking birds he “almost bought me” while he and one or another of the family would take a walk down North Marion to see and enjoy the seasonal window displays before going home.
My favorite place year after year was a jewelry store window around the corner from McCrory’s dime store where a small, animated Santa Claus dressed in red velvet sat at a tiny golden piano. His hands and arms moved along the keyboard as he played “music box” Christmas melodies. Every now and then he’d turn his head sideways to glance at the people walking by. I thought purely and simply that he was nothing short of magic – and I could only see him one day of the whole year.
When we returned home, my world would settle back into the sparceness of tall pine trees, Spanish moss-covered scrub oaks without leaves, and the darkness of night skies minus the accents of twinkling Christmas or luminous street lights, where swamp frogs sang nightly choruses but where there were no animated miniature Santas playing Christmas melodies on tiny golden pianos.
Magic endures when there are small doses of it doled out only at very special times. Too much is too much. We become jaded. Why can’t we remember that? When it’s too easily attained as it it is nowadays–especially between Halloween and New Years–we become immune to it. We can and do buy that animated Santa Claus the day after Thanksgiving and set him up in the foyer. By the time Christmas day rolls around we hardly notice him anymore. Even worse, we take the magic out of the season by over-indulging our children all year long. That’s not a nice thing to do to our children, is it?