I've been busy with lots of things that don't allow much time for knitting or pictures lately. And the sky has been impenetrably grey! So grey, I used my headlights at 3:30 this afternoon. And so did just about all the other drivers on the road.
Today I went out on some errands, fulfilling my parental S. Clause duties, acquiring goodies for that big holiday that's coming up. And it's just nuts out there! One of my stops was a large Wisconsin-based Big Box retailer, located across the parking lot from The Mall. We have a lot of "little m" malls around here: strip malls, smaller shopping centers, older malls dating back to the late 1950s and early 60s that have managed to survive and upgrade with the times. But there are two big ones here in my fair city: West Towne and East Towne, which, depending on your side of town, get called The Mall. I never go to The Mall. I don't mean rarely. I mean, Never. I went in 1997, when the realtor who sold us our house sent us a gift certificate there. I went in 2001 to pick up a catalog order at JC Penney for nursing bras after my second son was born. And that's about it. I could probably write a 5 page essay on my feelings about The Mall, but most of that would be BS. The simple truth is, there's just no reason for me to go there. It really hasn't taken any effort to avoid it all these years. I don't count going to the other stores that outlie The Mall as going to The Mall. Today, I was in an outlying store and when I tried to leave, I was caught in all the traffic that last minute panicking Mall shoppers can generate on a Saturday in mid-December. It was ugly. And I got to thinking about all this holiday spirit in action.
Eventually, I escaped and went on to the supermarket. The parking lot was quite full, but I don't mind going to the far spots. I think this creates good parking karma for me for the future. So, while I'm driving to the frontier spots, a guy ahead of me sees a spot on the left and puts on his signal. He's waiting for some oncoming cars to move on by. One of them zips in to his spot! The waiting guy honked and gestured, but the spot-thief ignored him. So, I notice the spot thief is wearing a clerical collar and driving a Buick with a chrome Christian fish and a "Vote Yes" bumpersticker. The bumpersticker went on to proclaim his limited definition of marriage. And I'm thinking what a wonderful paragon of Christian virtue this guy is. (Sarcasm, kids.)
The store was a little crazy, as usual on weekends, but with an overlay of people who don't normally shop there gumming up the works. This is a BIG store. Probably one of the biggest supermarkets around anywhere. Holiday grocery shopping brings out the worst in people. Doddering along, "Gee Maude, Look at all these kinds of olives..." etc. Positioning the cart for maximum obstruction. Whole families with many kids in tow and walking 4 abreast. I got out of there with my stuff and drove home with the headlights on.
Why does everyone think this holiday stuff is such a good idea? Wouldn't we all be happier if we treated it more like just another 24 hours? No cranky kids, whining and begging for a month leading up to it, no family dramas involving who visits where, less traffic, less stress. What if no one felt compelled to buy gifts for relatives only seen once every 5 years? Gifts that most of us don't really need. And don't tell me your Christian faith requires it. The whole gift-exchange madness is a relatively recent invention. And, I think it's a custom which has swollen visibly within my lifetime.
Isn't it perverse that our retail economy depends on these 4-6 weeks for about 40% of the annual sales? Isn't it perverse that parents will go to insane lengths to acquire the new "must have" toy for their children?
I'm all for having a nice mid-winter celebration of light and life at the darkest time of the year (Northern hemisphere bias there, folks. It's where I live). Have a nice meal with the people you love. Do something nice for the people who don't have enough. No gifts of any real monetary value. Give a hug. Write a letter. Take a walk. Go sledding.
We are all so collectively burdened this time of year. Why not do less? You might enjoy the whole thing more.