Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent Calendar - December 19 - CHristmas Shopping

When I was a child growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, we didn’t have shopping malls. At least not until I was a teenager!

I can remember our yearly Christmas shopping trip downtown. Oh yes, there really was a “downtown” in those days! With high rise department stores. And boutiques. And specialty stores.

Unless you live in a major city now, you probably don’t remember those things. For those of us who live more urban lifestyles everything has gone to the Mall. But back in those days, we would park our car in the city garage and begin walking from store to store. Sometimes making the trip back to the car two or three times in the course of the full day of shopping, just to deposit the many shopping bags!

I can remember riding the elevators up and down from the many floors in the large department stores. There were a few stores with escalators, but in Norfolk’s downtown at the time, there were more elevators than escalators.

For some reason, it seemed that the toy department, and therefore Santa, was almost always relegated to the basement level! We would walk through the many aisles and displays of Christmas toys, and make our way to the long line to visit with Santa. We usually got one actual Santa visit a year, so we had to make it good! Even though there were many “Santa’s” in nearly every store we went into! [Of course, now I know they were only Santa’s helpers and not the real fellow himself! Boy, how confusing that was for a kid of 5 or 6!]

I can remember taking a trip into the candy store and Mama getting us divinity or fudge. Both of these Mama tried her best to make at home, but she never quite mastered the technique for either. I love to tease her now with how simple either one is in reality to make! [Sorry Mama!]

I remember walking past each store window when they really decorated for the holiday! Oh, yes, even when the old Texicanwife was a kid they had animated decorations! And some were exceptional! My favorite were of Victorian era children preparing for bed on Christmas Eve, with the “visions of sugar plums” dancing above their neat little heads; or the beautifully bedecked Christmas carolers as they strolled through the very “London-ish” villages.

I remember being able to see our breath in the winters cold, as Mama would stop at each kettle, with a Santa ringing his bell, and deposit whatever change she had from her last purchase. I’ve even seen Mama give her very last dollar bill to a kettle. Mama never passed one without giving something. Maybe that’s where I garnered that tendency. I tend to drop a few dollars into the kettle, as I’m entering, as well as exiting, a store these days. My husband says, “They got you coming and going!” However, I like to think I’ve just given a little out of what for many may seem abundance. And if to them I have an abundance, how can I dare to walk past without sharing? Isn’t that what the season is truly all about? I won’t digress and expound on my religious theology here, but at least to me, it is a season of giving because of One who gave for us.

Part of the day’s fun was stopping for hot chocolate at one of the diners. What a wonderfully warming treat as we walked in the cold! The other was eating lunch out. And believe me, you haven’t tasted a grilled cheese sandwich, unless you’ve eaten one at a Woolworth’s lunch counter! No kidding! They made the absolute best!

When the day was ended, we’d make our way back home. Tired. But we were so happy! We’d carry all the many packages and parcels and bags into the house from the car, and then we’d go through each one, and remark how we thought this one or that one would react when they opened their gift come Christmas morning!

Several years later, the Mall arrived in Norfolk. With that, much of the intimacy and excitement went out of the annual trip for me. It seemed people were much too busy; rushing here and there, and not really enjoying the experience.

Now, as an adult, I absolutely hate going shopping during the four weeks prior to Christmas! Why?

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but people have lost their compassion, their integrity, and even their morals when it comes to this time of year! Last Friday when I went into our local mega-mart, [I won’t use the stores name, but you’ll know that familiar “mart”] I was run into with a shopping cart by not one, not two, but three individuals during the 45-minutes I was in the store. I want you to know that only one even apologized! One out of three! I saw people literally shoving into others, grabbing in front of people, cursing one another [total strangers to each other!], and I saw one man reach into a woman’s shopping cart when her head was turned and take a pair of pajamas out of her cart and put into his own then walked away.

Yes, shoppers appall me this time of year. So much so, that I cannot enjoy the shopping as I once did.

And that’s so sad!

Instead, today I rely on shopping on the Internet, where at least the ether-world attendant sends me an email “Thank-You”. And that’s a whole lot more than most cashier’s or clerk’s offer me in person.

BUT…I’ll always have the memories of those Christmas shopping excursions of long ago!

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