In the Town Crier’s Sidewalk Interview last week, it didn’t surprise me that five out of six respondents said Thanksgiving would be incomplete without the family gathering – I, too, was looking forward to my family’s holiday visit.
Even the response noting that the absence of a traditional holiday dish would make the special day deficient implies the presence of a loved one who started serving the time-honored recipe. My mom always served the same casserole of candied sweet potatoes served by her mother. And when I’m preparing the holiday meal, I cook them, too, even though they’re passed around the table untouched.
So I was a little surprised while watching CNN 4:30 Thanksgiving morning – shoppers on the East Coast were already lined up in front of closed stores, securing prime positions in their quests to save big bucks the following day. Pathetic.
Barring air travel or must-see movie premieres, I can’t imagine why anyone would stand in line for the opportunity to save 50 percent on items originally marked up 80 percent of cost, forgoing the company of family and friends, food and warm hearth. After all, it’s not sunny in Philadelphia this time of year.
Maybe the traditional family gathering is over-rated. Upon wishing a store clerk a happy turkey day, he replied, “We’ll see. You know how family gatherings can get sometimes.”
Maybe super sales are a great excuse to avoid the questionable culinary capabilities of Thanksgiving’s customary cook. Maybe it costs less to freeze in frigid temperatures and save on a sale than it does to heat a home and listen to Uncle Joe, who’s full of hot air.
In essence, whatever meaningful tradition we can consume on our Thanksgiving holiday is swallowed by consumptive consumers on Black Friday as stores open doors earlier and earlier to shoppers eager to spend cash on things they don’t really need or destined to be designated as white-elephant gifts. Maybe I’m from the old school of math, but I find much more value in treasured family members than I do saving a 30-percent bottom line. And math hasn’t changed much in 50 years – two plus two still equals four and our time together on Earth with those we cherish is not infinite. Instead of spending, I have vowed this year to create gifts I know will be appreciated instead of choosing items attractive only because of a sales tag. And that involves knowing what family and friends need or desire. And that involves communicating. And communication happens when we spend time with each other, not in a line full of strangers.
My son would like a knitted scarf, daughter Sara would like to learn to sew and compile family recipes, Aubrey appreciates vintage clothing (I have a wardrobe full) and Maraya wants an iPod (dang).
Travis selected his pattern and I’ve purchased the yarn (maybe someday I’ll have the time to create the homespun variety), the sewing machine is out for a visiting daughter and I’m writing a family cookbook, awaiting in attic trunks are outmoded fashions for refurbishing, and I’ll splurge on the iPod and load it with some mom-songs that have meaning for me.
The time we put into what we give is so much more valuable than what’s on sale and becomes an irreplaceable memory – like candied sweet potatoes.
Mary Beth Hislop is a Town Crier staff writer.