Friday, November 25, 2011

What is Black Friday? Today, black Friday, people are rushing to hit the big sales. You’ve seen the photos, watched the News, and maybe you’re out there right now pulling in the bargains. People ask me where the name came from. Well, Black Friday is a good name because it means a day for businesses to try to get into the “black” and out of the “red.” So when you’re bringing home that $200 42” TV from Best Buy you’re helping them get out of the red at the same time you’re getting an amazing deal.

Me, I’m not into Black Friday. Not because I don’t want to help boost the economy or empty my own pockets, but because I honestly and truly don’t like shopping even on a day without crowds and bargains. It’s one of my weirdities. When my kids were growing up I’d take them to Macy’s or some other store with big expanses with racks of clothes and buy their clothes for the whole season. Clerks loved to see me coming. Heaps and heaps of clothes, whole outfits, shoes, accessories – all at once. The kids loved it, and I was thrilled to get it over with.

In her last years I bought my mom’s wardrobes and instead of giving her a sweater at Christmas or a new coat or whatever, I’d take her to Dayton’s (Minneapolis) and just buy for the whole year. Clerks loved to see us coming. My mother loved it. I loved it, and then we’d have lunch.

My daughter is the World’s Greatest Shopper (can we be related?) That girl can sniff out a bargain a mile away. Today, Black Friday, she’s not at Best Buy or Macy’s, she’s thrumming out the 50% off thrift stores. She’ll come home with designer dresses for 25 ¢ each. When we were in New York for my other daughter’s art opening, she bought so much stuff I didn’t think she’d get on the airplane with it all. Me, I think I bought one book at the MOCA museum store.

Books, yes, I’ll buy books. I’m a writer after all, I buy books. I don’t check out the best sellers from the library, I buy them. I buy non-best sellers; I buy books. I tell my writer-students, “Writers read. Writers buy books.” But when it comes time to get an outfit to speak in or a new pair of boots, I’ll do anything to put off shopping. “Heavens, I can’t go shopping. I’ve got to paint the garage.” Any excuse will do.

So imagine my anxieties at Christmas. I’ll never forget the time I did all my Christmas shopping at once at CostCo. I mean it, all of it, at once. I hauled this enormous dolly heaped with toys and food and clothes and electronics – I mean, heaped with stuff – I could hardly roll the thing to the check-out. The guy behind me in line was so shocked I could hear him muttering to himself, and I know he was thanking his lucky stars I wasn’t his wife. Finally, he said to me, “Girl, you are 86’d! You cannot buy another thing. Have you got that? You cannot buy another thing.”

(The term “86” means you’re done. You’re out of here.)

I laughed so hard. He had no idea that I covered every Christmas need in ONE trip, including the extension cord for the lights.

Enough about me. What are YOU doing today?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hello Winter

Did you stand at the edge of something green or flowering and wave bye-bye to summer? And then in the fallen leaves looking up through bare branches at a pale sky, did you wave bye-bye to autumn? Now here we are, with arms open wide welcoming winter. Oh, I know we don’t look forward to 20 below zero weather, ice storms and blizzards, but there’s certain majesty in all seasons, don’t you think? A certain integrity of the seasons themselves. I grew up in Minnesota where the winters were bitter, mean and furious. From the third through the sixth grade we lived in North Dakota and I still have dreams about those winters in Grand Forks. We walked to school atop mountainous icy snow banks – it was joyous! We built caves, igloos, and forts in the snow. We had to make our own hills if we wanted to go sliding – but we skated until our noses and toes almost fell off. I froze my hands and feet more than once in those winters. I live in California now and I can’t say I miss the harsh winters of my childhood, but I do miss the child who loved them.

Now when I’m traveling in severe winter weather I think of flights canceled, bad roads, traffic, shoveling, skidding on ice, car trouble … I’d like to find that girl with four sweaters under her snowsuit, two pairs of mittens on her hands, and with her little brother, plunk down in the perfect snow and stick out my tongue for the snowflakes to land. I’d like to squeal with laughter with my brother again as the snowflakes pool on our faces and tangle in our eyelashes— I’d like to love the world like that little girl who dreamed only in the present and worried about nothing.

Delight yourself in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  Praise God.   Hello winter!