Color-coded Shopping Days and Tragic Events: ’tis the season

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I always avoid the shopping frenzy that starts on Black Friday. Commericialism and crazed rudeness aren’t my thing. Boiling peace, good cheer and glad tidings–the essence of the Christmas season–down to a thick mish-mash of muddled glop called ‘bargains’ is an insult, in my mind, to the spirit of the season. Road rage and door busting, by their very labels, imply danger not merriness.

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I’ve been certain there are others who feel the same way. So, I went on an internet quest to find a kindred soul. And, I found one in Dan Tackett. I have to share it with you, for the sentiments parellel my own.

Enjoy his story, share his wishes, and find love among family and dear friends.

I wish I were merrier, befitting of this wondrous season.

For one, I’m not a fan of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday or any of those “special days” that come weeks before Christmas when only fools and the ultra-rich cough up the coins to match the suggested retail price of merchandise on store shelves.

The physical act of going shopping becomes painful for folks like me who aren’t into the bargain-grabbing, push-and-shove tactics of the masses who are lured into big-box stores with a poker-hot, searing look of determination in their eyes and their elbows filed to sharp points to push aside and inflict injury on the weaker species of shoppers. It indeed has become a game where only the fittest score the best buys and go home to relish their triumphs with a glass of egg nog and platter of holiday goodies.

For the second consecutive holiday season, my wife (who does spend half an hour each day this time of year refining the razor-sharp points on her elbows) coaxed me into accompanying her to a big-box lumber/home improvement store in Springfield on Black Friday. “You went with me last year, and it wasn’t so bad,” she reminded me.

I honestly couldn’t remember being out among the zanies at the crack of dawn on Black Friday 2013, but as we drove closer to the store in the pitch-black pre-dawn morning, I did recall making this insane excursion last year. It all came rushing back, how I burned through half a tank of gas trying to find a parking spot and then, being unable to latch on to a shopping cart. I realized that my wife had urged me to make this trip so I could carry 236 pounds of merchandise in my arms to the checkout.

It was the same scenario this season. Thankfully (and rightfully so since it was the dawn after Thanksgiving Day) the price of gasoline had started its downward tumble, so driving up and down every lane in the massive parking lot was less expensive than the previous year. After a couple of unsuccessful trips through the lot, we resigned ourselves to parking on the street, far removed from the store’s entrance. And, as was the case last year, there were no available shopping carts. Scores of frenzied Black Friday shoppers, however, were undeterred as they grabbed large, plastic garbage containers off the shelf and used those as a means to cart around their bargain booty.

Thankfully on occasions such as this, my wife earns high marks with her shopping savvy. And yes, she’s a seasoned Black Friday fanatic and has the scars to show it, including weakened Achilles tendons from being slammed numerous times by shopping carts bulldozed around stores by frenetic shoppers. So, we raced through this cavernous store in search of the two or three deals she sought and fairly quickly found ourselves in a checkout lane that seemingly stretched from Springfield to Macy’s in New York City. By the time we hiked to our vehicle, I wanted nothing more than to head back home for that proverbial long winter’s nap.

Black Fridays and all those other colored-coded shopping days aren’t the only headaches of the season. I tell my friends and relatives who are constantly encouraging me to get on Facebook that I don’t have time. I have two email accounts, I say, and I barely have enough time to wade through those. Thanks, but no thanks for the encouragement to do Facebook. I’m especially glad during the holiday season that I have stood my ground, because those two email accounts for the past month have been glutted with enticements from online merchants to take advantage of their lowest prices and discounts of the year. Again, thanks but no thanks. I’ve almost worn out the “delete” button on my computer keyboard.

On the more serious side of things, there are other reasons why this has been less than a jolly season. This past summer, we lost Jacob, our 16-year-old grandson, to suicide. His death has left a dark, deep hole in our family’s lives, a hole that won’t go away. His absence is felt with almost everything we do. For example, during the past couple of weeks I’ve been moving and restacking firewood that Jacob, his brother Tanner, Grandma and I cut and hauled home last spring. I can’t pick up a stick of firewood without wondering if Jacob had his hands on it.

Jacob’s two surviving siblings, Tanner and Hannah, wanted a traditional Thanksgiving meal last month at our house. But their mother – my daughter – begged off, saying it would be too painful. Her absence meant we had not just one, but two vacant seats at the dinner table. I’m hopeful she’ll join us for Christmas; we need her with us.

In recent days, the horror of Jacob’s death came flooding back when I learned that a dear friend’s husband had committed suicide. As I write this, my heart aches deeply for her and I sadly realize there is nothing I can do or say to comfort her. My prayer for her is peace. Our tragedies are somber lessons that Christmas will be less than merry for many who we tend to forget as we are immersed in our own holiday celebrations.

Despite the darkness and grieving that has enveloped me, my wife, our family and friends this past year, I’m still looking forward to this season of celebration. My two stepsons – Tom from Florida and Jeff, with his wife Shelly from the Toledo, Ohio, area – are coming home. By nature, they are cheerful souls, and we look forward to sharing love and laughter with them. The two stepsons have the uncanny ability to soothe our aches and pains, no matter the source. Their sister Jennifer and her boyfriend Nathan, who lived through gut-wrenching tragedy with us this summer, will also join us in our family celebration. Close friends who have made a tradition of visiting us on Christmas Day will be with us.

We’ll miss my son Travis and his family from Nashville, Tennesee, but with three young children, the magic of Christmas is perhaps better experienced on their home turf. After all, that’s where Santa knows where to find them.

Yes, there will be Christmas at our house, and yes, it will be merry. Almost assuredly, we will once again be stricken with a profound sadness and sense of loss, but we will deeply appreciate and celebrate the loved ones who gather with us.

Dan Tackett can be reached at dtackett@gmail.com.

 

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