By Allen Hamrick
With Thanksgiving over, people are trying to figure out how they are going to get those pounds off before the next big dinner as Christmas and New Years get set to take the stage. Black Friday has come and went without a hitch. This annual “event” has mellowed out tremendously since the glory days of fights over parking spaces and nearly all out wars at the front of stores as greedy shoppers got into position to get at the cheap TV sets. People will now try to wrangle their wallets and lasso some green backs to make Christmas a happy one (for at least a week) for kids from the age of 3 to 58.
It is a time for decorations, presents, food and good memories; a time when lists circle through families of the “you better get me” gifts they would like to see under the tree…no pressure. This is also a time that we remember the year that has just passed and whether we pick up the pieces or just move on hoping that the promises spoken under raised sparkling glasses will actually come true.
Next year will be better for sure they say on the evening news as the stories of death and destruction fill the air time. What happens though? Quick as a cat, the good times are here then gone. Christmas comes and goes and you realize that you spent way beyond what you should have and the lines at the return desk are nearly as long as they were at an Elvis concert. New Year’s Day comes and goes, and on January 2, 2023, you realize the promises made would take way too much effort, so you save them again for next year’s toast.
Some of the most epic quotes I remember are, “By the end of summer I will run a marathon,” said the guy who just polished off half a cheesecake. “I will get outside, get back in shape, enjoy the fresh air again and save my health,” says the one who never leaves the city. I’m sure you, the reader, have heard some doozies as the years have passed. Many stories of good family times during the holidays have been passed down through generations and told around sparkling lights and flickering candle light. The smell of food cooking, the taste of fresh made cookies, songs sung in earnest and kids shaking wrapped presents trying to guess what was in the box are all experiences that bind families together. A time when trees gleamed with an array of lights, candy canes and pop corn strings- those were good times, and some of us are fortunate enough to still have those opportunities.
One story, in particular, that is fond to me is that of a family who had to put all their resources into paying their bills and having food on the table. They had nothing in the way of presents to offer each other, so they cut out pictures of items in a catalog and gave those with the promise that if they ever did get rich, things would be different. The sky was the limit, no holding back on “shopping,” and the family had one of the best Christmases they ever had. There was no pressure, no trying to keep up with the Joneses or breaking the bank. It was a time when you could spend a fortune without ever taking a buck out of your wallet.
Catalogs were a big part of peoples’ lives. Sears, Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney, Spiegel and flyers that came in the mail from stores like Hecks, K-Mart, the five and dime store and Reed’s Department Store, just to name a few, made eyes wide open and mouths water. Those were the days when going to the post office was fun and a much anticipated event. Catalogs served not as just something to make your mouth water over what you couldn’t have, but as wall coverings, bathroom necessities, outhouse insulation, covering plants, fire starters, paper airplanes, research material, math education, inspiration to inventors and future clothing makers and, on special occasions, as a quick smoke when you were out of tobacco paper, using only the index section where there wasn’t any color or slick paper. So, what can Amazon and Google do to compete with that? A lot apparently as the days of mailing a check along with an order form to a company are long gone, at least for most.
Most families in the early pioneer years started way early in the month with preparations and plans. Families would get together and offer to help each other, and it was everybody’s duty to make sure that the less fortunate were taken care of. Generally, gifts were hand-made, from pipes to rocking chairs, from toys to food; these were the best gifts of all. Nothing was store bought, but homemade straight out of Mama’s kitchen.
However, in today’s society, a homemade gift is usually found by the side of the road in a yard sale selling for a fraction of the cost that was put into it. So, if you do make something, make something you want and get it back in the spring. Continue this season, no matter what the chaos in the world looks like, to stimulate our communities through stories and song, give the gift of knowledge that is a necessity to our mental survival. Survival takes away fear and instills the family ideal that will live on no matter the foe.
Many of those that lived when the holiday season was overtaken by labor and inventions have already went on. Those that have give gifts that cost nothing often have more than the richest. Those gifts can only be learned and with action, might possibly save us from ourselves. As the holiday season of 2022 finishes off the year, let’s walk with a positive impact and welcome the opportunity to help those that are in need or perhaps rewrite your own story as one who embraces the good life. We are country people, after all, and it is in our genetics to adapt, overcome and survive.