Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is synonymous with feverish early-morning shopping, crazy consumerism, bargain-hunting, and unfortunately trampling troops of over-ecstatic shoppers rushing into stores in search of their hearts’ supposed desires.
During my twenty-something years living in America I never before participated in this retail hype and hoopla. For the entire duration of the Thanksgiving weekend I avoided every mall and merchant, save my local grocery store for an odd gallon of milk.
But all that changed this year. I decided it is high time I experience this annual ritual, observe the throngs for myself, negotiate the crammed parking lots, and join the winding check-out lines of turkey-stuffed shoppers.
I planned to get up in the wee hours of Friday morning, but my strategy quickly evolved after Thanksgiving dinner. My friend and I were chatting as our kids watched a movie, and our husbands stretched out on the couches, when a light bulb went off in our heads. Stores were opening at 8 pm. What better opportunity could there be, for two mothers of four kids each, to abandon ship and brave the retail wars?
So off we headed, credit cards in hand.
Now where do you think two mothers with eight kids between
them would end up?
The toy shop, of course!
Shoppers were happy, helpful and chatty. Must have been all that Thanksgiving turkey made everyone relaxed.
People searched the giant retail floor for their own unique treasures, then searched even harder for the end of the check-out line. Carts stood head to tail, snaking through the aisles. It took nearly two hours to pay for the few items we amassed in our ten-minute shopping foray.
I must confess it was a most enjoyable experience. Thankfully, Kentuckians love a good chat as much as I do, so my friend and I learned all about our fellow shoppers’ Christmas wish lists, their Thanksgiving feasts, their kids, their grandparents, their aunts, uncles, and cousins, their ancestors – nearly their links to the Mayflower itself.
We arrived home at 11 pm only to learn one of our children had thrown-up and another had a fever. But our husbands had rallied to the cause, and taken care of the sick so that we mothers could take a ‘break’.
On Black Friday itself, at the very respectable hour of eleven in the morning, I actually braved the mall with my little girl in hand. After a great night’s sleep I didn’t mind the crowd, loved the festive feeling in the air, and thoroughly enjoyed our girls’ day out. My shopping spree of lunch and a few hair bands won’t shoot up those retail numbers the media always hype. I just wasn’t willng to test those check-out lines again.
Yesterday I learned an important lesson. For years I have railed against Black Friday and American consumerism, believing most people equate happiness with spending and acquiring things they often don’t need.
As I roamed the mall I realized not everyone was shopping, or
gripped by a media-hyped sales frenzy.
They were there for the atmosphere,
to take in the first hours of the Christmas season en masse.
We met friends, neighbors, and teachers on our trails. Children lined up for a first glimpse of Santa. Mothers and daughters paired up for a fun day out. Sisters roamed from store-to-store chatting and catching up. Husbands sat on the walls of decorative mall fountains patiently sipping their Starbucks.
I never thought I would say this, but Black Friday is not just about consumerism.
There is a deep element of connection, community spirit and tradition associated with this day. I was blissfully unaware of its deeper meaning, until I finally ventured out.
Maybe I overdosed on turkey L-tryptophan. Perhaps I was seeing the world through rose tinted glasses. But when my little girl asked me a very poignant question as we drove home from the mall, I fully understood this day.
“Can we do Black Friday together again next year?” she asked.
I realized she had felt the atmosphere, caught the Thanksgiving bug so-to-speak. She wasn’t gripped by consumerism, because we bought very little. She sensed we were starting our own annual girls’ day out, a not-so-unique, family tradition, that would connect us forever to the American world around us.
And so yesterday, as I braved my first Black Friday ever, I took one giant leap on this journey that is my American evolution.
Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving weekend.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)