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Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

(Not-So) Black Friday

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and, despite seeing trees and snowmen at the local department stores back in mid-October, this is the big hoop-de-doo considered by most Americans to be the official kick-off to the Holiday Season.  The day following Thanksgiving, is a rather new holiday of sorts… the biggest shopping day of the year, one dubbed by Madison Avenue as “Black Friday.”  Growing up, I did not realize that the phrase was an accounting term, meaning business owners hoped to turn a profit, making their financial books appear “in the black” (as opposed to the deficit that red ink represented).

Sounds so much better than what I originally thought “Black Friday” meant and how it applied to my young life.

As a kid, “Black Friday” represented doom and gloom – like a large, black cloud hovering over the day-after a holiday (pretty much any holiday) in my family.  Any time a crowd gathered around my cracked family’s table, there was heck to pay when all was said and done, especially, the day-after.  The day-of, the doorbell would ring and friends and relatives would enter, wearing their festive finery and the low hum of pleasant chit-chat would begin.  We passed around plates of hors d’oeuvres (which is what we called ‘em, back-in-the-day, tho’ nobody within a mile knew how to spell it) and placed them on the coffee table and end tables.  There were pitted black olives that anyone under 12 would put on each and every finger and torture the guests (eating them was optional.  The olives, not the guests).  In addition, there were small bowls filled with smoked almonds and even larger bowls containing ruffled potato chips with onion dip that nobody under 18 was allowed to eat – because that was considered “adult fare” (WTH? I still have guilt issues about eating them now and I’m 50).  Alongside that, there was a platter of fancy blue cheese stuffed celery sticks (which no self-respecting kid would touch any way) and copious amounts of adult beverages.  When I think about it, pretty much all of my Thanksgiving of yore was designed for the mature crowd.  Excepting, of course, those marshmallows on top of the (what, until I was voting age, considered disgusting) yams.

The dining table would be set with a lace tablecloth, china, crystal and silverware that were only trotted out for the third Thursday of each November.  When the meal (which was cussed and discussed for hours, ad nauseum, by the adults) was finished, each and every icky, sticky piece of dishware, cutlery and glass had to be hand-washed.  A task usually overseen by one or two chain-smoking supervising adults while the lion’s share of the work was done by whichever children drafted from the Kids Table, deemed worthy of a lesson in “work ethics.”  Typically the noisier, more rambunctious of the mortified youth who were seated at a rickety folding card table, near a drafty door, trying to manipulate tough, dry turkey (of the above-mentioned cussing and discussing) on paper plates with plastic cutlery.  Call me crazy (or bitter), but the quiet kids never-ever got Dish Duty.  Apparently, they already had this notion of a “work ethic” down pat and were left to read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in a corner somewhere.

It wasn’t until I was older and learned the phrase “unmitigated gall” that I could go back in time and pin it on those adults who had the audacity to label the kids noisy and rambunctious.  Because, seriously?  By nightfall – the so-called “grown-ups” were the ones all wound up and obstreperous (another word I actually learned in the 6th grade and immediately applied to that boisterous and quarrelsome crowd), fueled as they were by liquid idiocy/courage.

Like a lot of folks, I spent a major portion of my lifetime wondering exactly in WHOSE houses those Norman Rockwell meals were taking place.  Glowing golden images of peaceful people gathered over a beautiful meal in what looked liked (most importantly) a warm and quiet place.  Again, I don’t like to curse, but… #%@*?!

Black Friday, in my house, the highly advertised shopping day after Turkey Day, was a day spent quietly cleaning up the carnage left behind by the ice pack wearing, now sensitive to light AND sound, adults.  Many of whom were nursing bruised emotions from things (loudly) said the night before.  There was a WWII propaganda poster that warned about alcohol use during war time, blaring: Loose Lips Sink Ships!  It might well have included information about torpedoed relationships after a night of drinking, too.  Not pretty.

In the fractured fairytale that was my childhood, the day after many a holiday was typically a very dark day, but especially the one after Thanksgiving.  It was a terribly black Friday, indeed.

But, it’s not all doom and gloom, now that I am the bonafide grown-up (at 50, I believe I have finally earned the title).  I happen to have a very loooong list of what I am thankful for at this time of year – but, at the top are the few that make me smile the most:

  • I am thankful that I understood early on that happiness is an inside job and I get to create the world I wish to live in.  And dine in.
  • I am thankful that my inner wiring is one of observation and humor.  Let the monkeys swing madly about in their cages and fling things at me.  I’ve made a choice to see the humor in it all, wrapping it all up in a story to re-tell later.  Silly monkeys.
  • I am thankful that I am the Captain of my ship and can limit the barrels of beverages that visiting pirates (heaven knows, they ARE a friendly lot) have access to.  There will be no marauding on my watch and while hearty laughter is welcome, those of the nasty “Arghs!” can take a long walk off a short plank (disguised as my front door).
  • I am thankful that my table will be set with foods fit for all members of the royal family, from queens to wee princesses.  And, that everyone chips in to do the dishes, regardless of pedigree or energy-level.
  • I am thankful that I know what “Black Friday” means to everyone else.  I am also happy that I don’t have to participate in any “Black Friday,” at any level, anymore.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!  May your Black Friday find you in awfully bright spirits and may you find a quiet moment to yourself, in the midst of what I can only hope is happy madness, to count your blessings.

Hugs upon your head!

xo – t.

“Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.”  ~ Edward Sandford Martin

“But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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