Last December, while out running errands, I took a picture of a local Christmas Tree lot. Every year for I don’t know how many years, just before Thanksgiving, the temporary fencing would go up around this empty, corner, lot. A real old-fashioned kind of affair with twinkle lights strung all above it, painted plywood cutouts of winter figures, employees sometimes dressed as elves, a Santa waving to people from the corner as it got closer to Christmas. Every year I thought, I want to go walk around in there, smell the pine trees and firs, soak up some atmosphere under those lights. I bet they had hot chocolate or coffee. One year I think I saw a sno-cone machine, but that could have only been wishful thinking. Last year I took a picture of the Christmas Tree lot thinking, I’ve got to go walk around in there, but I didn’t have time that day, and I didn’t get back over there. This year, I kept waiting for the tree lot to go up. It didn’t.
Right after Halloween, I was ready for the extra Christmas aisles in all the stores. There weren’t as many. I thought, after Thanksgiving, that’s what they’re waiting for. But, I’d say I’ve seen only about a third of the Christmas merchandise this year that I’ve seen in stores the last five years. I’ve had to hunt down items I’ve bought every year, traditions, certain kinds of candies and items generally found without much effort. I went into one store that usually has three aisles dedicated to tree skirts and stockings only to find the selection down to one aisle of not much left. A young lady working there said to me that they’d had the Christmas items out since before the 4th of July. I wasn’t going to argue with her but I knew that while they always have a few items out for almost every holiday regardless of the time of year, no, those stocking aisles were full of flags and striped banners in July, and the other aisles were filled with garden trellises, I know, because I bought two.
This past year they closed Toys-R-Us, two local Orchard Supply Hardware stores, and the Sears store at the mall is closing its doors as well. The last time I went into JC Penney’s, I was surprised to see a soda refrigerator filled with sodas, water, energy drinks, for sale at the cashier kiosk in the juniors department. From not allowing food or drinks into the store, because it increases losses due to damaged merchandise, to selling the syrupy refreshments right there. But I guess the truth of the matter is that many such businesses are loosing money because folks can get online and search for exactly what they want and usually find it in some form or another, rather than being limited to items only available in stores. Then of course there are discount stores and etc. But, I keep thinking about that Christmas Tree lot, not getting back over there last year and whether or not I really had time to make time. I feel like I missed something. I’m starting to feel like perhaps we’re all missing something. You might want to say something about consumerism, or things along those lines, but I don’t think that’s quite it. I didn’t want to go to the Christmas Tree lot to buy a tree. Don’t get me wrong, I think fresh-cut Christmas Trees are great, I tend to leave my tree up until June ( not quite), no, I wanted to go to the Christmas Tree lot for the experience of it. To walk around in the evening air, see the lights, warm my mittened hands around a toasty beverage. When we made our final pilgrimage to Toys R Us, it wasn’t necessarily to buy anything, although we did, it was to walk around, to see all the amazing things. It was to look and say, “How cool is that?” It was to see not only the things we were used to seeing there, those old favorites, but the things we’d never thought of and didn’t know existed. Little bits of joy and moments of wonder. I could search online for exactly the title of whatever ancient book or movie or, whatever, I’m looking for and usually find it somewhere, however missing from that is the joy of discovery, of browsing the shelves of a store in which one is physically present.
Here’s hoping I’ll see another Christmas Tree lot, with all the old-fashioned goodness and wonder intact.