I once dropped a set of kitchen glasses in the checkout line at J.M. Fields. We were on our annual Christmas shopping trip, which included a stop at the closest McDonalds for dinner. The closest Golden Arches was 35 miles away at the time, I was in my elementary years, and the cash registers on the McDonalds counter were made by GTE/Comp-Acct.
I remember the stupidest things.
My dad would take the four of us Christmas shopping once a year; he always wanted to shop at Central Tractor, but he would take us to a discount department store as well. In the early years it was Grants, but that one particular year it was J.M. Fields. I wanted to buy my mom a set of kitchen glasses. They had brown and yellow flowers painted on the side, but I dropped them when I was putting them on the checkout counter.
I was mortified.
We may have shopped at different discount department stores during the single digit years of my life but one thing that was a constant was the excitement I felt when the village DPW put up the Christmas decorations on the lamp posts in the “downtown area”. I grew up in an Upstate New York town with a population of around 2500. The village, which my mother called “downtown”, was possibly three blocks of store fronts. At the time power lines lined the Main Street, which was actually called Jefferson Street. During the holidays the street light poles were adorned with simple Christmas ornaments, usually big red bells with a 150-watt light bulb in the middle. On the corner was a candle or wreath covered in tinsel. The ornaments had a ’60s vibe to them and were simple. I was always excited when the ornaments went up around Thanksgiving because it meant Santa Claus was coming to town.
I was watching a Hallmark Christmas Movie earlier this evening. It was set in a small town where a big city executive came back to her hometown and she found the spirit of Christmas when the big tree lighting ceremony took place. I recognized the smiles and happiness the main character felt when the tree lighting took place in tonight’s movie, I always felt the same way when the bells went up on the lampposts.
Holiday street decorations are very sophisticated in the big city. There are glittering balls hanging over the streets and twinkling lights adorning great big, excessive displays. But that’s really what the holiday shopping has turned into, right? Big, grand gestures meant to impress.
I miss the simplicity of the red bells with a 150-watt bulb giving them a warm glow.
I was out for a walk this evening and one house, a few blocks away, had an outside display along the fence that lined their yard. The Christmas lights were the older “Merry Midget” incandescent miniature Christmas lights. You could only string two or three of these sets of lights together without blowing a fuse. The harsh, impersonal glow of LED lights were nowhere to be found. These lights were warm, inviting, and quietly suggested, “Happy Holidays”, in yellow, blue, green, red, pink, and gold. If one of the lights had been replaced with a white bulb with a red tip, the entire string of lights would have flashed in unison. No need to twinkle, just blink.
I miss the excitement I felt about the holidays as a kid. Today there’s so many commitments and commercials and pressure to buy the right gift for our loved one. As an adult money is a never-ending concern. “They know what I make, will they be impressed with a scarf?”.
I want the stress of the holidays to just go away permanently, and I want to be in awe of a simple red bell, lit by a 150-watt incandescent bulb, hanging from a street lamp.
I want a simple holiday with family and friends. The rest is just unnecessary.