Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dude, Where's My Holiday?

Okay, that was a bad joke. Sorry.

But seriously, where did Thanksgiving go? And is there any way to actually teach my toddler about it in the face of overwhelming marketing?

The hubby has been working rather long, bordering on insane hours recently, giving me plenty of Mother/Son time. And one of my favorite coping mechanisms is to go to our local mall. A year and a half ago, they took out an underused seating area, padded that bad boy, and stuck in some soft climbing structures. Voila, instant play place. I swear, I'd carpet my house in that stuff - so soft and squishy underfoot, and it absorbs a lot of sound. Sometimes there are other kids there, and my kid runs around at top toddler speeds screaming and throwing his little bod around. So much better that all that energy is not contained in my 1892 house. It's especially vital in the winter.

Anyway, I have been at the mall a lot recently. I know the play area was designed to increase the amount of money I spend at the mall, because I'm certainly there a lot, but the mall people never counted on frugal German stock. At most, I window shop J.C. Penny.

Two weeks ago, part of the play area was fenced off, with sparkly Christmas trees behind it, and presents stuck in the philodendrons. Three days later, evergreen boughs (Tangent: I love that word. It's a darned shame it only gets trotted out once a year. Say it out loud about five times. Bough. Great, huh?) were everywhere. They still have the decency not to break out the actual Santa yet, but everything else is a go.

To a three year old, it's Christmas, plain and simple. The only real vestige of Thanksgiving that exists in his world is the pilgrim name tags at daycare and the promise of a trip to Mimi and Pawpaw's to pet kittens. Thanksgiving is a brief interlude between candy and presents.

And, to be honest, I'm not helping. We have a big house and a lot of decorations. Two trees. And did I mention the hubby working insane hours? So the toddler and I are doing the decorating piece meal.

He's hilarious. He's really into hanging ornaments, but they all have to be families. Three candy canes on a branch - the mommy, the daddy, and the baby candy cane. My hubby's Dan Marino ornament has to be next to a baby in a crib - I think a snowman is standing in for Mom there. Everything is grouped.

But with the daily barrage of gift catalogs filled with stuff I'm never going to spend the money on, the toddler wants it all. Flip open a toy page, and he jabs that finger onto every single item, "I want that, and that, and that . . ." ad nauseum. We have a house rule - if you can't tell Mom what it is you want, you can't have it. He said he wanted the Indiana Jones Action Sounds Whip. I said, "Can you tell me what that is?" and he said, "Um, I want that." No Action Sounds Whips. No Light Sabers. No wrestling Action Figures.

Beside, (Mary, did I get it right? No 's'?) the kid is only getting three presents from Santa, plus a stocking, plus maybe another three to five things from us like books. The hubby said Limits, and I said, Sure. Cheaper that way.

This is all well and good, but even in this blog, where did Thanksgiving go? You'd think with all the GPS technology we have today, we could keep better track of it ... but no.

I used to teach English as a Second Language in Chicago. I really liked it, and it was a good outlet for the vast repository of useless knowledge I've accumulated between history teachers for parents and graduate degrees. I taught them about Thanksgiving, and about Black Friday. If you were new to this country, you'd want to know why the evening news showed near riots breaking out at Best Buy over Wiis, right? National Shopping Day was how I described it.

Useless trivia fact: Did you know that FDR tried to move Thanksgiving to the second week in November? He was trying to boost the economy by lengthening the holiday shopping season, and it backfired pretty badly on him. People didn't want him messing with traditions. Back then, in the darkness that was the Great Depression, people were thankful for what they had.

Ironic, then, that today we have so much more to be thankful for. We live longer, have better stuff and far more comfortable lives these days than the huge chunks of the populace that didn't have running water or electricity until the 1940s. (Yes, I know about that, too. Features heavily in Marrying the Emersons. Live with it.)

But with all this modern convenience and wonder, we are less thankful. More spoiled, my Gram would say - after all, she lived through the Depression. Much as FDR tried, now marketing and consumerism has moved the holiday shopping season up to 12:01 a.m. on November 1st. What legislation couldn't do, the American People did themselves.

So, until the official Thanksgiving Blog next week, take a moment to stop and think about what you have to be thankful for while you hang your ornaments or buy your Christmas gifts. I'm not saying don't do those things, but don't forget the fact that you can do those things is, in and of itself, something to appreciate.


Mary D. said...

Nope. That one needs an s. Sorry.

Sarah M. Anderson said...

ARGH! I'm never going to get the 's' right!!!!!

lucylucia said...

Oh man, Sally. I pit up my Christmas decorations on November 8th!! I can't help it. I just love it too much...and pretty soon the radio station is going to only play Christmas songs...AND I get 12wonderful days off work!!!

Sarah M. Anderson said...

I saw your pics, Lucy! It's okay - rock out the ornaments!