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Suzette Martinez Standring: Overcoming the darkness that is Black Friday

Black Friday is aptly named. Everyone’s dark side is out when the last nerve is drilled down trying to buy that “smart” toy, a tie or the last leather bag in saddle brown. Now big sales on Thanksgiving splinter the holiday further. Is the football game on the widescreen TV the only glue holding a family together for the day? It’s time for a reset.

This was my embarrassing epiphany. Years ago, stuck in holiday traffic, my husband and I waited for the light to change. I was anxious to cross gifts off my to-do list. Waiting. Waiting. Finally, the green light flashed, but just then, a jaywalker crossed in front of our car. Predictably, a line of scofflaws followed.

I yelled at David, “Drive! It’s our turn!”

“No, Suze, I’m not running over that little old lady.”

I rolled my eyes, exorcist-style: “Don’t mow her down. Just make her think you will!”

His look said it all: This murderous creature is my wife? There I was, in the belly of the beast wearing an elf’s cap.

Lightbulb! Bulk shopping had to stop, so I told my friends, “I’m begging you, let’s not do the gift thing anymore.” I risked being branded a Scrooge, but guess what? Huge sighs of relief all around.

Everywhere, other people find ways to pare down gift obligations.

Within large families, choose one name by lottery and buy only that person a gift.

Adults have so much, why not give gifts just to the kids?

Replace “what you get” with “what you do,” like a group outing or a project. Make an experience together the main gift.

Making photo books (so easy on-line) highlights the best of times and will be cherished far beyond candles or potpourri.

Food is bonding. Now that my two granddaughters are older (10 and 7), they look through cookbooks for dishes to make on Thanksgiving. Each Christmas, Eve, we experiment with a different food theme: Italy’s Feast of the Seven fishes, traditional Filipino cuisine, or old-fashioned English fare. We remember meals more than presents received.

Conversely, stressful, bulk shopping sucks away both joy and precious free time. I know, buy early or shop on-line, but consider this.

Great memories cannot be bought. It’s the aroma of favorite dishes, colorful family characters, the magic of mom’s decorations. In other words, being present with family and friends will sustain one’s spirit more than a gift card ever will. Spend time instead of dollars because time given is the rarest gift of all.

Email Suzette Standring: suzmar@comcast.net or visit readsuzette.com

Suzette Martinez Standring: Overcoming the darkness that is Black Friday