Black Friday has always resounded with me like nails on a chalkboard; part agoraphobia and mostly the notion that the holidays are for being with folks close to us and/or assisting strangers to make it through a dark part of Winter. So the notion that one would get up with the chickens, prowl a parking lot like a shark and stand on line with a bunch of belligerent shoppers for countless, precious hours is anathema to all my beliefs. And beside, I have Amazon Prime and am not afraid to use it, so much so that Shortcake suspects I’m having an affair with our UPS driver.
But back in the daze of childhood, it was mostly take and little give, the adults doing all the shopping to buy presents for us kids. The one gift I recall with vivid detail was the annual bottle of Old Spice we’d all chip-in for from the Crown Drug at the Westlake Shopping Center with free gift-wrapping. This pharmacy was a touchstone for me and influential later on as I chose my life-long profession. But I digress…
Our Uncle Tom was the quintessential Irish Bachelor and a major reason San Francisco remains so dear in my heart. He would take us all over on the Muni since he never drove or owned a car and I can still feel his arms around my waist, raising me up to pull the green wire and signal the driver of our upcoming exit.
And next stop…Stonestown and the Emporium Roof Rides along with a sit-down with Santa, pleading my case like Melvin Belli. Yes, I’d been a good boy and a BB gun or electric train were always from where I began my negotiations. Ultimately, I received both but that’s another story.
So getting a bottle of Old Spice for Uncle Tom was a labor of love and the least we could do, given the countless hours and efforts he’d spend with/on us three kids. He had served in the Navy during the War, so the ship-tattooed ivory-like bottle was a natural. When he passed in 2009 and we vacated his apartment, under his sink was a bottle of Old Spice, perhaps from the Ghosts of Christmas past.
I went through a holiday shopping phase in my earlier years, taking special pride in searching out the perfect gift for those few on my list. I also sent cards and enjoyed the tradition but this Yuletide spirit seems to have vanished into cyberspace.
That said (and with a Mea Culpa), I wish each of you and your’s a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and whatever you may enjoy celebrating during these chilly days of December and remember to keep your hands and hearts warm.