After totaling my car, something called a Saturn Vue, an insurance settlement was paid out; not a lot of money but a bit more than what the Beleaguered Husband had estimated the vehicle’s value.
Personally, I just wanted another Vue; something I was used to, a familiar cockpit where I knew just where the radio knob was, how to operate the windshield wipers and manipulate the high beam. Life and driving are hard enough, without involving further complications. Back in the day, how did we ever manage to smoke cigarettes and drive at the same time? I suppose that was safer than texting…except for the cancer.
We tried for another Vue, but the guy who was selling it in front of his drug den-looking house was so scary and mean looking that Michael and I made a run for it considering ourselves lucky to make it out alive.
After weeks and many unsuccessful automotive shopping experiences, including a VW Rabbit that the owner claimed to be haunted, my husband announced he found the car for me! It was an older car but well made. A 1995 Audi station wagon. It has a retro look (as I suppose so do I) so I now cruise around in true Boomer style, including the authentic touch of having a sound system that only plays cassette tapes. Fishing through my old collection, (See? It pays to never throw things out), I’ve got some Elvis Costello, The Cars, Springsteen, Talking Heads, Cindy Lauper, Hendrix, Devo, and Fine Young Cannibals.
Then I strike the mother lode: Christmas tapes! I hold off playing them. Not yet, I think, not yet.
Our dear daughter had not even been home 24 hours when we found ourselves at the mall where, suddenly, it’s Christmas. Well, not really Christmas because Miranda has come home for Thanksgiving. That holiday was still a day away so this was sort of a pre-Christmas visit, a glimpse behind the scenes of what will be presented on opening night. The stage is set, ready to go, it’s only the actors, the clamoring hoard of shoppers, who have not yet made their entrance.
I take deep breaths as I wander through the gaily decorated stores filled with richly colored merchandise. I comfort myself in knowing I do not yet need to begin the frantic, fantastical attempt at this magical, manic season, to balance the spiritual and the commercial within a constricted time frame on a limited budget. There is still time, a whole day, until the official start of the holiday shopping season. I never take part in Black Friday, but I can feel it all waiting like a Jack-in-the-box, tightly coiled and ready to spring out and yell “Ho! Ho! Hi! Buy! Buy! Buy!”
“Why are you walking so slowly?” asks my daughter, in a hurry to find jeans, sweaters and dresses to add to her list for Santa’s consideration.
“Oh, I’m just taking in the sights, all the pretty things,” I answer, fingering a sparkly, pink sequin dress, almost like a sleepwalker.
I see my future all too clearly. The rapid pace I will soon travel through this mall, checking my list, crossing off names, the fervent search for sale items and the shortest checkout line. Then on to the next store. No time to notice pretty things, listen to the Christmas songs, or to stop and remember why Christmas is celebrated. I’m taking this time to just wander, no pressure, I can amble around, admire a $300 purse, or try on perfume if I like. I don’t have to buy a thing. For now, I’m free, but wouldn’t this hat look good on my husband and what about these slick looking Vans for our son? What will my nephew be wanting? How about that sparkly scarf for Lizzy? Which store were we just in? The one where Miranda said she liked the mauve pants?
When we return to the parking lot, it takes a Boomer minute to realize I am not looking for a white car with a happy face antenna ball but a black Audi with a flying pig antenna ball and it will be this car I will be seeking within the packed parking lots. Yes, I will shop online and create some hand-made gifts (God help the recipient) but this place of commerce will be part of my Christmas experience. Since the true spirit of Christmas does not reside at the mall, you have to bring it with you. Amongst all the stores, next to Wetzel’s Pretzels, the mall should certainly have a little chapel. A place to stop and collect yourself, to put down your packages and open your heart, to take a minute to remember the star and why it shone some two-thousand years ago, or at least a place to pray you find the right size and color of the items on your shopping list.
In search of divine guidance, I turn to a collection of classic Christmas inspiration; no, not the gospel of Luke or Matthew, or my beloved Dickens’ Christmas Carol, but a special tome of genuine treasure that warms my aged heart, Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned From A Little Golden Book. Therein is all the charm and magic of the season, presented with whimsy and humor in the dear, old familiar illustrations from the Golden Books we Baby Boomers grew up with.
Woven throughout the book are clever captions paired with colorful pictures from the ‘50s and ‘60s. The beautiful and totally cool artwork is by talented illustrators Corinne Malvern, Richard Scarry, Eloise Wilkin, and Leonard Weisgard. All aspects of the season are covered from the silly to the sublime. A cute bunny spilling red paint and running wild with a broom is titled, “The kids are nuts this time of year.” A classic old lady on the phone is responding to the coming of Christmas by screaming, “Yikes!” An angel shimmers in all her gracious glory. The book melds frenzy with the wonder of the season and beneath the heavenly depiction of a star shining over a manger, a message declares, “Christmas is about a gift to all people, a gift of love.”
On the very last page, with the lion lying down beside the lamb, it adds, “And the gift of hope for a peaceable kingdom.” Then it simply states, “It could happen.”
It’s the, “It could happen” that gets me because we Boomers have never stopped believing in Peace and Love.
Wishing you both.