‘Tis the Season

I’d been home from Haiti for about two days, it was 92 degrees when I departed Port-au-Prince and 17 degrees when I landed at my final destination in the States, actually the temperature was the least of the extremes I felt. The next day I was driving for the first time in months and repeatedly heard this jingle on the radio for a jewelry store advertising the fulfillment of the NEED for the perfect Christmas gift, a diamond. Even though it’s been a while since I’ve returned from Haiti every year at this time I try to recall how ridiculous that commercial sounded to my ears. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, the temptation that the perfect gift is just around the corner. THE thing to make someone happy is within our grasp. that we actually NEED stuff, beyond air, water, shelter, food and love.

How does a couple of verses of the right holiday tune transport me into a shopping machine, on a mission to purchase happiness in a store. It’s just so easy to get caught up, or to cave in, to be so tired I just grab anything because I must have something wrapped for that someone I’ll exchange a gift with that neither of us will ever NEED or probably use. Every year I feel the same way and every year I vow to not catch the bug that makes me feel like Scrooge if I don’t spend money on stuff. I left the community of Turgeau at dawn that December morning watching children carry five gallons of water on their heads and within 10 hours was nestled in the land of plenty with hot water endlessly flowing. Years later it pretty much only takes a Bing Crosby tune within ear shot to make me feel melancholy enough to open my wallet for the umpteenth time to buy something, anything to complete the list. My wish is that this year I’ll remember what is truly valuable when I’m a tired and desperate shopper. None of it, none of it is what it’s all about and once again I’m hoping this season to not forget that I have all that I’ll ever need.

I know friends still living in tents in Haiti months after the earthquake. Folks whose lives were devastated by the earthquake and that didn’t have many material possessions to start with. There is true need out there this Christmas and let me not confuse the difference.

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You just never know

So I swear, I’m minding my own business and waiting in line at the store and the clerk is laughing with two men in front of me. One of the guys was buying what appeared to be some beige foundation because apparently he had used his wife’s and she found out and made him replace the entire bottle. The clerk was an older woman and she teased the man that he won’t be so vain the next time to use his wife’s make up and he laughed and agreed. Then it was my turn and I put my stuff on the counter and she just starts chatting with me about men. How “some men are just like that” and how much her mother loved her father, “but he had to go cause he was a ho.” I looked up at her and I heard the word OH come out of my mouth.

She said, “yep, he was a ho until the day he died, I had a wonderful step mother too and she told me along with my own mother that he was a ho and now his son, my brother is a ho too, just love women way too much.” With that she handed me the bag of items I had purchased and I said, well, you just never know and walked away.

Speechless on several fronts…..

What was it that Michael Scott said, “then suddenly she ain’t your ho, no mo.”

Was that a UFO in aisle 6?

Nope, just a little boy strapped into a cart hurling a bag of frozen peas at his brother, but when it comes to my grocery store you may wonder. It’s built on an old land fill and the surrounding property is swampy in a part of the world without many swamps. Yet, neither of those tidbits leads me to believe it’s inhibited by aliens, it’s just a unscientifically weird store. Yes, there’s a guy that no matter the season he’s singing a unique rendition of “Take me out to the ball game” as he bags the groceries. Yes, there’s an ever-changing flow of clerks leading you to believe they may be alien abductees. Yes, the fellow customers may make you wonder if they landed there departing a flying saucer AND yes, some of the folks smell like they’ve not been introduced to some earthly comforts. BUT, all in all it’s not any of those things in particular.

It’s just a goofy, quirky and at times, sad place. It’s a newer store but you’d never know it. It’s the kind of place that seems like the bread always falls off the truck. I’m not sure why I shop there except it is convenient but I easily have other options. I think I just have a fondness for it because it’s very real. There is no pretense in this place. You easily see various forms of authentic behavior exhibited in every aisle. It’s the furthest thing from alien, it’s a very human place.

Sometimes stores try to make the shopping experience something filled with escapism, like a fairy tale, that’s not happening here. Walking these aisles you’re not overcome by make-believe or lost in outer space in the freezer section. You see it all clearly here but you don’t need 3D glasses. I’m sure there are other grocery experiences like this in the world where people don’t have a lot of patience or luxuries. It’s just the kind of place that when you make that quick stop for milk and whatever you determine that day to be “essential” you often leave with much more, just not necessarily in your cart.

August

I suspect for most of us August signifies one thing, end of summer, “back to school.” To this day when I see such display signs in stores this time of year, along with stacks of notebooks boasting a price of five for a dollar and enough number two pencils for every man, woman and pet in America, along with the children really using them, well frankly at that moment my hands start sweating and I feel a bit dizzy. I’m overcome by the creepy aroma of erasers and the faint smell of industrial cleaners rattling around in the memories of my nasal cavity. I feel a weird need to raise my hand and ask permission to use the restroom, then I gratefully snap out of it, startled as if a nun just threw a piece of chalk at me and soon remember those days are long past.

Yet when you don’t have a lifestyle or work that has renewal dates built into the calendar you wonder what you’re missing. How do you restart, recharge, renew if it’s not a “back to something” time of the year for you? It’s simply just August. It’s hot, lawns are dying, cicadas are buzzing, pumpkins look premature. As I spend my time in traction today I’m challenging myself to look at August with new eyes. I shouldn’t have a built-in hate of the season, I’m not busying myself with “to do lists,” I’m not headed anywhere in particular, I don’t need a crisp new hideously plaid uniform or a backpack that screams, ‘can I sit next to you?’

Rather for me August now quietly leads to September which leads to welcomed cooler days and bluer skies in my part of the world. August is the eighth month in a twelve month calendar, it’s not the end nor the beginning, it’s just August. Lots of people I love have birthdays in August, Leos and Virgos……. some of my favorite folks. So I have to stop dissing August, it’s done nothing to me. It’s just a month that spells change to some, but any month or any week or any day can do that.

I need to walk through the stores and smile at a wall full of protractors, stop wondering if there’s a better use for a bevel protractor than poking somebody’s eye out. Work on letting go of how we blew our noses before each child brought a 250 count box to school to last the year. Believe there is a child alive that enthusiastically eats mixed vegetables with pizza. Recognize and accept there are kids out there that are contentedly counting the days until the return to school, they are eagerly awaiting the sight of the bus…..they are the future bloggers of the world!

Leave August alone I say, it’s a perfectly fine month. It may just become my fav month……….nah, probably not.