Thanksgiving Traditions: Surviving Black Friday

Thanksgiving is about making memories and traditions.

Thanksgiving is a holiday surrounded by tradition, regardless of where you live in America. I imagine that people in Frontenac and Ladue will be with family and friends stuffing themselves with turkey and dressing and beautiful pies, just as my family and I will be in Oklahoma.

All will wish for elastic waistbands instead of buttons and zippers, a nap after the last bite of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream and later in the afternoon, round two of the leftover feast that can still feed a small army (even though we ate until our tummies nearly popped the first time through).

Football will play on televisions all day in the city as well as the South. But, will city folks do as Southerners and rise before the first sight of dawn to enter the woods in full head-to-toe camouflage gear to hunt deer before the big feast? Or will they come back with prized antlers in hand as proof of skills mastered with a promise of meat for the winter?

In the South, this is a tradition that has been practiced for generations. You only have to go to the local watering hole or one of the few gas stations in town and you are sure to see pickup truck after pickup truck of men, and sometimes women, with the legal limit of deer—food for their families. It is not merely for sport. They are serious hunters with a goal—to stock their freezers for the year. Many succeed, my brothers included.

Perhaps people in the city will practice a gentler Thanksgiving tradition and awake from their turkey coma Thanksgiving evening, gather with out-of-town family and friends to watch the hottest flick of the season on the big screen like my family does in Oklahoma. We have been known to have taken up three rows of seats in the movie theater. It is a tradition we have held for years. It is one of my favorites.

I wonder if the ladies in Frontenac and Ladue, after cleaning up the kitchen for the umpteenth time, look through the Black Friday sales papers with their sisters-in-law and mother as I do with mine in Oklahoma. I wonder if the ladies of Ladue and Frontenac will shop the next day to get the best deals on their children’s Christmas wishes. Surely some will.

For years, we strategically planned the route to stores we wanted to shop on Black Friday. List in hand, mission planned, each would help the other gather prized bargains for ourselves and one another. Cellphones kept us in constant contact so we could give updates on our list. No time was wasted. Although those shopping trips were fun, our tradition was short-lived. It ended for me several years ago, when I feared for my safety.

My sister-in-law and I had been up since 4 a.m., and most likely, other shoppers had too. It was 6 a.m. on Black Friday in Walmart, and I proudly got to the very front of the line of a stack of scooters. I could easily grab two, one for each of my sons, and then sidestep out and onto the next item on my list. Or so I thought.

Everyone waited for several minutes for the green light to shop. All who were around me were calm and civil.

At the moment we were signaled to begin, the crowd became rowdy, pressing in to reach for a scooter neatly packaged in a box. Someone took two of them down and graciously handed them to me. Standing less than five feet flat-footed, the crowd was much taller than me. Eager shoppers continued to push me into the stack of scooters. I was trapped with a scooter under each arm.

The crowd continued to press in on me and pushed the scooters into my body. It felt as though they were crushing my ribs. Breathing became difficult. I am not sure if it was because of claustrophobia or because of my crushed ribs. Fear gripped me as I was unable to work my way out. I could see the headlines, “Hospitalized Shopper Clutches Two Scooters, Crazed Mob Crushes Ribs.”

Finally, a woman saw what was happening. I will never forget what she said. “Hand me the scooters. I will help you. I promise not to take them.”

Our eyes locked. I searched for truth. She saw hesitation in my eyes and repeated, “Give me your scooters and your hand. I will pull you out.”

I had to trust her. I raised one scooter after the other above my head as she reached over the mob. Then I extended my hand toward hers. I was free at last. After thanking her for freeing me and giving me back the scooters I realized the ridiculousness of the whole scene. I decided that day that saving a few bucks wasn’t worth a few broken ribs or a punctured lung. That ended my Black Friday shopping tradition.

My sisters-in-law weren’t fazed. They carry on the tradition every year on Black Friday. I am sure they will be in the mob this year.


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