Somewhere between the “Pass the stuffing, please” and the “Oh, God, I’m never going to eat again!” it began.
In some families it might have begun quietly with people picking the supplements from the newspaper, noting opening times, and then creating a logistical map. In other scenarios it might have been the loud subject of conversation that went on from the end of the “For the food we are about to receive...” and lasted till the beginning of the “Where’s the whipped cream for the pies?”
It doesn’t really matter when or where it began… the point is it’s begun. The Great Holiday Race is on. The let’s-put-on-our-sneakers, wear-a-shoulder-bag-to-keep-hands-free, and be in that line by 1 a.m., so when they open, we’re the first ones in the door. Gotta get the Mandy Burp-A-Lot doll since the store only has 148 of them on sale. Gotta knock someone out of the way to find the LED TVs and the new tablets and iPhones. When they named them “Doorbusters,” they weren’t kidding.
Strange, these same people will bemoan the fact that the old fashioned Christmas is gone… the one where they could go to the local dry goods store or gift emporium and everyone knew everyone and there was good old fashioned customer service.
STOP THE MADNESS! The good old fashioned Christmas never went away… you did.
Sometimes we forget what it is that keeps us living in these small towns… it’s because we love knowing our neighbors, knowing the shopkeepers, and enjoying a slower pace, without heavy traffic and noisy drama. It’s because we have family run businesses that have been around forever, co-mingling with newer ones who have been joyously welcomed and incorporated into the thread of our lives.
It’s because the same family who sold you that engagement ring probably sold you your wedding bands, the baby’s baptism cup, the Communion and confirmation jewelry, and repeated the process as those children grew up. From one generation to the next, here was a place you could trust, where, like “Cheers,” everybody knows your name.
The tuxedo place you went to for your first prom is the same place you now enjoy taking your sons when it’s their time; and the fish market, dress shop, frame emporium, etc. have their own familiarity.
So why would you want to pile in a car, fight road traffic, fight parking lot traffic, and then fight store traffic in a place where nobody knows your name nor cares. Where they care only about the plastic in your wallet and getting you in and out quickly so they can get to the next person in line. And if something’s not right and you need another size, color, store credit, or refund, do you really want to go through the same drill the day after Christmas?
“Shop local” is not just something the Chambers of Commerce made up to appease their members. It’s a wonderful way to invest in yourself by re-investing in your community. It keeps the economy strong and creates an ongoing relationship between local people and local merchants. Even though Small Business Saturday was yesterday, the idea of shopping locally in a small community continues throughout the seasons.
On Wednesday evening, Dec. 6, our community will participate once again in a holiday stroll, but this is not the only night to come out and shop while enjoying complimentary snacks in the stores and carols on the streets. It’s a bit of a reaffirmation that everything you want is right here, right where you’ve chosen to live, to bring up your family, to celebrate your holidays. It’s why “the summer people” tell us we’re so lucky to live here year ’round.
Westerly has an old fashioned charm all its own, as do both Pawcatuck and Stonington. Ferrying through these narrow streets, appreciating the lights and decorations, hearing the music, and popping into a shop to warm up or to select a unique and wonderful present can never be trumped by the glare of walking in a mall with chain stores and faceless clerks.
This year stay in town a bit more. Look around. Take a deep breath. Smile at the passersby. And truly enjoy the holidays in our little piece of small town America.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 16 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She has written three books: one about the towns and villages in our area, one about growing up in the ’50s, and one that recounts untold vetera ns’ stories from WWII to the present. She can be reached at: email@example.com or 401539-7762.