By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – In Louisiana this week it is both Fall and Christmas: the first weekend of December brought mild temperatures and sunny days as residents emerged from their houses to decorate with lights and position giant inflatable snow globes and penguins on their front lawns. It’s Christmas in the South, y’all.
The leaves on the trees are finally, finally turning gold and red, then tumbling through the air to the ground where they will eventually be raked, bagged, burned, or used in compost piles. The air is simply golden and the scent of suburban fire pits burning pecan or oak hovers throughout the neighborhood.
It just makes me want to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation all over again.
What I would really like to do this Christmas is go down South and watch the Christmas bonfires on the levees and eat fresh shrimp right off the boat in Delcambre. Bucket list.
Meanwhile, the Christmas shopping must be done. I shop my favorite local brick and mortar places when I can, but face it, when you live in a relatively large metropolitan city that has no independent bookstore, well, you’ve got to do some online shopping. Our local hardware stores for the most part have fallen to big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. I’ll admit, I’m sometimes guilty of opting for the convenience of these places.
In an age where you can order your groceries online and pick them up without ever having to go inside the store, in a time when you never have to talk to another human to shop, where you can go through the ATM to get cash, check out at the self-checkout station, order lunch at a kiosk and have it delivered to your table, don’t you think some of the fun of Christmas shopping gets lost? Or any kind of shopping for that matter?
I love those nostalgic Christmas movies like The Bishop’s Wife (1947) where Loretta Young shops along Main Street, snow swirling all around her; she visits with the Christmas tree salesman, picks out a tree and has it delivered to her home; she literally runs into the college professor as he dashes out of a shop and they greet each other warmly and visit for a few minutes; she gazes longingly at a pretty new hat in a shop window, steps inside, talks to the ladies in the store, and tries the hat on. It’s an idyllic scene, far removed from our own digital experience.
I think we have lost something in our society by opting for convenience over the personal. While it’s true that we still get out and shop in person to some degree, what comes to my mind is the horrendous (to me) experience of Black Friday where everyone goes out at once, cut-throat, to save a few bucks on a flat screen TV or laptop. I understand that some people love this experience but I’m not one of them.
My ideal shopping day is somewhere between the impersonal digital and the Black Friday Frenzy; around the corner from me is a gallery that has unique and eclectic home décor items, furniture, art, and trinkets. Every year they have a Bloody Mary Bash: you can come in, shop, sip free Bloody Mary’s concocted by three or four local celebrities or chefs, and vote (with a peppermint) for your favorite recipe. A portion of the day’s shopping proceeds are donated to a different charity every year. It’s a lot of fun: I always find unique things for people on my list, I have a couple of Bloody Mary’s as I wander about the store, and get to visit with neighbors and friends who show up to do the same thing.
That’s my kind of shopping!
As you do your own shopping this year, don’t forget about your local brick and mortar shops; that’s where you can support your community, support local business, and more often than not find something unique and special for that person on your list. It’s really more fun that hitting “Add to Cart.” Trust me.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.