Into the Shopping Arena
Shopping is not my sport. And I'm not the girl with red and green bins in the attic begging to bust out the holiday cheer as soon as the turkey cools. For the love of all that is jolly, I don't know why I decided to drag my sisters-in-law to stores before dawn the day after Thanksgiving. But I'd never participated in the spectacle and it sounded adventurous.
I hoped Thanksgiving sales had the power to bond Qing, Diana and me together as the sisters we really weren't. We'd start our own Black Friday tradition.
We woke up on time. That is to say, a few minutes after our husbands ate their final turkey sandwich. However, the day hit a snag when Qing — who is from China — pulled up at a convenience store.
"What are we doing here?" Diana asked. "There are no sales here."
"You say you want coffee," Qing said. "They have coffee."
Diana explained, as patiently as she could at just after 4 a.m., the importance of the right coffee, a triple venti gingerbread vanilla latte with whipped cream and sprinkles, perhaps. Because you can't go into a sporting event unprepared, especially when you are the athlete.
In sweatpants, running shoes and bad scrunchies, we at least looked the part for the battle ahead. In my zeal to hit the sliding doors running, I actually wore pajamas. In public. They were velour. More of a track suit, if you will.
Fortified with caffeine, we hit a big-box store, where I became obsessed with getting not just any air hockey table, but the last air hockey table. If I could just chase down one of those guys in a red shirt to lift it into my cart, it would be mine.
"The kids like air hockey?" Diana asked.
"They play ice hockey."
Hello? So what if they'd never played air hockey. The idea that we could have an air hockey table in our very own house prompted a mental montage of my 1970s childhood. Sure, it wasn't foosball, but still — AIR HOCKEY! And for a mere $49.95. As far as I was concerned, the day was already a success.
"Yep, they are going to love it!" I said, parting the crowds with the huge box hanging over my cart.
Next, we hit a department store where picture frames were on sale, a set of them. Matching. Once inside I headed to housewares, knocked an elderly woman out of the way and snagged the last two boxes. Then I gave them to my sisters-in-law. Because I have Christmas spirit. Bonding. See? All this sunrise shopping is good for America.
Black Friday as we know it has bleak origins, and it's all Thursday's fault. Even though George Washington made Thanksgiving a holiday in 1789, the date wasn't set until 1863, when the holiday was given an official spot on the last Friday of November.
This worked out fine until the holiday season of the Great Depression. November 1939 had five Thursdays. Merchants worried that the short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas wouldn't do the economy any favors. But no retailers dared advertise Christmas before Thanksgiving parades, lest they be smacked in the head by a competitor's turkey carcass. So they convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move the date of Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of the month. Never again would the country fall prey to the unfortunate fifth Thursday.
The rest is just evolution of the sport.
So the next time you mock a small woman hauling a large box while wearing pajamas, just remember she is doing it for her country.
And buy her a coffee, would you? The good stuff. Not black.
Lela Davidson is the author of Blacklisted From the PTA, a collection of irreverent essays about motherhood and family.