Now alternately called "National Shopping Day" or "Black Friday," depending on one's retail perspective (consumer v. worker, respectively), there has long been a movement afoot to rechristen this day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, "National Buy Nothing Day." I laud this trend. I do. Things have gotten way out of hand with the obligatory gifting, no question.
In my over-cluttered lair, on this day I habitually cast my eye on all the stuff we already have and reflect on how I can most constructively get rid of some of it -- nothing truly useful, like my squeaky rubber rat, of course, but all the outright junk, or things that aren't junk precisely but simply are not used here. The Goodwill Industries truck is just up the street.
However, I have to say that I have some very fond memories of this day circa 40 years ago, before everything got so crazy and compulsory, and back when department store toy departments were destinations in and of themselves, magic lands taking up whole floors or basements where you could actually play with merchandise before buying it, and all decked out in velvet and sparkles especially for this season. This was back when toys that required batteries were still somewhat exotic. Back then, and for years before I was born, this was the day my whole family would go out to window shop together so we could find out what each of the others might like for Chanuka.
From all that comes another story I think I've told before. The year when I was three I fell in love with a yellow-and-purple paisley printed velveteen stuffed pig at the May Co. toy department. (I don't even know if May Co. still exists. It was once a higher end Southern California department store chain.) Even though I clearly understood the purpose of the day to be window shopping, I cried when I realized the stuffed pig was not coming home with us. "But he likes me," I wailed. I was quite sure I would never see him again and grieved for days.
But then I did receive him for Chanuka. I named him "Alfred" at my sister's insistence (because she knew I would just call him "Piggie," and she was sick of this particular naming convention), and he instantly became my favorite toy for life. The bright pink felt covering his nose and ears and feet fell apart as I played and played and played with him. I am not sure what happened to his original wire-coiled purple velvet tail. His eyes were lost and replaced with pink buttons. My mother replaced the felt a few times a year, less frequently as we grew older together, stitched up his war wounds, and finally, when he began to disintegrate beyond the skill of her clever needle in my late teens -- his, too, I guess -- she knit him a turtleneck sweater bag of lavender acrylic worsted.
And as you can see, I still have him, and I still love him and all the parts of my childhood still dwelling in his unwashable stuffing 42 years old this year. And though he sleeps atop my unread books unattended most days, every once in awhile I pick him up and give him a squeeze, maybe even have a little cry with my arms around him just like I did when I was small and he was larger and I would sometimes have a day when all I wanted was to hold onto my oldest friend for dear life.