Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday's Words for December 17, 2008

It’s that time of year when I once more must come face to face with the two most dreaded words (by me, anyway) in the English language: Christmas shopping.

Even thinking those two words sends a ripple of revulsion down my back. Images flash in my anxiety-heightened brain: crowds and confusion; malls and mayhem; noise and nut bars—and not the kind you eat, either.

If I was half as smart as I think I am, I would begin sometime in January to purchase the items I need here and there so that I wouldn’t have to go through this every year. But a lifetime of living in denial when it comes to unpleasantness kicks in on December 26th, so that I actually forget that such a thing as Christmas shopping exists – until about December 15th of the following year.

I did briefly consider my beloved’s annual suggestion: The Dollar Giant, where 20 dollars gets you 20 gifts for 20 relatives. I think maybe I’ll wait until I’m somewhat older before I do that. Then said relatives can shake their heads sadly and say, “poor Granny’s turned curmudgeonly with age”.

So I have made my first foray into the world of Christmas retailing, but this time instead of the mall, I went to a few of the stores that are right here in my own home town.

I should tell you first that my town (modest community that it is) advertises itself as the “prettiest town in Canada”. With a population of around 9000, like most small communities it is comprised of basically two groups of people: citizens and new-comers. I’ve lived here since 1987. I have found that being a new-comer doesn’t seem to have any permanent negative connotations attached to it. If the matter does come up I have a fail-safe tactic. My brother has lived here since 1967, his wife used to be one of the town librarians and he himself served several terms on town council. All I have to do is say, “I’m Chuck’s sister”, and that usually takes care of any problems before they arise.

Small towns really are, though, what you make of them. I suppose if we had been the kind of people who dive right in to civic affairs, then this unique and picturesque community that has not one but two rivers running through it would sparkle more for us than it does. But Mr. Ashbury and I are both loners and shy at heart. In our beginning years here we worked full time and would come home each night to three kids and various pets. By the time dinner and kids were seen to, our energy was gone.

It’s kind of sad to think that basically we let life pass us by because we were too consumed by the everyday to do much else, but there you have it.

However, we have always tried to shop locally when we could. For the most part we get our groceries here in town, and whenever we need to run to a hardware store, bakery, or even liquor or beer stores, we do that right here too.

We’ve never really gone Christmas shopping in town, though, because we’ve always been in the position of having to get the most “bang for our bucks”—which means going to the near-by mall that features a discount department store.

But this year I decided it would be nice to visit a few of the stores right here in town. And I was looking for something in particular. Something, actually, for myself.

Somehow in the last year or so the plastic sheet I used for rolling out pie dough has vanished. So I have been looking for a replacement, and alas, have been disappointed by the larger chain stores at the mall. So I got it in my head that maybe I could find such an elusive item here in town. What I really wanted, to tell you the truth, was an old fashioned pastry cloth. Do you remember them? My mother had one, and it was wonderful.

The stores in town have it all over the mall, in my opinion. The clerks are friendly and do their best to help you. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, they’re quick to suggest who else in town might. They carry a lot of the same items you can find at the mall, although yes, they cost a few dollars more.

But the stores aren’t crowded, and your fellow shoppers know how to say, “excuse me, please,”, “thank you very much”, and “here, let me get the door for you”.

No one had what I was seeking, but when I made my final stop at the largest store in town—one that has been around for more than a generation and features linens—the owner tilted his head in response to my query and asked, “would a piece of canvas do?”

It’s lightweight and unbleached. I bought a piece that is one yard square. I’ve washed it, and I’m going to cut it down to the size I need. And I’ll let you all know how it works out.

If you’ve got a bit of time on your hands this Saturday evening, December 20th, from eight to ten pm eastern, I would be delighted if you would join me for my second annual “Christmas with Morgan Ashbury and friends” chat. There will be prizes and some Christmasy- thoughts, and some book excerpts. I’m being joined by Lara Santiago, Raina James, and my special guest Sharon Ashwood whose first novel is being released early next year through Signet. In those loops that will allow me to advertise a chat, the address and times are below. Otherwise, feel free to e-mail me.

Please join me for Christmas with Morgan Ashbury and friends
Saturday December 20th 8pm to 10 pm eastern at Chatting with Joyfully Reviewed

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