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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Valley Walk Leads to…Well, Embarrassment…

Just a memoryThe Valley skies took a momentary breather this morning, withheld their latest deluge long enough for me to take a walk unscathed by rain. It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Valley. One thing or another, you know; we all have our “one thing or anothers” that keep us from doing what’s best for us, which in my case is to get out of the house, move around a bit, get some exercise.

It was good to get out in the rain-washed air. The Valley has settled into winter dormancy; not much going on out there these days unless you’re a commuting trumpeter swan gliding from one barren cornfield to the next. My return trip takes me by Jerald and Tina Streutkers’ old house on the corner. I stop and pick an apple off the golden delicious apple tree I’ve pruned a time or two for Jerald. I take a bite. The apple is sweet and juicy—golden deliciousy, and that sets me to thinking about Jerald, about Tina, about the days I used to walk by and see them both working in their yard and garden… about how I miss seeing them there these days. I marveled then and continue to marvel at how they used to keep that one little acre so neat and trim, always a Valley showplace, a pleasure to walk or ride past.

And it’s those thoughts that bring me to the Hallmark Store in town. I’m looking for a card to send to Jerald and Tina c/o Merrill Gardens in town, a card wishing them both a Happy Thanksgiving, let them know I’m thinking about our former neighbors. As soon as I swing open the door, I’m assaulted by Christmas. Snow globes, pricey ornaments, Christmas carol white noise, flash and glitter everywhere…Christmas cards for her, Christmas cards for him, for son, daughter, third cousin removed on your mother’s side of the family. Are dogs and cats sending Christmas cards these days? Hey, here’s a Christmas card for my dentist. Yeah, like I’m going to spend one more dollar on that fellow… Really! Pushing the envelope of holiday spirit a bit too far, a bit too soon….

But I’m here for a Thanksgiving card. “There are more Christmas cards on the other side,” a cheerful help-the consumer-spend-his money voice informs me. She’s right. Another twenty foot section of Merry Christmas greetings confronts me. Across the aisle yet more Christmas cards, boxes and boxes of them, and there on the far end of that row of shelves, scarcely an arm’s length from the sympathy cards, were the Thanksgiving cards, a generous four foot (if that) display. I know--it’s the last minute; Thanksgiving is only two days away, but still…only four feet…? (Apparently dogs and cats don’t acknowledge Thanksgiving.) A lady, one holiday ahead of me, is having problems of her own among the boxes of Christmas cards. “Looks like Thanksgiving has been given short shrift,” I complain. “Yes, they kind of kick Thanksgiving to the curb, don’t they,” she laughs. I find at the most three suitable cards, and while they’re not exactly what I’m looking for, each might do. Decisions, decisions….

I select a card whose sentiment arrives in the general vicinity of what I wish to express. I’ll only have to cross out one word and add two more. Then it’ll be just about right. I proceed to the cash register; I need to post the card today lest it be belated and encroach on the legitimate Christmas season. “Did you find what you needed?” the cheery voice asks. At this juncture I decide to stand up for Thanksgiving, be an advocate for this traditional holiday for giving thanks. Just four feet? Where’s the holiday justice here? “You certainly don’t have much of a selection in the way of Thanksgiving cards,” I reply in a tone just shy of huffiness. (Well…maybe I was a bit huffy.) Pause. Now we’re in a tone contest: hers is no longer cheerful, a bit brusque, I would say. (Yes, brusque…definitely brusque.) She looks me straight in the eye and proceeds to justify the paucity of cards in the Thanksgiving section:

“We have a customer,” she explains, “who comes in  before Thanksgiving each year and buys five hundred Thanksgiving cards for our service men and women serving overseas. This is what she chooses to do with her extra money: buy greeting cards. She doesn’t buy for herself, her relatives or friends. She buys the cards, addresses the envelopes, sees to the postage and sends them off.”

“So how big a section did you set aside for Thanksgiving, then?” I’m more tentative now. You might even say a bit subdued. “Twelve feet,”is the answer.

We’ve all had situations where we wish we’d just kept our mouths shut. I’ve just shared one of mine with you. Happy Thanksgiving from The Ripple!

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