The Black (Friday) Sheep: My reasons for refusing to hate the day of the deal

The ads have already started.  The buzz has already begun.  Husbands shiver and change the channel; children swiftly remove the circulars and burn the evidence with a backwards glance to make sure they remain alone; babies wail from the safety of their nurseries (but let's be honest, that's mainly what babies do.  If I had said "babies soil their knickers" it might not have had the same effect.) Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that most notorious of annual events is almost upon us: Black Friday.  **Somewhere, a woman screams.**  As the great philosopher Antoine Dodson advised: hide yo' kids; hide yo' wife.
Admittedly, there are some very strong reasons to dislike Black Friday: mass consumerism, greed, the horrific stories about mob mentality...and all to save a few bucks on the newest "must have" gadget or toy.  But, as I've stated before in my writings, most things in life are what you make of them.  Below, the reasons for my affection toward the craziest shopping day of the year.

Scott and I in 2005
It was 2005, and Scott and I had just moved across the country with everything we owned in a tiny trailer on the back of my trusty red '95 Honda Civic.  Our first few nights were spent on sleeping bags, with the TV between us on the floor and our one and only lamp lighting the way to our Keebler-Elf sized kitchen.  Craigslist quickly became our friend, and we had soon purchased a sofa, saggy mattress and fantastically ugly dresser for a grand total of 60 bucks.  We rescued a TV stand from the trash (along with an ironing board and another lamp) and we were living the high life.

But despite our seemingly lush lifestyle, we were still missing a few things - a means of sweeping up the multi-legged creatures that cohabited our lovely little apartment, for example.  Or, ya' know, silverware.

Enter: Thanksgiving and the kick off of holiday shopping.

Scott and I had saved up a little bit of money from his job and my background work.  I clipped coupons, and saved money from recyclables and we purchased a turkey with bonus points from the local grocery store, Food 4 Less (I bet you can tell it's classy from the name).  The morning of Thanksgiving, we got up early and ran out to purchase coffee and a newspaper.  After returning home, Scott started on the turkey, while I combed through the advertisements and made lists of stores and deals.  Several hours later, when our tiny apartment was filled with the smell of roasting meat, potatoes, vegetables and pie, Scott, my mom (who had flown in to spend the holiday with us) and I settled in to watch holiday specials on TV and review our plans for the next day.  Though it was the most humble holiday we have ever had together, it was also one of the most joy and thanks-filled.

The next morning, at 4:30 AM (yes, we were that crazy), the three of us woke and dressed, and climbed bleary-eyed into my little red Civic sleigh and began making the rounds.  We visited a Michaels (for a few holiday decorations and some wrapping paper), a Target (for blankets), the mall (for a few Christmas gifts) and, yes, even a Walmart (for a vacuum cleaner, silverware and our very first Christmas tree).  We hustled through the stores looking for doorbusters and deals, giggling like we were kids on a treasure hunt.

And while it might have happened SOMEWHERE, for us, there was no pushing or shoving - no punching, trampling or mass hysteria.  In fact, if anything, there was a sense of camaraderie.  Long lines led to conversations about traditions and jokes about leftovers.  Strangers informed one another of good bargains and exchanged ideas about where to go next.  Instead of a Colosseum-worthy battle, the day felt more like a 5K with neighbors.  And by 10:00 AM, we had wrapped up our shopping, stopped at a diner for breakfast,  and were headed back home for long happy nap.

We probably will never have another Black Friday quite like that one.  Our need (thankfully) is not as great, and, with the gaining popularity of Cyber Monday there's less reason to leave the comfort of our home.  But Scott and I still wake up early on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  We stop at a few stores to enjoy the hustle and bustle and then get some breakfast at a local diner.  If we're not feeling up to the early morning, we get breakfast first and then head to a mall midday, when the crowds are gone, and just wander around looking at Christmas decorations. 

Of course, I still enjoy the shopping aspect.  But that's not what it's about for Scott and me.  For us, the day has become a second day of thanks: a time to reflect on how far we've come and how blessed we are.  Maybe I see the day through a sepia toned lens that diminishes the motives of the majorities.  I recognize that possibility and, frankly, I'm okay with it.  You see what you want to in this life.

But that single moment, however fleeting,  when I scan the crowd and catch young couple huddled together with their list of needs and their plan of attack; their excitement over an item that they might not be able to afford otherwise - it makes me smile.  And it makes 4:30 am once a year, worth it.

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