Confessions of a confirmed last-minute Christmas shopper

“You’re window shopping,
Just window shopping,
You’re only looking around.
You’re not buying, 
You’re just trying,
To find the best deal in town.”

—Hank Williams song lyrics

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While Ol’ Hank was singing the blues about a less than sincere girlfriend, my mournful tune about this time of the year is one of those last-minute Christmas shopping blues.

In complete transparency, I’ll confess that I’ve always enjoyed window shopping festive Christmas displays. And, yes, I am also a confirmed last-minute Christmas shopper. Selections are smaller once the popular items are sold out, and last minute discounted prices are a frequent reward for procrastinating on purchases. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Long-time Mount Pleasant friend, Susan Prewitt, shared Christmas stories recently of how foggy store windows on cold winter days still remind her of childhood Christmas shopping, elaborate Christmas decorations and displays dazzling to young eyes. “I remember a couple of years in a row,” she said, “Cortez Boatner had a Santa’s workshop in the front window of the furniture store. The elves moved. Wow! We loved it.”

Downtown streets of decorated store windows, each one a winter wonderland for starry-eyed youngsters gazing at Santa’s scenery, are fewer today. Among the lawyer’s offices, financial institutions, antique shops, restaurants and for sale signs that have replaced traditional downtown businesses, a few survivors can still be found. Victims of discount stores and online shopping have been the department stores, toy stores, and general merchandise stores that planned all year for spectacular window displays reminding Christmas shoppers that Saint Nick’s arrival was near.

Store window displays were commonplace years ago when my father spent hours on them where he worked at Perry Brothers 5¢-10¢ store. One might be bicycles and wagons, another toys, and still another perhaps household items such as dishes and glassware. When Christmas rolled around, spray snow and Christmas decorations adorned the merchandise beckoning to window shoppers seeking gift ideas.

Susan’s recollections of Christmas windows were similar to those of many from our generation. Things like riding our bicycles or walking to town. Shopping with our parents in the downtown stores with permission to strike out on our own and meet mom at the drug store later for ice cream. Pressing our noses up against the cold, foggy glass of store windows to see the Christmas toys we had carefully included in our letters to Santa.

Christmas shopping downtown with mom was fun, pretending we didn’t know she agreed to let us strike out on our own for a short time so she could find our gifts and get them in the trunk of the car without being noticed.

Shopping done and Santa letters in the mail, it was time for things like watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special on television while stretched out in the living room floor. Enjoying aromas wafting from the kitchen where mom was cooking for the company coming: aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who would be arriving in the next day or two. Pretending we didn’t see mom flavor her fruitcakes with the bottle she kept hidden in the top cabinet. Rolling up in blankets on the living room floor with all of the cousins, surrendering our beds to the adults. Waking up Christmas morning to find presents Santa had silently slipped under the Christmas tree while a dozen or more kids slumbered on the floor.

Here it is Christmas again, and I’m still window shopping. And like those before, it reminds me of Mom and how my leaning for last-minute shopping frustrated her. “Tomorrow is Christmas Eve,” she frequently fussed at me.

She never understood why I enjoyed shopping on Christmas Eve. Or why, like Ol’ Hank’s girlfriend, I was still window shopping for the best deal in town.”

Whether your shopping was completed long ago, or you are still window shopping at the last minute, Merry Christmas to you! May your Christmas be the best ever surrounded by family, friends and love! 

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—Leon Aldridge

(Image credit: Scranton Christmas Windows and the Scranton Public Library)

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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