Holiday nostalgia

Photo by JOE BARATY

Unlike Christmas shopping of yesteryear, online shopping doesn’t offer the big window displays and holiday charm of the big department stores.

By JOE BARATY

Enter the Wild

I’m sitting here in my office peering out the window to what seems like the 10th consecutive day of cold, miserable rain. Any thought of a “wild” excursion outdoors to write about is nowhere close to becoming a reality for me. So I have settled into the only wild adventure I can think of on a cold, wet December night … Christmas shopping on Amazon.

For years I have attempted to not succumb to the wiles of online shopping. I always felt that it was somehow eating away at the spirit of Christmas and stealing what should be indelible memories of the holiday shopping experience.

But I began to realize that my fond memories of shopping at Christmas were now a thing of the past; foreign to a new generation. Young people today have no concept of Christmas void of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the likes of Ebay and Amazon.

As I peruse the latest online marketing temptation, a plethora of worthless goods called “12 Days of Deals,” I find myself reminiscing about the Christmas of my youth. So let me warn my readers right up front — if you are under age 50, the things I am about to say may cause a great deal of head-scratching and puzzlement. To others, it may just provide a smile.

You see, it’s not just a scene from an old black and white movie. There really was a time when large department stores competed with elaborate holiday window displays. I still have vivid memories of going to a store called Hutzlers in Baltimore to stand out front with dozens of other kids and be mesmerized by mechanical reindeer in the snow.

We never did a whole lot of shopping at Hutzlers — mind you, that store was a bit rich for my family’s wallet. Instead we would pack into the car after enjoying the display and head off to Sears, E.J. Korvette or the thrifty and ever popular F.W. Woolworth store. They would all have their own Christmas displays, just not of the same caliber.

There were no shopping malls; there were very few actual shopping plazas, just a lot of specialty stores in various locations around town. Our family shopping experience, therefore, always involved lots of car riding and outdoor walking.

So just like in the old movies, all the kids would be bundled up in coats, scarves, hats and gloves, even boots if we were lucky enough to get some snow. And yes, shopping for the perfect Christmas tree was indeed the highlight of the entire evening.

They did have artificial trees back then — I’m not quite that old — but you wouldn’t be caught dead buying one of these oddball creations. Back then they truly looked artificial. If you stepped back about a hundred yards, they reasonably resembled a real tree.

Instead, we would head off to a neighborhood tree lot instead to pick out our own perfect specimen. In reality these lots probably only kept a couple dozen trees in inventory. But in my childhood memory, it was a forest of trees. Whether it happened or not, my memory had us running up and down long aisles of tall evergreen — endless rows of fun. Hiding up under the largest tree we could find and making howling noises like wild wolves.

And I still, to this day, remember the aroma of pine as my Dad would take a handsaw and level off the base of our perfect family tree. It made me smile then, and I still smile thinking about it today.

Alas, enough reminiscing for this evening. It seems that Amazon has broadcasted my shopping interests across the social media highway and my Facebook account is dinging with several new “can’t pass up” sales deals. Back to reality shopping … reluctantly.



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