Straddlin’ the Fence: Making a list …

Jean Schwieder

Well, Black Friday is over and the big shopping expeditions are in full swing. It’s kind of like a marathon race that everyone is part of: Black Friday is the starting point of the Christmas shopping season and Christmas Eve is the finish. I’m not sure if there will even be winners, just survivors!

I have friends who do their Christmas shopping early in the year, watching for sales. They are the wise ones. I also know people who wait until Christmas Eve day and pick up some good bargains, but that kind of shopping makes it impossible to make a list. You would have to take what you can find.

Christmas shopping used to be really fun for me. I would take our children, one or two at a time. We would leave right after school, having something cooking slowly in the oven for the others left at home to eat for their evening meal. The Christmas shoppers got to go out to eat, maybe just to McDonald’s, but they loved wherever we went. Their lists wouldn’t be long as our children drew names, but they had friends. Also, each class in school drew names and put a price limit on the gifts.

We would go to Kings, didn’t have Kmart or Wal-Mart back then and the Newburys and Woolworths of my childhood were gone. Kings had a large toy department in its downstairs and the kids would love to shop there and dream of the things they personally wanted to get. When we got home from shopping, they would meet me in Boyd and my bedroom so they could wrap their gifts. It was better to get things wrapped immediately as we had a few “snoopers” in our family.

Knowing what everyone would be receiving did not spoil the fun of Christmas for me. In fact, it added to it. Because I knew what was in the packages I could focus on the reactions of the givers and receivers. The givers many times would be as excited as the receivers to see how the gift was accepted. How satisfying it is to see children happy because they made someone else happy. I think maybe that is what Christmas giving should always be about.

Shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas was always hectic. The stores were crowded and people were in a hurry. There were times I would get caught up in the rush, rush, rush of the shopping, but it was something I tried not to do. I felt the time spent with each child should outweigh the disadvantage of long lines. I remember one time getting to the checkout stand after standing in line for what seemed like a long time. When the clerk ask for my identification so she could accept my check I got to thinking. I told her that at this time of the year, maybe she should be the one to tell me who I was because I wasn’t sure after an evening of shopping.

I always loved to hear the Christmas music in the stores and the bells that the Salvation Army volunteers rang outside the doors of the stores. I loved to hear people wishing each other Merry Christmas.

Even though this is a time when we are busy, busy, busy and rushed, rushed, rushed, we need to take the time to be courteous, wish others Merry Christmas, take the time to stop and visit and find out how our friends are. It’s a time to remember courtesy at the checkout stand and in the aisles of the stores. A time to watch the wonder on a child’s face as he sees Santa Claus, a time to consider helping a frazzled mom with her arms full and a fussy baby, a time to listen to and enjoy Christmas music.

There is so much need in the world today. We can’t help everyone, but we can certainly try to help those in our neighborhood, in our families, strangers we bump into at stores. There are so many gifts that we can give each other that cost nothing more than a few kind words or deeds. This is a time when thoughts of others should outweigh selfish thoughts.

As we all make our lists and check them twice, maybe we should add the things that money can’t buy but love can. Let’s take the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to show love and concern. And maybe we can even continue on into January as we make our new year’s resolutions.

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at