It’s almost Thanksgiving, and eleventh hour grocery shoppers are gearing up for the big feast. I remember pushing my cart amid the throng the year of the canned pumpkin shortage. OMG! Convinced that our holiday table would not be complete without pumpkin pie,
I bought the genuine article and set to work on it. After hacking the thing in half, scraping out a zillion slimy seeds, steaming it in the oven, scooping out the flesh, and pureeing it to the consistency of Libby’s,
I stirred it together with the other ingredients, poured it into a home-made crust, and baked it into a golden masterpiece that sat, untouched, on the dessert table. What people went crazy for was the completely unconventional chocolate torte with raspberry drizzle. I didn’t blame them; given the option, the pilgrims and Indians probably would have done the same. Perhaps folks had simply grown weary of tradition and were ready to embrace a new way of doing things.
Inspired by this pioneer spirit, I decided to readdress my own habits regarding Black Friday and Christmas shopping in general. I recalled a recent visit with an elderly friend. As I got up to leave, I noticed it was raining and lamented that I had forgotten my umbrella. “I have extras,” she said. “Come and pick one out.” I followed her down the hall and she opened a closet that contained a pile of umbrellas in a variety of colors. Other shelves were laden with containers of dusting powder, tubes of hand lotion, scented candles, flashlights, pairs of gloves, and plush throw blankets still zippered in their original plastic cases. “I tell my family and friends I don’t need anything, but they buy it anyway,” she said, by way of explanation. “I could open my own Mini-Mart!” We laughed about it, but she had a point. I asked if there was some other gift she would have preferred. “A visit?” she replied. “It gets lonely in this big old house by myself. Or a slice of homemade pie… Kroger’s is alright, but it’s just not the same.” So on that Black Friday, instead of going shopping, I placed a generous wedge of my masterpiece pumpkin pie on a plate, added some freshly whipped cream, and drove over to surprise her. You would have thought she won the lottery. The heart-warming memory of her beaming smile was the motivation for many “alternative” gifts in the years that followed, including a donation to Operation Smile in honor of my nurse peeps. After all, what trinket from the Mall could possibly compare with the smile of a child who’s been given a new lease on life? Or a backpack of food for a struggling family? Shelter on a winter night? Warm mittens on a pair of cold little hands? The chance at an education and a brighter future? Make this the year you break tradition. Invest in hope and share the magic. Go for the chocolate torte — you know you want to.
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