As we approach Thanksgiving, I see more indignant posts and memes condemning stores opening on Thanksgiving. At least a smidgen of bile gets thrown at Walmart because they keep their stores open. I get it. I truly do. I am married to a spouse who works for a retail pharmacy, and he works many holidays.
I am creative about accommodating his work schedule to celebrate holidays and special occasions. On birthdays, we throw the party as soon as we wake up before Papa heads to work for a long shift. Cake for breakfast is a kid's fantasy, and our kids adore this tradition. The Christmas season lasts throughout the month of December and can be celebrated on two different days, so it's easier to work around their father's work schedule.
Thanksgiving has been more challenging than the other holidays. It sucks when he works on Thanksgiving. Traveling far to my family is too difficult, and my in laws don't celebrate it. It's lonely to have no extended family or friends to sit around a full table of home cooked food enjoying each other's company. Nobody to laugh with about your pants fitting too tight. Nobody to debate over whether pumpkin, apple, or pecan pie is the best. Nobody to exchange that knowing eye roll when the football game is turned on. No warm hugs from loved ones you have not seen in awhile. No talk about future plans for the Christmas holiday. And even family feuds are missed on those quiet Thanksgivings spent alone.
One particular Thanksgiving, I decided to create a new tradition to turn around this feeling of sadness. This would be the day we would decorate the Christmas tree. Problem was that we owned no Christmas tree. Determined to bring some joy to the day I packed my toddler into the car, and I drove to the one store I knew would be open.
We went to Walmart. Cue the groans of disapproval. Yeah, I know I am a Target girl myself, but Walmart was the only store open. This was long before the days of Black Friday encroaching on Thanksgiving, and the store was almost deserted.
Talk about a chance to feel sorry for myself, but I had my little girl with me and we were going to find a Christmas tree. We looked through the trees and being practical I knew a small, modest one would be easier to assemble by myself. As we checked out, the cashier and I chatted happy to exchange smiles on this day where we probably weren't where we wanted to be, but we were making the best of it.
At home, I turned on the Christmas music, pulled out the box of ornaments, and assembled the tree. My toddler enchanted by it all. I selected unbreakable ornaments to decorate the tree. She rearranged those ornaments, so they were all properly lined up hanging on the bottom branches of the tree. The Christmas tree lights twinkled all day long. As she played with the tree, I decorated the rest of the home. Our lonely Thanksgiving turned into a day of magic and beauty by that two foot, artificial tree.
Almost a decade later, we still decorate that little tree on Thanksgiving Day if we are celebrating at home. Now, I have four children instead of only my one little girl. The kids still like to rearrange the ornaments throughout the season, but they have learned to space them more evenly throughout the tree. The chances of the tree getting knocked down reduces each year. They have stopped playing with the light cords, but there are arguments about who gets to plug in the lights each evening. Now, I can put presents under the tree because they won't rip open the packages before Christmas Day.
And each year I suggest we buy a different tree, a real tree or maybe a bigger one. So far, they insist on keeping our humble tree. That same Christmas tree I chose on a day where I felt lonely. On Thanksgiving Day, Walmart was the only store open where I could buy a tree. That little tree gave us a reason to celebrate. So, I say, Thank you, Walmart. Thank you to the workers that kept that store open perhaps sacrificing family time, perhaps wanting to earn extra money, or perhaps having nowhere else to go but work that day. Thank you for our modest Christmas tree that brought joy to us on Thanksgiving and the years beyond.