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Once upon a time, it was my custom to join millions of other wallet-heavy shoppers in the mad rush known as Black Friday. You have to understand that this phenomenon in those days actually began and ended on a particular Friday, namely the day after Thanksgiving each year. Thanksgiving Day was spent with family, stuffing our bellies to the point of pain, and then lounging around to recuperate from that activity.

By Friday morning, though, we were rested and fully fit. We hit the department stores and five-and-tens, carting small versions of ourselves to sit on the laps of fat men in red suits (or maybe men in fat red suits) and scanning every aisle in hopes of finding a really great bargain on a Christmas gift for Uncle Harry. We purchased tree lights and icicles and angel hair. Our bags were filled with wrapping paper and ribbons. We spotted red-and-white banners that said CHRISTMAS TREES ARRIVING DECEMBER 14TH!

We didn’t have malls in those olden days. There were shopping centers. A shopping center consisted of two or more department stores and maybe a few little stores. That was enough, really, because we only bought what we could pay for. No, I really mean pay for, as in cash money. It didn’t take long to empty your wallet when there were gifts to be bought.

In those days it was fun. Well, to begin with, I had a whole lot more energy for such entertainments when I was thirty. I also had small children, for whom I was determined to provide, every year, the very best Christmas ever. Hours and hours of shopping and wrapping was a small price to pay. Aching feet would get better after a while. It was all worth it.

These days our life runs along at a much softer pace. If I miss out on today’s bargains—Absolutely Lowest Prices of the Season—I’m pretty sure there will be another sale next week. Different words, maybe, but somehow, they’ll do their best to coax me out there. In the meantime, I’m taking today to work on my list of Christmas cookies for this year: all the old favorites, and probably a few dozen (or a few dozen dozen) drawn from the internet. I’m deadheading some of the roses; I’m watering the potted plants on the patio and thinking that maybe 80° at the end of November brings its own problems. I plan to take a nap as soon as I work up the energy to go lie down.

Christmas will be here soon. It will arrive with or without my monetary contributions to the season, so I’ve decided that from here on in, it will be “Gray Friday” each year at this time, a chance to rest and reflect on the idea that the year is aging, and so am I.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.