Where we have been, and where we are now.

Where we have been, for the last year, has been a place that is all too familiar for our family.

The grief of losing yet another beloved parent, or grandparent.  The solemn procession through this first, most difficult year of life lived with a hole in it.  A hole in the shape of my husband’s mother, my daughter’s grandmother, my other-mother, and friend.

Drawing on our previous experiences when my mom lost my dad  – TW & I knew that his father needed to have a purpose every day.  So, we have added him to our family table every night; promptly at 5:00 pm, he lets himself in, hangs up his jacket, washes his hands at the kitchen sink, and then helps set the table, or chop the salad, or makes the coffee.

As expected, it was a bit awkward at first, but as time passed, a rhythm developed, and now he is missed on those rare evenings when he dines with one of TW’s other siblings.

DIL/Dad cried at Christmas.  Only here, at our home; only in front of us did he bare his grief.  TW & I had such mixed emotions; relieved that he trusted us enough to grieve so openly, but so very hurt that we had no way of absorbing his pain.  And again, on her birthday.  Valentine’s Day was his first alone in 60 years.  Mother’s Day was especially difficult; he didn’t know what to do with himself.  Sensing this, TW invited him over to help prepare dinner for me.  He arrived bearing a beautiful azalea bush, and we planted it in a shady corner of the front garden.

Now, we are almost at that terrible first anniversary.  In short order, we will have Father’s Day, then, two days later will be the anniversary of MIL’s death, and DIL’s birthday (the very next day).

However, instead of being sad, Dad has found – or should I say rediscovered – a purpose.

You see, I’m going back to work.

At my dream job.

Some of you may remember that I tried to work for a short time, in 2012.  I had found my dream job – literally – and could not have been happier had I tried.  The icing on the cake was that I was able to telecommute.  I worked from home, in a lovely office with windows that faced a garden, and walls lined with books, and one cat sleeping on top of my laser printer, and other in the windowsill.

But it was hard on TW & Twinks; they found it jarring & unexpected. When MIL asked me to help, knowing that she had so little time left..  I quit the job, knowing that I could not bear to let down my Team at work – let alone my team at home.  I knew I could not help her die, and not have it affect my work.  And I knew it was going to affect our home.  I had no choice.

I cried, every day for the next year.  Literally.

I missed that job so much.  It was the only job I have ever been hired for where I felt like I truly fit.  It was like some HR fairy somewhere had tailor-made a job just for me.

A year ago, after we lost MIL, I started trying to get re-hired.  I reached out to my contacts at the company, and everyone I spoke with was excited.  Yes! Re-apply!  Give us your resume’!

It took a year, but I finally got the call.  I go back to work at the end of June.

TW & Twinks – initially wary – have had time to get used to the idea.  Seeing how happy I am, how excited I am to go back to work has helped them.  I hope.  Ironically enough, in the interim, Twinks (who moved back home to help out during her grandmothesr’s final days) was hired by the same company to work at a local location – her job is different from mine; no telecommuting, she works directly with our customers.  So ⅔ of our household will work for the same employer.  I love the way my life works out sometimes.

When DIL found out that I was going back to work, he decided that he was going to build me desk.

Not just any desk, but one that was custom-made.  He drew up plans, and has ordered in lumber, and soon I will have a Mission/Art Deco style desk, tailor made to my specifications.

For years, DIL has built furniture.  Beautiful, sturdy, wood furniture, typically in the Mission style, but he also loves Shaker, Art Deco, and what he calls “Farmhouse”.  He is a true craftsman – no one enters our home without commenting on the furniture he has made.  TW’s siblings all have treasured pieces as well.  Twinks, being the first grandchild, has the largest collection.  A dresser he built for her while I still pregnant.  A hope chest he made – began literally the day he first held her – with her name beautifully carved into the front.  An end table to hold her beloved books.  A doll cradle.  And more.

During the last years of MIL’s life, he had shoved his woodworking tools and supplies to one side of the garage.  He had no interest in building things.  His focus was on his beloved wife.  His world shrank to fit neatly with hers – pills, and doctor visits, and the minutia of daily life with the elderly and infirm.

It wasn’t until this past month, when we began to have hope that I would go back to work, that he started talking about how I needed a proper desk.  At first, I was simply humoring him.  Glad that he was taking an interest in it, I encouraged him, but did not expect him to do anything.

Bringing out his woodworking tools has somehow made him stronger.  He is excited about something again – creating something new, that will last forever.

Maybe that is what is making him so happy.  Knowing that this desk will go on beyond him, beyond me, hopefully beyond Twinks, to her children.

Knowing that he won’t be forgotten.

Knowing that he has a place in the world where he is still valued, still needed.

So that is where we are now.

Building a desk.
Building (another) new future.  Another new “Normal”.

I’m still here.

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From Splintered to… Shattered

So, there we were, being thankful that the storms that had raked our fair state had (by and large) passed our area leaving no real trace or trail.

We were trying, once again, to settle into a routine – find (yet another) “New Normal” for our family, when I was reminded that any time the phone rings after 10 pm, it is never good news.

S2* was on the phone.  I greeted her warily, knowing that she was typically asleep at this hour, even on a Friday night, and certain that the sinking feeling in my core was justified.

It was.

MIL was very ill, and DIL was trying to convince her to go to the hospital.  S2 had been at their house all evening, and was now summoning our help to try and convince the parents that they should not wait until morning.

But no amount of persuasion would move MIL.  And so wait they did – but not just until the morning.  They waited all weekend, until Monday.  MIL was convinced (by some snippet she had seen on a newscast a few weeks prior) that she would die if admitted to the hospital on the weekend.  There was no moving her until Monday.

Thus we passed a miserable weekend – with no one more miserable than MIL herself.  A smoker for more than 50 years, (and convinced that if anyone ever tried to make her quit smoking she would die) she did not even try to light a cigarette.  She drank little, ate even less, and we learned that she had not had a BM in “several days”.  The brothers and sisters (and in-laws) spent most of this time texting one another, trying to find an argument that would move their mother, along with her legendary stubborness, to do something – anything.

She kept saying that she felt like her heart medicine was just “out of whack” and she just needed them to fix it, then she would be fine.  She said she was nauseated, and didn’t want to eat or drink – it just made her stomach more upset.

Monday arrived, and we packed them off to the hospital with a sense of relief.  At least now, we knew she would be in the hands of a doctor, and we would all spend a couple of days at The Big Hospital, crammed in to her room – all 14 of us in total, including the grandkids – and then she would come home.  Life would go on.

The relief was short-lived.  S2 called again – this time from the ER at the hospital.  The news was not good, and as the hours rolled by, it became worse.  She was placed into ICU, where she would stay until almost the end.

It was not the heart medicine.  Her colon was obstructed, and by the time she got to the ER, it had begun to die.  They operated – multiple times – each time leaving her open between, so that they could go in again, and again, trying every 24 hours without success to get good, clean viable ends to sew together.  But it was too late, and she literally was decaying from the inside.

The surgeon explained to DIL that her circulation was compromised from so many years of smoking.  That because she had continued to smoke even after being told that it was (literally) killing her heart, it was now also killing her other organs.

DIL was like a wounded animal.  He would stand at the foot of her bed, hands jammed deep in to the pockets of his dungarees with tears in his eyes.  He refused to go home, even though she was being kept deep in a medically-induced coma, saying that he couldn’t leave her there alone.  Nearly 80 years old, and the strain was showing on him; even the doctors and nurses were urging him to go home at night, and get some rest.

I’ve been part of this family for almost 27 years.  Because S1 and S2 both have divorced,  I hold the dubious honor of being the most senior of the in-law children.  MIL and DIL have been my extra parents; since the day that TW brought me to their home to meet them, they have treated me as one of their own.  They gave me so much love and support during those four years of caring for my own Mom.  DIL and I have always been very close especially – I think in part because I was his first “extra daughter”.

It was the 3rd day, and DIL was tired – so very tired.  I summoned one of the nurses that DIL seemed to have great rapport with, and talked to him outside MIL’s room.  This gentleman had been an Army Medic, who went on to complete his nurse’s training after his tours in the middle east.  He was a great nurse – probably one of the best I have ever personally seen in action.  We talked briefly, and I told him that I would stay overnight with MIL, if he could only persuade DIL to go home.  Nurse and S2 and I took DIL out of the room, and talked to him in the hall.  I promised DIL that I would not leave her side, and that I would stay until he was able to return in the morning.  Nurse admonished him to go home, sleep in his own bed, take a shower, eat a good meal, and not to return until the next morning.  He resisted at first, but when I pointed out that I had sat up all night many, many nights with my own mother – and so was uniquely qualified to do this job – he relented.  When he hugged me goodnight, he whispered in my ear “Tell her I love her please”.  S2 drove him home.  TW brought me my laptop, a change of clothes (it was freezing in ICU) and a snack.  The brothers and sisters all expressed their gratitude, for they too wanted someone to be with her.

ICU is not a place to try and sleep.  I didn’t try; nurses and all kinds of technicians were in and out at least every 15 minutes all night long.  Because she in was a coma and on a ventilator, they could (and would) literally perform procedures and care all night long, while the unventilated patients would be allowed to sleep.  I put the TV on low, and we watched her favorite channel.  I sang the old songs from her childhood to her – the ones that my Mom had taught me as a child, the same one I sang to my own Mom as she was dying.  I talked to her, and in our “conversations” I told her the news of the day, and where everyone was, and what was going on.  And I told her that she was loved, and that we would not leave her alone.

And it was in this fashion that she and I passed through the next many nights; the only time I would leave her room in those small, dark hours would be when they had to bathe her, or the portable x-ray machine was brought in, or some other procedure that would require me to step out into the hall.

Every morning, I would send another group text detailing what happened overnight, and I would wait to be relieved by DIL and one of the siblings, or TW.  I would go home, and try to sleep and typically fail – my phone lighting up with texts zooming back and forth between family members.  We found that DIL could remain calm by playing with TW’s iPad, so we loaded it with the apps that DIL liked best and left it at the hospital for him. 

As we went through the days, I tried to explain to TW, his siblings, and DIL that the vent was what was keeping MIL stable.  That they had to listen – and really hear – what the doctors and surgeons were saying about her condition.  That the prognosis remained poor, and that the vent was what was keeping her alive.  

Slowly, one by one, they came to that realization.  TW first, the sisters next.  The two younger brothers took longer; one holding out hope and hanging on to faith that his mother would not, could not leave before he was ready for her to go.  And then finally, on that last day, DIL stood again at the foot of her bed.  The doctors had convinced him that they had to at least turn off the vent – that it was the only way to find out if she now had the strength to breathe, to heal, to try to recover on her own.  It was the kindest way of giving DIL permission to remove the vent; I think they knew that otherwise he would never let her go.  His hands jammed deep in to his pockets, he looked at me and asked me what to do.  It was just he and I and MIL in the room; everyone else was at work.  I remember the way the early morning sun bounced around the room, coloring it a cheerful pink and gold, and thinking that it was too beautiful a morning to talk about this.

We sat together, side by side, on the sofa there in MIL’s room.  We talked about all of the possible outcomes.  We talked about what MIL would want us to do for her.  And as the minutes ticked by, and the sun rose higher, DIL was finally comfortable with the decsion.  She would come off the vent, but they would leave her intubated for now, in case she needed it later.  I sent another group text, to let everyone know, and as the doctors and nurses came in to turn off the vent, DIL and I went down to the hospital cafeteria to eat breakfast.

I didn’t go home that day.  I stayed all day, sending texts to the family members – all of whom by this point had used up their vacation and PTO.  I didn’t want DIL to be there alone; and as the day progressed, and her vital signs waned, the kids began to trickle in to MIL’s room.  By 5:00 pm we were all there, except for the grandkids, and MIL had begun to have episodes where she would stop breathing.  Her doctors assembled again, called in by the nurses because of her breathing abnormalities.  DIL stood again at the foot of the bed, this time surrounded by his kids; the doctors explaining that there was nothing more to be done; her body was nearly done fighting.   The group was silent; the doctors and nurses shifted uncomfortably.  S2 looked at me, silently mouthing the word “help!” TW squeezed my shoulder and nodded.  Finally, I took a deep breath and spoke into the void:  “So, Dad, maybe what we need to do next is Hospice”. 

Everyone looked relieved that the word had finally been said.  Head bowed, hands jammed in his pockets, shoulders bowed under the weight of his impending loss, he nodded and said “Yes.  Yes, of course.”  The doctors agreed, explained the basics of Hospice, and told us that she would be moved to another floor, to a Palliative Care/Hospice unit.  DIL needed to eat – he had refused to leave for lunch, and so B2 and I took him to eat some dinner.  We came back to find MIL had been moved to a new room, and for the first time in two weeks, all of the tubes, wires, and other equipment had mercifully been removed from her.  The nurses had bathed her, and changed her into a soft, pretty gown.  She smelled sweet, and her funny, fuzzy white hair was shining and clean.  Dad entered the room first, alone, and he sat on the bed, and gathered her into his arms for the first time in two weeks, holding her, and kissing her forehead so tenderly that everyone who saw it did it so through their tears.  We all sensed that it was likely their last embrace as well.  As it turns out, it was.

After a time, it was again,  just DIL and I sitting on a sofa.  MIL was actively dying; the episodes of apnea-like breathing were becoming more and more frequent.  He took my hand, and kissed it, and said “You need to go home.  You haven’t been home, you haven’t slept. Go home.  We can’t do anything more”.  I told him that I would go home, but we had to talk first.  I told him that it wouldn’t be long now – that I had seen this with both of my parents.  I told him that no matter what happened, she was already beyond any pain, that she was going towards her parents and her sister, and there she would wait for the rest of us.  He nodded his head, and then looked at me.  Tears streamed down his face, and he said “You know, we’ve been together almost 60 years.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do now.”  I told him the truth – that it will be hard, but we will all find our way through it, together.  The way all families do.  And that no matter what, he would never have to be alone, unless he wanted to.  He told me that they had said their goodbyes to each other just before the first of the surgeries, when she could still talk.  He choked up then, and we sat together in silence, holding hands and counting the seconds between MIL’s breaths.

The sisters came back in; they finally convinced DIL to go home, to try and sleep.  We had been told it could be hours, days, even a week before she passed.  I was going to go home, shower, change and go back to sit with the sisters through the night.  They were scared – afraid to be there, but afraid not to be.   I had been with both of my parents when they passed, and so I at least knew what to expect.  The sisters walked down to the parking garage with us, and we all went our separate ways, planning to meet in MIL’s room by midnight or shortly thereafter.

I got home, pulled my car into the garage, and laid my head on the steering wheel for a moment.  I pulled myself together, and made my way into our house.  I was going to take a shower, put on clean clothes, drive through Starbucks and go back to the hospital.

The clock in the kitchen said it was 11:45 pm.

My phone rang.

I knew.

She was gone.

She waited until everyone left the room.  Waited until she was alone to leave on her final journey.

Farewell, my other Mother.


*For a quick reference, TW has 4 siblings – two older sisters, and two younger brothers.  Yes, I married the middle child.  For the purposes of this post, we shall refer to the sisters as S1 & S2, the brothers as B2 & B3MIL = Mom in Law & DIL =Dad in Law

Spring is nearly sprung

Many years ago, Mom planted these.  “My own little harbingers of Spring!” she declared, and every year, when they bloomed, she would take a picture of them.  Then, she would hurry into the house to  call me, and I can still hear the lilt in her voice, that the green was coming back to the world, the days would stretch out in to summer again, and the cold, dreary days of winter would soon be banished.

Little yellow crocuses.  

Over the years, they have multiplied on their own, and now there are several swaths of them running through the front garden, under the library windows.  They wave their cheerful yellow heads at me in the morning, and it’s almost like Mom is standing next to me, telling me about her plans for this year’s plantings.  I never used to give a second thought to them, or to any gardening really, but after Mom came to live with us, all of that changed. 

Her very first week back, we went to the garden center, and brought home an entire car full of plants and bulbs and containers.  There were gardening gloves (because a lady never has dirt under her fingernails!) and spades, and fertilizer, and all of the accoutrement that seem to be required of a Good Home Gardener.

She loved container gardening, and so now I have all kinds of huge pots ready to be filled with flowers and green things of all kinds.  I know she despaired of me ever learning the difference between a perennial and an annual, but it matters not – I have grown to actually enjoy puttering around, moving plants to bigger pots when they outgrow their original homes, watering them, moving them from the shelter of the fence by the gate, out to the yard when the last frost has finally left for the north, along with the geese that winter here.

I have a green thumb, and no one is more surprised than I am.

Thanks, Mom.  From me, and the little yellow crocuses. 

Scratch ‘N Sniff

The catalog arrived in the mail.  It was a busy Saturday, and so it was not until after the last of the light had fallen away to the west that I sat down and opened it.

TW was puttering in the garage.  Twinks was busy at her part-time college-girl job.  And so I sat in a warm circle of lamp light, with my kittty companions nearby, and began to turn the pages.


It was from a candle company, peddling their wares.  Spring is in the air, and so are the latest scents and shapes of candles and holders and assorted candle-adjacent items in their glossy catalog.   Several places in the catalog were prominently marked as “Rub and Smell”, typically on the picture of the candle in question. 

I happily made my way through the book, rubbing and smelling here and there.  And then, I came upon the page with the lilacs.

   The human mind never fails to amaze, does it Gentle Reader?  The fact that we can store so many memories, and store them in ways that are associated not just with visual cues, or auditory cues, but also with the sense of taste and smell and touch, and even movement is fascinating.   

Absentmindedly, I scratched and sniffed, and found myself instantly transported back to a place in my childhood, when my world was simple, my worries were very few, and anything was possible.

There were lilacs that were banked on the fence that bordered the east side of my grandparent’s lawn.  My grandmother had planted them when my mother went off to college, and by the time I was a child, they were almost run wild; the very scent of a sweet spring morning to me is that of the sun, drying the dew from the lilacs.  It would creep up by the kitchen door, and wait for breakfast to be done, and then, when all that was left of the morning was the smell of Ivory Dish Soap and clean, freshly washed linens, it would meander in through the screens.  By late afternoon the house would overshadow the lilacs; their scent almost faded away, and it was as if they waited then, for the evening dew to cover them in soft, sparkly blankets, and for the sun to kiss them awake again the next morning.

The memories were so sharp, and so clear.  Tears came to my eyes, and I struggled to blink them away, sure that if I only could, I would see my grandparents standing on the porch, smiling at me.  I waited for the squeak-creak-bang of the old screen door to try and open my eyes.  I drew in another breath, and felt the gentle spring sun as I sat on the back steps, and waited for our dear old Spaniel, Pat, to amble up and push his wet nose into my hand.  I listened for parents voices, younger, stronger, happier…

But when the tears finally blinked away, there was was only me, and a silly paper catalog, with it’s scratch n’ sniff circles.  I tore out the page with the lilac “Rub and Smell” circle; I dare not buy the candle, lest I spend the rest of my days in a weepy puddle, but I can’t bear to just throw it away.  What a silly, sentimental fool I can be at times!

I know it’s been a long time.  And there is much to tell – as there always is after a great absence.  I’ll be back again soon, I promise.

Until then, I’m trying to avoid the lilacs…

IFFY, at best…

A lot of folks have been very kind to me so far this Holiday Season.

They know that it’s my first Christmas without Mom, that we are all a bit sad. Twinks and I both have a marked propensity these days to burst into tears at the most random moments. A long-forgotten ornament at the bottom of the box… A favorite Christmas Carol… Mom’s handwriting on the recipe card for the cookies we make every year…

To be honest, it doesn’t take much these days.

So, the other day, when someone asked how I was doing, I told them the truth: Iffy, at best.

I cry, I laugh, and I try to remember that this is her first Christmas with Daddy in 21 years. I try, also, to be grateful for all of our blessings. We live in a lovely, snug and cozy house. The pantry is full, as is the fridge and freezer. We have three nice cars, less debt than the average American family, we are (mostly) healthy, and our amazing daughter will graduate from high school in just a few months. We are so very lucky, in so many, many ways.

And so we put up the tree, and decorated the house. Life *does* go on, after all, and I knew that if we let these traditions lapse, we might never get them back. So, out comes the old poinsettia-print tablecloth that has graced our family’s holiday meals since 1968. There is the wreath on the door that Twinks decorated, and in the front hallway hangs the Advent calendar, counting the days until Christmas.

All of the presents have been ordered, and nearly every day, FedEx and UPS ring the bell. There are a few things here and there that I still need to take care of, but most of the shopping has been done.

And in an interesting turn of events, we will still be four at Christmas Dinner.

Twinks has a new Boyfriend. We like him, Dear Reader. He’s whip-smart, with a dry, wry sense of humor. He is a hard worker, and goes to college full-time. TW & I both like him – he fits well into our family, and he also seems to adore our shiny little Twinkle.


Good grief, Charlie Brown. That little snapshot up there is just cuteness all over the place. Its my new favorite picture.

Boyfriend is now a frequent visitor, and welcomed guest at our home. I’m really happy that Twinks has someone special to share this Holiday Season with.

Edited for this update:  The BoyFiend (as Sully re-named him) is long gone.  Too bad for him.  He broke Twinks heart, but she survived, and she will find someone even better, even nicer, even more loving.  Ha! So there!

She deserves a guy who puts her as his first priority, a guy who loves her for exactly who she is, and a guy who understands why she will always march to the slower beat, of a very different drummer.

Things can be IFFY in other ways.

Our good and precious friend, Suldog (and his lovely wife) enjoy (as do we) the Holiday Cakes of Fruity Goodness. Our personal favorite cakes come from a lil’ ol’ place down in Corsicana, Texas. Although most folks call ’em “fruitcakes”, those kids at Collin Street Bakery call *their* creations a “Pecan Cake”, because it has so many yummy pecans right there on top.

I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Anyway, because Sully is also a Fan of the Cakes of Fruity Goodness, we decided that we needed to share this with him:

Yep. The Official Seal of the great and glorious IFFY. Behold it’s awesome beauty and power.

I’m proud to be a lifetime member. You can be too! Our rules are remarkably relaxed; all you have to do is *taste* a fruited cake once a year, and proudly display the Official Seal, as pictured above.

And, should you decide to engage in Advanced Studies during your Fellowship in IFFY, you may indeed be promoted to the rank and title of:

STIFFY (which is, of course, an acronym for Seriously Thoughtful International Fellow & Fruitcake Yahoo. Geez. Get your mind out of the gutter!)

Pour yourself a nice cup of coffee, and have a little fruitcake. It’s Christmas, after all, and you can be IFFY with me!

Merry Christmas, my friends. I hope you that wherever you are, you find some fruitcake, a warm & cozy chair, and a Christmas Angel to watch over you.

Travel safely.

Thanksgiving (still) Comes First!

This is (largely) a repeat of the last two year’s TCF post.

But here it is, because I believe this topic is just that important.
May your Thanksgiving be full of love, laughter, good food, and good company!

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Most of you who come here also read my dear friend Sully.

Which means you are already familiar with the topic of Today’s Post.

The One Where Thanksgiving Comes First.

Sully wrote:

“If you believe, as I do, that Thanksgiving should play out before Christmas; that Christmas carols should not be heard on the radio before at least Thanksgiving evening; that advertisers who dare to encroach upon Thanksgiving with their hideous advertisements should be told in no uncertain terms that you will not shop at their establishments; that malls who put Santa Claus on display before Veterans Day should be made ashamed of themselves; then please consider doing what I’m going to ask of you.

Should you be as incensed as I am concerning Christmas schlock, please post a “Thanksgiving Comes First” entry on your blog. Write from the heart. Everybody who visits your blog will know how you feel. Perhaps they’ll also write about it, and so will their friends, and so on. I hope that, if enough of us do this, we might make some small impact.

Please title your post “Thanksgiving Comes First“. If we all do that, it will make a bigger impact. If you wish to reference this post, or other posts with a similar title, please do so. It isn’t mandatory. I’m not looking to drive people to my blog; I’m just trying to make a difference concerning something that truly rankles me.”

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The premise is – as with all brilliant ideas – wonderfully and delightfully simple. Thanksgiving comes first. Before Christmas. Before December. Before Santa, elves, and reindeer, packages, presents and holiday gear.

Thanksgiving comes first.

When I was a child, one of the things I looked forward to most was December 1st, when – as if by magic – all of the stores were suddenly bursting with Christmas goodies. Overnight the stores were transformed, and they went from being regular old department stores to Winter Wonderlands, decorated with shiny tinsel, and piles of white, fluffy soapflakes that doubled for snow. Christmas music would fill the air – even on the sidewalks, you could hear Steve & Edye singing “The Christmas Waltz”, and Julie Andrews warbling “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. There was new merchandise, too; exotic gift items that were only seen during the Holiday Season. It was all so exciting and glamorous to my little self.

But before all of that – before we donned our gay apparel to brave the stores, and buy our tree – before that?

Thanksgiving comes first.

Thanksgiving is more than just the unofficial start of the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving is, in and of itself, an important holiday event. But increasingly we are rushing through (and even past) Thanksgiving in the run up to Christmas. Not only are we losing the meaning, and the traditions of Thanksgiving in the rush to Christmas, but we have cheapened and diluted everything about Christmas as well.

Thanksgiving comes first.

Many years ago, I was a retail manager. Later, I was a retail buyer – a purchasing agent for a small, local chain of three stores. I understand, perhaps better than most, the mechanics by which merchandise will arrive in the stores at the appropriate time for the season.

Which is why I am uniquely qualified to tell you something:

The reason – the one and only reason that Christmas-related merchandise shows up in your local shopping venues in October (and increasingly September) is simply that “retail experts” have found that we (the buying public) buy more Christmas stuff the longer it is displayed. They create a false sense of urgency – putting out the merchandise early so that shoppers will believe they must buy NOW or risk never having that Christmas Widget (at a special “pre-season” sale price, of course). And, as stores have learned how to tighten inventory levels so that there is less and less chance of the big after-Christmas clearance sales that the American consumer has come to know and look forward to… shoppers feel even more pressure, believing that if they don’t buy it when they see it… they will have lost the chance forever.

Thanksgiving comes first.

Originally, there was another reason for taking early delivery of seasonal merchandise. Some distributors used to offer heavy discounts to retailers willing to take early delivery (and thereby make early payment for) seasonal merchandise. This meant that a a retailer might well accept delivery as early as October for goods that would not be displayed until December. Until the rise of discount merchandisers (like Wal-Mart), most stores would simply hold those things until the APPROPRIATE time, and then display them. Once discount merchandisers began to put out whatever was in the warehouse – because “you can’t sell it, if they can’t see it” – then the inevitable creep of Christmas backwards into autumn began – and continues to this day.

Thanksgiving comes first.

Regardless of how, or why, we are a nation on the verge of losing something very precious. I don’t want to see Christmas trees next to Halloween pumpkins at the store. I don’t want to shop for Labor Day picnic supplies, and see paper plates and napkins embossed with Christmas designs. I want Christmas in December. And before that, I want Thanksgiving in November – with Pilgrims and pumpkins and turkeys, oh my. I want each season in it’s turn, and along with it, all of the traditions and meaning attendant to that season.

Thanksgiving comes first.

Read Sully’s post – and read the posts of his other faithful friends, too. Think about it, and then I encourage you to spread the word as well. The wonderful, amazing, remarkable thing about America is that if enough of us stand up and say that Thanksgiving comes first, something might actually happen.

Sully’s previous posts:

2007: Thanksgiving Comes First2008: Thanksgiving Comes First
2008: A Gentle Reminder
2009: Thanksgiving Comes First
2010: TCF – The Last Roundup
2011: Thanksgiving Comes First – The Final Roundup