Gather round the warmth of the external monitor, children, or bask in the glow of an open refrigerator if you’re overheated. I have a cozy Yuletide story for you, and it’s about how I miss the country America used to be in 1999.
When I was just a girl, the day after Thanksgiving was all about jarring applesauce, stocking up the dirt-floored cellar with potatoes and alliums for the winter, darning socks, and waiting outside Best Buy at 11:59 to bum rush the automatic doors for a good deal on the Wild Thornberrys game for Gameboy Color.
Black Friday used to be simple. But institutions evolve, and as of late, the spirit of Black Friday appears to extend throughout the post-Thanksgiving weekend. The new millennium saw the introduction of Cyber Monday, of course, and then a few years ago someone just decided to add something called Giving Tuesday to the mix (“It’s giving Tuesday,” you say into your phone, as a joke to yourself, like a prayer). But now that the fake holiday floodgates are open, I can’t get enough. I find myself upset that after five straight days of clearly defined goals (be thankful, buy, buy online, “give”), the Humpday after Thanksgiving rolls around and the celebration of commerce grinds to a halt. I’m so sad, I don’t even want to hump.
That’s why every year starting tomorrow, I will be celebrating Online Returns Wednesday. It’s a secular holiday, but it is also in keeping with the November/December traditions of spending time on the iPad and yelling at your mom. It’s a day of reflection. Who was the version of me who took to Instagram and bought this pair of boiler suit-inspired linen shorteralls, and where did she go? Will I ever install the 72-inch roll of pet-proof screening I bought after a small incident in the night a few months ago? It takes up room in my closet, and it’s still shrink-wrapped. I won’t. I’ve never had deft hands.
The holiday also allows us to confront our patterns and set new intentions for the coming year. Could you do with less? Or, even better, could you take the money that goes back onto your debit card and spend it on other, different things? I call this ritual of self-reflection The Two Questions.
Online Returns Wednesday is a day to learn how to turn your printer on for the second time in a year and get those shipping labels secured onto the cardboard boxes piling up next to your front door. If you don’t have a printer, you can use mine. It never really worked, and it made me cry before I went to the DMV two weeks ago, and I could return it I suppose, but it’s a meaningful centerpiece, in the way menorahs and trees and tablescapes serve their respective holidays.
The walk to the UPS store to drop off returns is often difficult, but you can get a little treat at Starbucks after. Call it tradition, children, and remember me when I’m gone.