It was 9:38 a.m. and the parking lot was already filled up. No parking left except on the grass. The occasion was the 8th Annual Hickman County Arts, Craft, and Book Fair. On this first Saturday of December, over a 1,000 people visited the fifty vendors inside the Hickman County Elementary School looking for that one special gift.
People visited with each other. Shoppers found only crafts that were hand made or signed books from the authors. The youngest vendor was 17 and she sold hair bows. The oldest vendor was 96 and she sold her book of poetry.
The day was a simple regional wide celebration of the power and wonderment of individuals finding special “Made in America” products.
Later that night, Clinton held its Parade of Lights where over 40 floats showed off the beauty of color and lights for the holidays.
Somewhere between 10:30 a.m. and 8:22 p.m., I had the first sensation of a feeling that Christmas 2012 may be different. The whole day spent in a town with one stop light, no fast food stores, and 20 miles from modern America, provided a perfect backdrop to the simplest aspect of the holidays to take over my mind. That feeling was one of holiday spirit.
For some unexplained reason, the word holiday this year seems to mean more than it did last year or the last 10 to 13 years, the energy and joy of the Arts Fair spilled over to the wonderment of watching a parade of lights. There were homemade floats that entertained as young eyes and minds took in all the splendor of being a part of a festival night.
Fast forward to yesterday - Dec. 15, Saturday in Paducah, Kentucky. Mary, my wife and editor of the West Kentucky Journal, took me Christmas shopping in the region’s largest collection of major stores and retail outlets. We traveled the 46 miles to Paducah early in the day.
Stopping at one of our favorite place, Bob Evans Restaurant, we enjoyed a great country breakfast. We had it all, eggs, home fries, biscuit and sausage gravy, coffee (lots of coffee) and sausage patties. After breakfast, we mapped out our shopping strategy.
We started our shopping spree at 11:05 a.m. By 3:25 pm we took a break. This is when we dropped anchor at Panera Bread to review our shopping list. Toys R Us, Hobby Lobby, Kohls, and Books a Million had all been our big box target stores. One more stop at K-Mart would mean we’d get home after dark.
Enjoying a cup of hazelnut coffee, I took time to review the day. Mary says I see events differently from most people. I am not sure what she means, but I do have fun using numbers and observing my fellow humans engage in life.
Several of my observations of the day: (1) People: Paducah was flooded with a new population explosion as shoppers from a 75 mile radius came to town for gifts.
(2) Money: It flowed across the board. Sales were brisk. We saw long lines at the checkout counters. Even with deep discounts, the prices at most stores were higher than last year by about 20%.This means that the after Christmas sales group will have great hunting.
(3) Spirit of the holiday. At every store, at every encounter with another person, shopping, in line, or just wandering the stores, all had a soft, almost inner glow about them. People were just friendly this year, and it felt good.
Somehow, the general mood of the shoppers felt like a scene out the TV show, Glee, where at every other scene, the entire cast would break out into a song and dance routine.
My personal analysis of all this good cheer is that the American people have been kept down too long by events in their country and the world which created a culture of mass depression.
The nation has suffered decade long wars, great economic down turns, no one going to jail over the handling of American financial resources, and home foreclosures. People are tired of fear mongering from politicians about the man in the White House and a general feeling that we the people and America were on our knees, waiting for the end days have for 10 years taken their toll on the American psyche.
Something snapped with the US presidential elections. The people voted to live again. People rejected the hateful TV commercials. They spoke to a new America that will once again become a beacon for all. The mood in the country is again alive with the promise of a good future.
Bottom line is that the population of America wants to break out of its shell of fears and become happy customers of their freedoms. They want to enjoy living a good life where it is ok to spent money on gifts for family members, loved ones or complete strangers. They simply want to dream again about what may be futures instead of dreading the dawns of war torn tomorrows.
As the grains of sand in the time jar reach the end of 2012, simple folk, poor folk, middle class folk, all are reaching out to enjoy the moment. And it is a very good warm feeling to experience. These people have seen it all and been down for way too long. They are reaching out for better. They are facing the unknown of a new year, 2013 with a smile, warm hello to strangers and wishing all to have a great new year.
As I sit writing, this inner glow feels good about this year’s holiday spirit. Of course, enjoying a glass of eggnog with a touch of Knob Creek bourbon also adds to the good spirits.
To all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!