My Favorite Things: Why It's Okay to Miss Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Yesterday when I opened my e-mails, I had no less than 30 Cyber Monday deals. This is remarkable -- and a waste of cyber ink -- because I shop online roughly as often as Lady Gaga avoids the spotlight. Nonetheless there were deals from GearBuzz and Tilly's and Amazon. Even the venerable National Geographic Society got in on the act. Perhaps hoping to prod me, many of the ads incorporated CAPITAL letters, with subtle reminders like "YOU CAN'T MISS THIS", "ONE DAY ONLY," and "LAST CHANCE TO BUY NOW." After running down this column of emails I felt desperately as if I were missing something. When I realized that something was an empty Inbox, I felt better.

Yesterday when I plucked the newspaper up off our driveway, there was a sticker affixed to the front. It read...

"Today's To Do List
Pick up more lights
Buy bows and ribbons
Drink gingerbread lattes
Gift for Mom and Dad
Order sugar cookies
Find organic kale & ale
Watch Sunday football "

I'm not sure when the holidays became a "To Do" list. Maybe they always have been (To do. Find Shelter. Find Food. Stay Alive). I do know the sing song nature of the list on the sticker brought another list to mind.

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It begins like this...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Before I get sued for copyright infringement, I'll identify the words as the opening of the song "My Favorite Things." No doubt, many of you know the song. It was originally written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for the musical "The Sound of Music": a short while later, it was sung beautifully by Julie Andrews in the 1965 movie of the same name. Since then, "My Favorite Things" has been performed by everyone from John Coltrane to Carrie Underwood. Because it has references to winter, you hear it a lot at Christmas. That's nice, because it's a lovely song, with beautiful imagery. However my favorite thing about "My Favorite Things" involves something subtler.

After I deleted my emails, I was still barraged with Cyber Monday consumer news items. They told me that Cyber Monday was the best day of the year to buy tools and hardware and shoes, socks, and tanks (I hope they meant tank tops) for the whole family, and even though Black Friday might have provided more deals for large appliances, Cyber Monday offered more jaw-dropping discounts for washers, dryers, refrigerators, and freezers. I was also informed that NOW was the time to buy entertainment like movies, trilogies, and TV series.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

The internet was also filled with Black Friday and Cyber Monday news. There were brawls at Walmart. There were helpful articles. One titled "6 tips to avoid being trampled on Black Friday: It's time to bust out your inner survivalist" advised I not eat too much Thanksgiving dinner so that I might "run past the people who had three pieces of pumpkin pie." Another invaluable piece of advice was to dig through the laundry hamper and "find something that's been in there awhile. The worse you smell, the more likely people will stay out of your way and you can stroll around the stores in peace." I am not making this up. There were also videos ("Stunning Video: Woman Tasered in Black Friday Melee") and intriguing specials on one-of-a-kind gifts like the GirlyGoGarter, "the smart, sexy garter with pockets that securely holds your phone, cash, credit card, ID, lip gloss and more!" I'm sorry, is that a goiter on your thigh?

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

"My Favorite Things" is an old song. I don't think I long for the past -- I like it right here and now -- but sometimes I wonder if things have irrevocably changed. I have a hard time imagining my father bopping a stranger in the nose while the two of them grappled over a beanie baby. Sometimes I wonder what kind of holiday shopping experience our sons' children will have.

It is true, I am no shopping expert: as Cyber Monday tick-tick-ticks away, I am writing this instead of shopping. Nor am I above the commercialism of the season. I will shop for (overpriced) gifts for the ones I love, although I will wear clean clothes when I do. It is true, too, that even now I am assuaged with some doubt. If today is THE LAST DAY TO GET ONCE IN A LIFETIME DEALS ON MOVIE AND TELEVISION ENTERTAINMENT maybe I have made a grave mistake, although I also remember the many times I have entertained myself without a remote.

This is the real reason I always smile when Julie Andrews or John Coltrane or Carrie Underwood croons down the list of "My Favorite Things."

These things, they will be available long after Black Friday and Cyber Monday are gone. I'm betting you noted their price tag, too.

About the Author

Ken McAlpine’s latest book “Together We Jump” was praised by Sunset Magazine as “lyrical, evocative and deeply moving…a luminous American novel.” He is based in Ventura, California.
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