I survived Black Friday. And Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Got through the whole weekend and most of my gift list, without exceeding my holiday shopping budget. I'm very proud of myself, staying within budget throughout the frenzy.
Christmas shopping used to be my favorite seasonal activity. I enjoyed the challenge of finding the perfect gift for each recipient, even in the lean years, when creative thinking made up for lack of cash. One year, my only purchase was a stack of origami paper, which I folded into miniature floral arrangements and customized displays.
Then, in 1999, my father died of pancreatic cancer a week before Christmas. I did no shopping at all that year, and for the next several years I went through the holidays on autopilot.
There are some wounds that time cannot heal, but it does serve well as an anesthetic. A decade after my father's passing, I felt ready to rejoin the legion of holiday shoppers. I decided to do it in a big way, by braving my first Black Friday. It was also my last, or so I said at the time.
In the Wal-Mart chaos, surrounded by veteran BFers working in teams and jostling past rookies like me, I felt like "Alice Through the Looking Glass." I'd never seen Mauians behave like that. Later, standing in the more orderly but much slower lines at Macy's, I had lots of time to observe and ponder how much Maui had grown in my lifetime.
In the 1960s, before Black Friday existed, every Friday was a shopping event. That was the only day of the week the stores stayed open until 8 p.m. And nothing was open Sundays. But on Friday nights, Kahului Shopping Center was the place to be. Under the monkeypod trees.
You could shop in Wailuku town on Friday nights, too, and during the holidays, high school bands and church choirs would perform on Market Street, in front of First Hawaiian Bank. The Wailuku Christmas Parade was a highlight of the year, led by Santa on a fire engine, tossing peppermints and hard candies to the crowd lining Main Street. The Baldwin High School Band always marched in pajamas and nightcaps.
One holiday season, when I was 7 or 8 years old, the big Wigwam store in Honolulu opened up a temporary shop at the back end of Kahului Shopping Center, between Robin's and Music Sales. Remember their jingle? It was more of a chant, really, with native drums beating out the rhythm: "Your dollar buys more, your dollar buys more, your dollar buys more at the Wigwam store. Wigwam! (Pah-pah pum-PUM!)"
We kids were thrilled to have Wigwam on Maui, even for just a few weeks. I guess they might have carried grown-up gifts as well, but all I remember seeing were rows and rows of bins filled with toys. It was a dream come true. You see, boys and girls, back in the olden days, there was no toy store on Maui. No Kay Bee Toys or Toys R Us. We got our Lincoln Logs and Barbies from variety stores like Ben Franklin, Kress and National Dollar, where Mom bought household goods. Drug stores like Toda's and Craft's also stocked a shelf or two with toys and games.
I don't remember whether they were given by the Wailuku merchants, the Kahului Town Association or another organization, but I loved the traditional goodie bags we received each year. The brown paper bag always contained an apple, an orange, a few unshelled nuts, and several pieces of Christmas candy - fancy ribbon candy, if you were lucky. No matter what, though, the unwrapped candies always got sticky and ended up all stuck together.
This year, I think my inner elf is finally back in the game. I actually enjoyed shopping on Thanksgiving night and through the weekend. Standing in line at Macy's, I recalled the time my father took me there to help him pick out a gift for Mom. It was the brand-new Liberty House back then, and I was so pleased that he trusted my teenage fashion sense. That was one of the best father-daughter afternoons we ever spent.
I'll be doing more gift shopping and reminiscing this Friday. Wailuku First Friday features the return of the Christmas Parade, this time with the award-winning Maui High School Marching Band. Santa will be there, of course, with or without firetruck, and the evening's entertainment includes renowned jazz musicians Jeff Kashiwa and Bill Heller, with Maui's own Le Gruv. I'm looking forward to roaming Market Street with the spirit of Christmas Past and the joy of Christmas Present. And my shopping list.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.