I have mixed feelings about Black Friday. On the one hand, I think it's crazy to go wait in line outside Best Buy or the Wal-Fart at 2a.m. when it's 12 degrees outside just to buy cheap electronics. On the other hand, with the economy in its fragile state, I want Black Friday to go reasonably well so the recession doesn't get worse. So I'm not necessarily going to judge Black Friday shoppers; I just don't want to take part in it.
(There was once a couple of years ago when I ended up at Macy's twice on Black Friday. My parents were visiting for Thanksgiving, and my mom wanted to do a little shopping. One place we went was Macy's, where we found some clothes for the kids on sale. Then later that day my dad discovered he had failed to pack any underwear in his suitcase...so back to Macy's we went, because it was closer than Target!)
Today begins the Holiday Season, at least in my view. I'm thinking about Christmas presents (and Anya's birthday is in a couple weeks!). Every year, I try to be a conscientious and responsible consumer by making some gifts and buying from local sources and local businesses. It's hard to do this without getting preachy and high-horse about it. After all, there's no denying that I'm a consumer, too. We have our fair share of toys and electronics and clothes around here.
I just started reading the new book Radical Homemakers (check out the website of the same name here) I'm not too far into the book, but so far I find it both reassuring and inspiring, for the most part. (Unfortunately, it's already overdue at the library, so unless I want to pay a giant overdue fine I need to return it and wait in line again to check it out.) Anyway, the basic premise of this book is that homemaking is a valid, productive and valuable choice of occupation. Someone has to raise the kids, prepare the meals, fix stuff that breaks, clothe the family, etc, and in a world where rampant consumerism is destroying the planet, the work at home might as well be done in a way that is ecologically sustainable and fulfilling and builds community. For some people, like many featured in the book, this means acquiring some pretty hardcore homesteading skills: living off the land, bartering services and, in some cases, rejecting public education and health insurance. (I admit I have a big problem with those last two things, but I won't argue that people aren't free to make those choices). For people like me, Radical Homemaking (I'm loving this term, by the way) isn't as extreme, but it gives me the affirmation that my lifestyle choices like hanging clothes outside to dry and making bread by hand and buying just about all our food locally are not a waste of time. Not that I think my life is a waste of time, mind you, but it's reassuring to know that there is a growing movement of people who place real value in this work, even though it doesn't pay me a salary. Also, it turns out a lot of us homemakers have bigger goals in life than sweeping floors and baking bread.
So while some Americans are out there shopping until they proverbially drop and the retailers call the day a success and the stock market has a little bounce, I guess that's good. But I'm spending Black Friday at home with my kids. We're making a grand mess with the toys, playing hide-and-seek, making dinner, doing laundry...all that stuff we need to do to make the household run a little more smoothly.