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Luskin: Not Shopping

Thanksgiving is the Big Holiday at our house, the one my kids attend with their partners in return to spending Christmas away. In addition to the traditional turkey, we have our own traditions, including a Big Project. This year, it’s augmenting a stonewall. And if weather permits, we’ll light up the night with a bonfire, burning all the brush accumulated over the year. The Thanksgiving feast is just one part of what’s turned into a house party that lasts most of a week and involves lots of meals, walks, Scrabble and talk.

It does not include either football or shopping. We don’t watch football because we don’t have TV, and we don’t shop because all we really need is time together, and maybe a few supplies for the next meal.

There’ve been Thanksgivings when my husband, a physician, has had to work. Other years, we’ve had snow, and the guys who plow spend the holiday in their trucks. But these workers providing essential services are the exception rather than the rule. Thanksgiving’s a day most people have off to feast and rest before Black Friday, the day the hectic holiday season officially begins.

This year, Macy’s, Walmart and Target have plans to open on Thanksgiving Day. Under pressure, other retailers are following suit, including at least two mall owners who are threatening to fine those tenants who don’t. What this means, of course, is that retail workers and sole proprietors of small shops will no longer have Thanksgiving Day off unless they live in Maine, Massachusetts or Rhode Island, where seventeenth-century laws still forbid retail sales on Thanksgiving. These blue laws originated as a way to enforce church attendance, not leisure.

I’m not generally a proponent of blue laws, but I do like leisure, and by opting out of Christmas shopping, I’ve been enjoying nearly empty galleries at nearby museums every December, which is a good time of year to stay indoors. Vermont is rich in museums large and small, with both general and specialized collections, from astronomy to Vermont marble. These are places to learn about the natural world, about history, and to view art. I’ve even crossed state lines to visit museums in nearby cities that were once industrial capitals. Manchester, New Hampshire and Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts, all have splendid museums with remarkable collections of fine paintings and artifacts, as does The Athenaeum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

And in a way, museuming is a bit like shopping: I get to look at things I don’t need and by looking, discover what it is I like. The big difference, though, is that at a museum, nothing in the collection is anything I can buy.

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator.
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