Random Thoughts

Go Back Day

... the Sunday after Thanksgiving

by Ann Robbins Talbot

The newscaster said the Sunday after Thanksgiving is Go Back Day, the day everyone travels. College students take several days to arrive home for the feast, but they all go back on Sunday to resume Monday classes. Young adults with kids in tow go “over the river and through the woods” on Thursday and, if they do not work in the retail world, go back on Sunday for their Monday jobs. We, of a slightly older age, find that we can choose a day other-than-Sunday to go back to our normal lives after the Thanksgiving holiday.

However, I experienced Go Back Day in my own way this year. As my neighbors took advantage of good weather to trim their bushes with little white lights and hang out the wreathes that the Cub Scouts sold us around Halloween, I decided to take out my address book to start my cards. Thumbing from A to Z, I found myself going back in my mind to people I communicate with each year. Most are really pushing eighty but my mind’s eye sees a group of young energetic people finished with their formal education and ready to contribute to the world.

The second task that took me back was looking at the ornaments stored in the cellar. Just browsing through the top layer brought me to the significance of each carefully-packed decoration. Some were mementos from vacations. The raven from Alaska carrying the sun in its beak and a servant girl from Curacao displaying her brightly colored skirt share space with two Swedish gnomes from my Secret Santa who knew my heritage. I am reminded of the last time I played this game with my fellow teachers twenty-two years ago. You secretly draw the name of a person, shower that person with kindness for a week and give the person a small gift at the after-school reveal party. I was in charge that year, decided not to enter my name in the drawing and became my own Secret Santa. Every day I received an elegant gift – a fancy ornament, a lovely plant – all coming from my home. I made a collage which pegged me perfectly leading everyone to think my SS was someone on my team who knew me well. At the reveal party I was last to open my gift – a bag of coal because I had been a bad girl. I heard this story recently told by a school secretary who did not know I was the one. I have become a Christmas legend. Many of my ornaments were gifts from my students like the clothespin that is cleverly dressed as a teacher carrying a slate with gray hair done up in a bun. It looks more like me now than back then.

All this reminiscing got me thinking about some of the family traditions that have come and gone or perhaps should have been gone. Growing up we were allowed to sneak downstairs on Christmas morning to quickly grab the filled stockings and bring them back to bed. Usually Santa provided us with coloring books or comic books to occupy us until our parents decided it was time to get up. When my sons were small we changed this “rule” to singing “Happy Birthday, dear Jesus” before anyone could go downstairs and we have continued this tradition over the telephone. In my young years Santa also gave us stocking gifts like a new toothbrush, underwear and mittens. Our first married Christmas our traditions clashed. Dick’s family gave elaborate wrapped gifts in the stockings so, while I was opening pieces of jewelry and perfume, he was opening deodorant, boxers and Time magazine. My tradition continued in the ensuing years. We also created the tradition of not repeating the names on any tag and got to be sorry about that. When you are in a rush to wrap presents is no time to stop and be creative. My mother always cooked Christmas dinner, but I never did. We were willing to leave home to eat with relatives and cook our turkey the next day. Putting up the crèche on the first Sunday of Advent will be done for the fifty-fourth time, but the tree traditions have varied. We started with a natural tree but Dick became allergic. We went to an artificial one, then downsized to a table tree with lights already on it. Now I create a tree from my extensive Christmas book collection with an angel on the top – a sight to behold.

So Go Back Day has become part of my Christmas preparation without my noticing it. Even though I do not leave the house, I am transported through time and space. It is a day of smiles, chuckles and happy memories.

December 7, 2012

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