Soon the last pumpkins will vanish from porch steps and the golden stubble of shorn fields will give to the weight of snow. As October opens onto November, the holidays begin again with all their myriad traditions. We have a lot of traditions here at MakeNest: finding room in our studio for our snowy trees as Thanksgiving approaches; and serving up hot cider and cookies for Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday. The most meaningful MakeNest tradition to me is our fundraising drives for Literacy Volunteers in November and Habitat for Humanity in December. The work these organizations do is a crystalline reflection of the best that the holidays bring out in our community and ourselves: kindness, generosity, and love for others. The holidays offer an opportunity for all of us to connect to our community, be it in our places of worship, a school pageant, or on our main streets as we pause with shopping bags in hand to say hello to acquaintances we rarely see in our workaday lives.
One of my personal favorite traditions this time of year is shopping downtown. Perhaps it was ingrained in me as a child, this love of the holiday bustle, following along as my family tucked into the little stores along our main street, their arms growing fuller with bags as lunchtime approached. Sometimes we got a little cranky, and there were disputes about the best way to park the car, dividing my parents into ‘keep circling for the perfect slot’ and ‘just park anywhere’ camps. All the same, I remember vividly the sparkle of colored lights, the displays of toys and ornaments, and plastic greenery wrapping the lamp posts like barber poles. My folks ran into people I didn’t know; friends they used to act with in Little Theater, acquaintances whose views on school board policy were best left undiscussed in the spirit of the holidays; once my hermit Uncle George, who seemed chagrined to be caught out in public shopping for his kids. Going out with family to shop for the holidays always felt like an adventure.
And it still is an adventure for me today.
I like to shop on Christmas Eve and I like to do it downtown. It makes me feel good to support other business owners in my community and there is a heightened excitement about doing it in the eleventh hour. From gathering up books at Winchester Book Gallery to picking out artisan items at HandWorks, I enjoy every minute of my shopping. If I’m lucky I’ll get to chat with Christine Patrick at the bookstore or sample from a fresh batch of chestnuts that Franco has roasted outside of Violino’s Italian Restaurant. I’ll likely run into clients and acquaintances and we’ll pause to catch up, frosty plumes of breath rising between us as we talk and listen.
The world is changing so rapidly because of online formats that allow us to shop and communicate from our laptops or our phones, and because of this we are perhaps not as connected as we once were to the village where we live, be that village a big city or a small town. It isn’t hard to understand why the conveniences of online shopping are so appealing, but I humbly suggest a thoughtful hybrid of convenience and personal investment in being part of a community. There is something that passes between each of us when we occupy space together and share ideas and thoughts or even simple pleasantries. It is an energy that elicits a sense of belonging to a vast and complicated and beautiful and diverse family. There is so much work to do to knit together our human network and simple acts can draw us closer. I hope you’ll join me in spending a little time this year revisiting your local community to join in the holiday spirit.