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Mack Williams: Salvation Army Christmas Visit

My son Jeremy was decorating bushes for Christmas a few weeks ago and thought about checking the Salvation Army for un-purchased Christmas lights from the past ( not long past, just the electric Christmas light’s past). So Jeremy, his wife Rose, and I headed to the Salvation Army store in Reidsville.

Just inside the entrance was a Victorian-style, decorative Santa sitting on an end table (both for sale). The Santa was an almost dead-ringer for one owned by my late wife Diane and me, later lost in moving (mass production’s a good thing, making things available to the masses and providing mass-produced “hints”of memory).

The Salvation Army, “Seasonally” up to date was showcasing Christmas-themed music, ornaments, glassware, wrapping paper, movies, toys, clothes, etc.

Near the front were records and VHS tapes (familiarity with such, seen as proof by today’s youth of my generation’s “antiquity”).

Among the albums were “Julie Andrews Sings Christmas Songs” and a “Firestone Christmas Album” (surprised there weren’t more “Firestones,” but maybe they had already been scooped up by the “elderly”).

Like plummeting petroleum prices, “vinyl” was on sale for 25 cents apiece! The expenditure of not very many dollars would have filled up a basket (reminiscent of Depression Era Germany quote concerning German marks, baskets, and the amount of groceries money could buy there before, and during the Great Depression).

Jeremy held up one 45 record and said”What’s this?” I looked, and said “Telstar,” then did my best “clavioline,” with pronounced vibrato to sound “other-wordly” (although the real Telstar was relatively nearby in Earth orbit).

We found what we were looking for, boxes of old, un-purchased strings of Christmas lights. The boxes were faded with age, but when we plugged the lights in, the bulbs shone bright as new (which they technically were, having just been plugged in for the very first time). Jeremy purchased a couple of strings to further fill the bushes.

I also saw old Christmas-themed snow globes with not very much snow. Perhaps it was “sleet-frozen” to the scene’s “ground” (like those alternating layers of snow and sleet during the March, 1960 “Wednesday snows”); or maybe the snow had magically melted as the result of repeated displaying on fired-up Christmas mantles.

There were rows of Christmas-themed candy dishes, glasses and goblets. One goblet had factory-painted firs, clouds, and snowflakes. The goblet looked like a snow globe minus its upper top, with images somewhat faded. In fanciful  reverie, I imagined a thirsty, inebriated Seasonal party-goer having gotten confused and drunk deeply of the “opened globe’s” contents, leaving behind only a filmy, residual “Winter-scene.”

I also saw old Winter-themed Hardee’s glass mugs, suitable for eggnog, coffee, juice, punch, etc.

There were rolls of unused wrapping paper, almost as sad as toys never purchased or given.

Unused Christmas cards were somewhat yellowed except for their glitter (lasting for years, or as long as the glue holds out). These cards seemed to be waiting for something to be handwritten which never was. Even a “generic,” hand-penned “Happy Holidays” would have meant something ).

There was a bin of old VHS tapes; and the most popular ones, likely to be viewed repeatedly, were dirty (not the rating). Unlike the untouched  wrapping paper and cards “weathering” on their own, these VHS tapes’ covers showed the effects of the repeated “greasy” application of finger oil (handling).

There was row-upon-row of women’s Christmas sweaters, filled with so many Christmas and Winter “characters,” that I thought back to the last time I had seen  clothing so “encumbered.” It was a You Tube broadcast of the annual “Russian Victory Parade,” celebrating victory over the Nazis in World War II. The old military veterans had so many medals pinned to their coats that the coats, themselves almost seemed to disappear.

Of the store’s toys, those  never used seemed saddest, not quite like Rudolph’s “Island of Misfit Toys,” but representing a “missing out” on the part of both toy and child.

Toys, used and unused seemed unusually silent as I recalled a host of songs and rhymes used in their advertisements: e.g., “It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, it’s fun, it’s a wonderful toy!”

In that salvation Army Store at Christmastime, the “tinkling cymbal and sounding brass” of the toys’ TV commercials were long gone; but as we left with strings of Christmas lights (and an old Atari Jeremy found), I imagined a multitude of “untuned” handbells being rung from myriad distant compass points.

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