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Regardless of where you personally stand in the controversy over stores being open on Thanksgiving Day for extended Black Friday shopping, I am here to report that the Christmas shopping season has now officially arrived.

I met a friend for breakfast this morning at our local Panera Bread (one of my favorite places), as Costco is near by and she wanted to be there when it opened to get her Thanksgiving pies. I decided to stop there, too, and check out their microwave oven prices, as ours died completely yesterday. They evidently opened earlier than usual, though, because as I drove up the street I could see their full-to-overflowing parking lot. I didn’t want anything badly enough to brave that mess, so I just kept on driving! (My friend reported later that they had every check stand open and she was actually in and out with her pies in less than twenty minutes. Well done, Costco!)

As I drove to the grocery store I realized that traffic on our main thoroughfare was already gridlocked, as it will be through the New Year. So were many of the grocery aisles, especially those in the meat department and bakery. And many people were “shopping by committee”, with three or four people standing together in the middle of the aisle, staring blankly at the shelves and making it impossible to pass without being rude. Why do I always wait until the day before Thanksgiving to buy my feast? At least I’m consistent.

Of course, after I got home and unloaded my purchases I realized what I had forgotten. So later I went out again, this time to the post office on the opposite side of town, the newest one that always has the shortest lines. I was mailing a hand-made Christmas card to a crafter in England, and needed International postage. Feeling very accomplished, I visited my second grocery store of the day for the remaining ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner. After searching in vain for frozen spinach, I finally found my favorite store manager, who sent one of his guys searching in the back room for it, and was rewarded when he returned triumphantly holding a spinach package above his head!

Contrary to many years past, grocery stores are all open Thanksgiving Day now, at least for limited hours. So tomorrow morning I will be able to go back for the third time for the celery that I forgot not once, but twice. Not only does it go into my stuffing, but it helps keep the turkey from sticking to the roasting bag. Yikes! But first I’ll try borrowing some from one of my neighbors. I’ve had enough shopping for a few days!

For the record, I won’t be doing any “Black Thursday” shopping tomorrow. And when Friday comes, I won’t be visiting any of the stores that were open on Thursday when their employees would have loved to be home with their families. I am grateful that Olive Garden Restaurant remains closed on Thanksgiving Day so that we can enjoy the holiday the way it was designed to be — with our families. That said, I recognize that the restaurants that stay open tomorrow serve a definite need for those who either don’t want to cook or don’t have families with whom to spend the day. I’m just glad ours is not one of those.

However you choose to spend the day, I hope it is happy and full of thankfulness for the wonderful opportunities this country has to offer. And if you start putting up your Christmas decorations tomorrow after dinner, I won’t complain at all. Our house will begin its metamorphosis from Thanksgiving to Christmas about that time, too.