Have you ever noticed that around October, the shopping season actually begins to take off.  It starts off slowly and it starts to slowly build up to the major shopping event of black Friday.  Black Friday has become a separate and almost religious holiday in and of itself.  People go to the stores and fight to the death over the most coveted items just to hurry and wait in line.  I don’t have to mention that people are waiting in line for almost four hours and some times even longer.  This is all part of the holiday frenzy and once the black Friday holiday phenomenon is over, a quiet and stillness sets in.  The stores quiet down for a temporary lull until the day after Christmas.  In which, that day people flood the stores with their gift receipts to return the things they don’t want for the things they do want.  The sad thing is that most of these people will tell the person that gave them the original gift how much they loved it; too ashamed to admit that they returned the original gift.  What happened to giving and receiving and being thankful?  For it to mean something?
I remember being a kid… seven or eight years old on Christmas morning sitting in front of the tree opening Christmas presents.  I guess I received something that I didn’t like.  I believe it was a sweater.  I remember saying thank you without any real enthusiasm, setting it down, and moving on to opening the next present.  Things became quiet.  The next thing I knew was that Jack A. was standing over me.  He questioned me.

What, you didn’t like that present?

He said it calmly and quietly and I knew by his tone of voice that I had made a mistake.  Scared, I did my best to sink into the floor and disappear.  Of course this is impossible.  He went and sat back in his chair and told me to open the rest of my presents.  Which I did.  It was hard to get excited about any of the other presents because, as I opened them, they all felt like a bomb ready to explode.  After all of the presents were opened, Jack A. got up and came to tower over me a second time.  He handed me an envelope and told me to open it.  It was a polaroid picture of a fluffy golden retriever puppy.
I got all excited and jumped up and down squealing like little girls are prone to do.  Jack A. smiled and said:

We’re supposed to go pick him up tomorrow.

He proceeded to walk out of the room and came back to the living room with the phone in his hand.  He made motion toward the picture of the puppy which I handed to him.  He turned the picture over and dialed a phone number listed on the back of the polaroid.  It took a few rings before Jack A. gave his greeting.  All I heard from his end of the conversation was that we weren’t going to be picking up the puppy after all.  When he hung up the phone and said:

Until you can learn how to appreciate what you are being given, you will not be given any more presents.  So don’t expect anything for your birthday either.

I was sent to my room.  Kim and Jack A. took all of the presents I had opened back to the store.  I was left at home while they went to my Grandma and Grandpa’s for Christmas dinner and gift exchange.  I was not told what happened to the presents that I was given; nor did I ask.  I wasn’t brought home any dinner and I went to bed hungry.  Jack A. held true to his word that I wasn’t going to get any birthday presents.  I don’t even remember being told “Happy Birthday.”
From that point forward, I know that I was overly enthusiastic about what I got.  I stopped believing in Santa Clause that year because the Santa Clause presents that I opened that year were returned to the store.  Something that I took notice of as well was that my mother stopped getting in between my step-father and myself… It was almost like she started being a spectator at a bull fight.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  I cried until I could see the early rays of dawn peaking through my window.  Only then did I fall asleep.

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