The wind picks up and Ma smiles. “She’s an odd one,” thinks her son Caleb, sitting in the corner and thumbing through a dusty edition of Dickens “The Christmas Carol.” Ma likes this weather with it’s sunny chill and feeling of expectation. She’s got animal instincts when it comes to the perfect time of year to put up the decorations, neither too soon to annoy the neighbors nor too late to be enjoyed. Caleb slams the book down with a thud to get Ma’s attention. “Why do you pull this old thing out every year? I’ve seen the movies and play versions so many times I could recite the lines. No one ever actually reads the book?” Ma says, “Tradition I suppose.”
Caleb has never much cared for tradition. He’s had every color of hair in the rainbow, listens to “experimental” music that his family doesn’t understand, and has a deep seated hatred of anything “kitsch.” His Ma calls him a snob and he’s inclined to agree if snob means he wants something more from life. “There’s nothing more kitsch than Christmas. And nothing more kitsch than glamorizing the Victorian era when a lot people suffered in workhouses and factories.” Caleb sits back in his chair and broods. Ma hears the wind again and looks up. “Time to get the boxes down.”
Caleb shuffles up the stairs behind his mother. He stands at the base of the attic ladder and waits for Ma to hand down the many boxes marked “Xmas.” It’s one of the few times that Caleb actually wishes he was in school. Then Ma calls down, “I don’t believe it! I can’t believe I found it. Come up here Caleb.”
Caleb climbs the ladder into the attic. A stream of sunlight pours in through a single window and makes a rectangle on the wood planked floor. Ma is kneeling beside a trunk with the top open and holding something just out of sight. “Come here Caleb. I want to show you something.” Caleb walks through the stream of light to Ma and kneels beside her.
Inside the trunk are a stack of yellowed, handmade Christmas cards, a plaid gown that looks almost crunchy with time, and a black book with no title on the cover. “What’s this?” Caleb asks. “It belonged to one of your ancestors.” Ma says in a smiling voice, almost giddy like she got to open her present first this year. “Great, so this Christmas obsession runs in the family. Shoulda known.” Caleb teases. “You know, for all your attitude, one would think you’ve lived a lot longer.” Ma chides him back. “She was quite the woman of her day. Here’s her diary.” Ma picks up the black book. “I haven’t read it in years. Your dad usually brings these boxes down and he always overlooks this one because it isn’t marked ‘xmas.’ If he hadn’t of been working those extra hours over UPS this year, I wouldn’t have rediscovered it.” Ma hands the black book to Caleb and heads for the ladder back down to familiar.
“Hey, what am I supposed to do with this?” Caleb calls after. “Don’t they teach you what to do with books in school? What am I sending you there for?” Ma calls back. “I don’t know.” Caleb shouts, then follows his mother down the ladder. He heads to his room, Ma to her decorating. Caleb settles into a chair in the corner and opens the diary.
That’s your name from now on book, because it is my will to call you something romantic and so I shall. It is ten days before Christmas Annabella and I couldn’t be more content with myself. I have made all my cards, and Ma is pressing cider this year with apples that a distant relation over the river sent us. I have a sinking feeling that the cider will be bitter and no good to drink because Ma doesn’t know what she is doing. Her efforts are appreciated nevertheless.
All is quite right with the world here in Kentuck, but there is something I feel I should tell you Annabella. I have had the strangest dream lately about a boy with blue hair…”
Caleb slams the book shut and shakes his head, as if waking himself up. He wonders if he read that right. He has blue hair (at the moment), why would his ancestor, dead since who knows what year, would be dreaming about him?
It’s one day closer to Christmas and I’m beginning to suffer from what my Pa calls cabin fever. He says I’m lucky I like reading and writing seeing as how these are solitary activities of the mind and don’t require one to go outside. The weather has been horrid all day. I had that strange dream again last night. This time the boy with the blue hair was reading in the corner of a room. Then, as if he knew he were being watched, he shut the book quickly. His face was white as a ghost, but I wasn’t frightened. I awoke shortly after that, but with a feeling that this boy may mean something. Perhaps he is a Christmas ghost come to instruct me on how to improve my moral character? No, he does not seem like the type.”
Caleb did not sleep well that night. His ancestor, the romantic whoever she was that insisted on calling her diary Annabella, saw him yesterday as he was reading. How was this possible? He decides to throw himself into the Christmas decorating, not because he likes this “kitsch,” but to distract himself (he wanted me to tell you). Ma sits back and watches in awe. “Where did this energy come from?” She asks as she digs into a snack bowl full of nuts. “I don’t know. I just have some to burn. Weird dreams last night.” Caleb says absentmindedly. “Uh huh, I see.” Ma says with a mouth full of half-chewed cashews. “Gross Ma.” Caleb puts one last clump of tinsel on a lower bough.
I’ve experienced the most vivid dream yet. The boy was decorating a tree with the most extraordinary stuff. Some of it I recognized and others where strange in shape or I felt were alluding to some joke that I didn’t understand. He was anxious and seemed troubled. I am not versed on the proper conduct when one is inside a dream, but I feel I should help this boy somehow. It is not right that a soul be worried on this the best of all seasons.”
Caleb wakes early and goes to the living room where his mother is enjoying her first cup of coffee of the morning. “What is it hon?” She asks. “Mom, did you read this diary?” Caleb tentatively asks. “Yes, many years ago. Why?” Ma says. “Do you remember what’s in it?” Caleb asks. “Not really. She liked Christmas. That’s about it.” Ma sips her coffee.
The diary sits on Caleb’s nightstand. He is afraid to read before bed. He doesn’t know why exactly, but the word haunted would not be a bad way to describe the book. Still, he picks up the book, a compulsion, and opens it to the page where he left off.
I understand how I am to help this blue-haired boy. I must show him the spirit of Christmas. In my dream tonight I will approach the boy with a gift and a card. I will share these with him in hopes that he will understand how good one stranger can be to another. Perhaps then my mind will be free to find restful sleep again. These dreams are troubling and I find I am not rested enough to complete my daily chores. I must confront this spector and be done with it.”
Caleb has just enough courage to pull the covers of the bed over his head.
He must have slept in fits and starts because the next thing he knows it’s morning. He is lying on a sheet wet with sweat. The sunlight gives him enough courage to pull the blankets off his head. When he does, he spots a gift wrapped in brown paper with a faded, red ribbon at the foot of his bed. Lying next to it one of the yellowed Christmas cards from the upstairs trunk.
With shaking hands Caleb pulls on the red ribbon and tears at the brown paper. Inside the paper is a withered piece of embroidery with a star design as it’s theme. It smells like decay. Caleb then picks up the card and opens it…
“Dear Blue-haired ghost,
I don’t know what else to call you. I’ve made you this humble gift. I don’t know who you are or where you come from, but I do know that I must help you. My name is Sarah and I live in Louisville. My father works for the whiskey barons.
Our Christmas tree is more humble than yours, but our hearts are full of holiday spirit when we are in each other’s company. I hope you find the same joy in the presence of your people.”
Caleb runs downstairs. Ma is reading on the couch. “What is it?” She asks. “Ma…” Caleb’s voice trails off. “What is it? If you’re going to ask if we’re going to Frankfort Avenue’s Olde Tyme Christmas tonight, the answer is yes and no buts about it. It’s the only time we get to see Sarah and I do love her embroidery.” She goes back to her book as if nothing has happened.
Why Shop Small Saturday (the Antithesis of Black Friday) is Important… and Why Black Friday Really Isn’t a Thing Anymore…
Let’s get one thing straight: Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are both successful marketing concepts. And like all successful marketing concepts these shopping days represent the values the day.
The day after Thanksgiving has marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season since 1952. This came about because many non-retail and non-restaurant employees have the day off and take advantage of that precious "me" time to get their holiday shopping checked off the to do list. Retailers respond by opening their doors early, staying open late, and offering one day sales. The plays the tune of a consumer's Pied Piper with spectacular stories of people trampled, shopping fist fights, and limited stock that warrants tackling strangers.
The first appearance of the term “Black Friday” appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper in 1961 when a journalist used the invented phrase to paint a picture of the increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic on the the day after Thanksgiving. Only later did retailers begin defining it as the first day of the year that their business are “in the black” or making a profit, rather than “in the red” - performing at a loss.
Black Friday throw downs and mass hysteria reached a fever pitch in 2005 and 2006 with record breaking profits for big box stores. But it was also a breaking point. The point at which the yang turns back to yin, the last pebble that collapses a pile of mounting frustrations, the proverbial straw that broke said back of a certain desert mammal, the last hooray before... Anyway, you get the point. Just a few years later the economy took a downturn and like a Greek chorus retailers chanted “tragedy hath befallen my fair city.”
The recession years were a struggle, but money and opportunity are on the rise again. So, why are big box stores still not seeing the profits they had become accustomed to prior to 2008? Here’s a hint: it’s not the economy.
The free flow of information - social media, search engines, blogs, user uploaded video - reached the height of its influence around 2009 (many may argue earlier) and it has caused a revolution in shopping. Consumers are smarter and more demanding than they ever have been before. Also, a new generation of shoppers has entered the job market. These shoppers have different priorities. It's not just about the house in the suburbs and the secure paycheck. They want experience, stories, shopping with a conscious, high quality, and locally made. Good for them we say!
While the big box stores still dominate the electronics market, for all other gifting needs the battle cry is go local or go home. American Express picked up on this with their sponsored Small Business Saturday, reclaimed by the public as Shop Small Saturday. Yes, it’s a marketing scheme, but it’s also a response to the zeitgeist.
#Giftlocal this holiday season. Visit 5-0-Lou on Friday, November 24th with the Black Friday Trolley Hop on Frankfort Avenue. We'll be serving refreshments and treats and local artist Henry Gentry will be present drawing caricatures. Stop by on Saturday, November 25th for Shop Small Saturday and spend over $25, get a free 5-0-Lou ornament.
What happens at the Kentucky Derby, stays at Kentucky Derby. Unless there's a baby nine months later... by Guest Blogger Sara O'Thompson
We all know the Kentucky Derby is a very special time of year. And grownups might like to celebrate by giving each other a very special kind of hug. Sometimes, that hug leads to a special delivery nine months later. If you or someone you know is having (or had) a February baby, well… Congratulations! Have we got the goods for YOU. Read on for an amazing selection of Kentucky-bred gifts and goodies for all the foals in your stable.
Babies are amazing. So are moms. You know what’s not amazing? Painful breastfeeding. If you or someone you know has a breastfeeding baby, or will very soon have a breastfeeding baby, you want Bloom by FarmSmash NIPS. NIPS is organic, preservative-free, soothing balm for those days when you can’t bear to look at a shirt, much less put one on. Locally made Bloom products are safe for mom and baby because they’re made with all the natural good stuff you need to keep things flowing painlessly. Use it before and after feeding to NIPS breast pain in the bud.
They may not be jockey silks, but every baby can be cute, comfortable, and funny in 5-0-Lou onesies. Sure, it might remind you that you had one too many mint juleps back in May. But if you can’t laugh at the world, well, I feel sorry for you. The real question is: did you name the kid after the Derby winner? Get a funny onesie for Always Dreaming and have a giggle.
Grown-ups get all the good jokes. Let the kids in on it too with a range of funny t-shirts just for them. Locally made in the 5-0-Lou print shop from the highest-quality materials, our shirts make great gifts. Sure, they’re too young to know what an innuendo is but that’s the beauty of the whole thing.
I don’t know why this is in the funny t-shirts category. I mean, we need a way to point out the up-and-comers in the community so I think this is a perfectly good way to do that. I have several of these shirts for my kids because people ought to know who they’re dealing with. You know your kid is perfect so why not remind the world? This shirt is great for travel because people in other places might not even know your kid. THE HORROR. Now we can all say, “I knew her when…”
Oh, man. Diaper rash. It’s THE WORST. Amirite? Actually, my kids never had diaper rash because I am kind of a big deal in Kentucky so it didn’t DARE visit our house, but for all the rest of you I present BUMS. You can stop diaper rash in its painful tracks and send it packing with Bloom by FarmSmash BUMS. This soothing balm is made of organic goodness like coconut oil, shea butter, and lavender (it smells amazing, too) to keep little bottoms in tip-top shape.
Sara O. Thompson’s first attempt at a book was prepared on a Remington typewriter and bore a suspicious resemblance to a famous novel whose title rhymes with ‘Gourd of the Spies.’ Since then, she’s written diaries, advertising copy, and a lot of poetry, besides short and long fiction. In her spare time, she performs improv comedy, occasionally tells stories on stage, and loves ballroom dancing. Sara lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband (who is an ICU nurse) and their twin sons.