Things have certainly changed over the years.
We were (the hubs and I) reminiscing over lunch yesterday about Christmas gift shopping when we were kids. We're talking main street Ontario here folks, no malls and no plazas back then. Our Moms would take us downtown one evening about two weeks before Christmas to do our special gift shopping for Dads, siblings and grandparents. We had a budget and we had a list. Downtown, the stores would all be lit up and the sidewalks (usually snowy sidewalks with big fat flakes falling) would be crowded with people we knew, all out, doing their Christmas shopping. As kids, we were impatient to get going and get those gifts and our Moms were all about the greeting of friends and long discussions while juvenile feet froze to the cement (or so it seemed to us). The jewellery store would have a beautiful, seasonal clockwork display in the window and we would stand and admire it for several long minutes...sometimes more than once.. We didn't go in to the jewellery store because we didn't have that kind of cash. The Christmas tree in the front window of the bank would be lit up (the bank however would have been closed at 3:00pm on a work day, don't even think about the weekends. The butcher shop would be open and sometimes we would pop in if Mom needed something. There was sawdust on the floor and sometimes the door to the big locker was open and you could catch a glimpse of half a hog hanging on a hook. Mom might order her Christmas turkey if she hadn't already done so.
Our goal was the five and dime. In Newmarket, if memory serves, that was Woolworths. It was a lovely old store with wide plank floors that gave underfoot and big tables in rows upon which wares were spread. A few shelves on the walls (wood) and an older lady presiding over the cash register. A quick check with the hubs revealed that we bought just about the same stuff for gifts....socks or cigars or hankies for the men (or perhaps pipe tobacco), hand lotion or bath cubes or nylons for the ladies. It was so much fun to choose colours and fragrances, to hand over the cash ourselves and be given the change. In our innocence we firmly believed that Mom had not noticed that bottle of hand lotion for her. Jergens. Remember Jergens? The little pink bottle with the black cap? When you were old enough to be given a bottle yourself you felt so grown up.
Even if you didn't need to go in to all the stores, you still promenaded up and down both sides of the street, looking in windows and following your Mom in while she did a little shopping herself. The level of excitement was such that you positively ached with it. Everything looked so much shinier, everything smelled so much better, everyone seemed so much friendlier. You could smell Christmas. In the darkness with the shop lights shining you could feel the mystery of Christmas. The Salvation Army had two or three folks standing by a pail for donations and they were playing Christmas music. It never sounded so good as it did outside on those frosty nights when you could see your breath.
Shopping for Christmas gifts was special in those days. While I appreciate the warmth of the mall in my advancing age, I do sometimes yearn for that special night of shopping on main street Ontario. I miss the simplicity of the gifts and the honest appreciation of the recipients. I miss the innocence.