For anything really nice—clothing, a unique gift—I shop locally. For everything else, there’s Ocean State Job Lot, a chain I discovered in the 1980s when visiting my mother in Rhode Island. A store had opened around the corner from where she lived, and every time I went to see her, I headed over to load up on food, housewares, beauty and bath products, pet supplies and even clothing. My biggest score was a tweed Woolrich jacket that I bought for $15 and still wear.
In time, Ocean State Job Lot opened branches in Massachusetts near where my aunt and cousin live, so now I shop there whenever I visit them. A few years ago, my husband and I discovered a store in Fishkill, N.Y. We would make forays when we went to see my late father-in-law at the VA hospital nearby.
Last week, a friend who had discovered the chain during a trip to in Rhode Island told me an Ocean State Job Lot had sprung up across the river in New Jersey, about a half hour away. The two of us headed over and spent a happy couple of hours stocking up on multitudinous items, including caviar from Iceland, priced at just $2.99.
The caviar will go nicely on the holiday table, which was thrust into the forefront of my consciousness by the Christmas music playing in the background. I happen to like Christmas music, from carols and standards to the more contemporary tunes. But it’s not Thanksgiving yet. Don’t make me listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” until at least Black Friday.
I’m beginning to see why some people call Halloween their favorite holiday. Halloween is all about fun, candy and a little bit of mischief. It’s relatively uncomplicated.
Thanksgiving and Christmas, by contrast, are nothing but complications.
Thanksgiving is a time of mandated gratitude, and while we all have much to be thankful for—starting with the fact that we woke up breathing this morning—some people may not be feeling it on cue. If you’ve lost a person you love, for example, his or her absence from the family table will be acutely painful. Likewise, for anyone who’s sick, homeless or alone, Thanksgiving can be tough sledding.
And then there’s Christmas, when the stakes are even higher—and so are the stresses. During my mother’s first Christmas after moving to Pennsylvania, she heard “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the radio and began to weep. She mourned the loss of the home she had to leave when illness made it impossible for her to live alone.
These echoes of loss, in all its various guises, represent the flip side of the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” In preparation, I am about to get out the full-spectrum light box my brother made for me many years ago to help me through the dark winter days. No use adding seasonal affective disorder to the mix.
And I won’t be shopping on Friday—not even at Ocean State Job Lot.