To my knowledge, no one has given me the nickname Ebenezer Scrooge, but my yearly grumblings about holiday shopping have long served as anti-mistletoe for my wife.
This year, during the pandemic, my lack of holiday joy regarding gift shopping has roughly quadrupled. As usual, the process leaves me wracked with uncertainty. Will I find a gift so wonderful for my wife that my killjoy transgressions are forgiven? How deep into the sales department should my coworker gift list go? Is it tacky to get everyone the same thing?
My indecision leads me to wait so long that Amazon fades as an option and the procrastination-caused scramble heightens my anxiety – and loathing for gift-shopping. It’s a self-sustaining system, see.
As I’m always happy to point out the upside of my character defects, the good thing that comes out of all this is that I’m forced to shop local. But COVID-19 even screwed that up this year.
Last fall, a small bookstore named Enchanted Chapters opened in our North Phoenix neighborhood. My wife instantly became their most enthusiastic customer. Enchanted Chapters hosted events that were perfect for our daughters: crafts every weekend based on books. Age-appropriate book clubs. Princesses reading fairy tales. I treasured Enchanted Chapters because it helped our girls fall in love with books. They treasured the bookstore’s mascots, like Bella, a Sphinx cat who was always ready for a snuggle; and a little bird named Potter who wasn’t too discriminating about who fed him.
Because the owner had firsthand experience with the needs of special kids, Enchanted Chapters hosted sensory story time for children on the autism spectrum and meetups for their parents. Enchanted, indeed.
We did some holiday shopping there last year. We could’ve found better prices elsewhere, but supporting a place that supported so many others was worth the extra dollar or two. This year, we also did holiday shopping at Enchanted Chapters – but it was very different from last year: We did a lot more of it, we did it in July, and we saved money. That’s what happens when you shop an inventory clearance sale that features books at 85 percent off.
Sadly, they closed at the end of July because the “nonessential business” of bookselling couldn’t get its legs back under it after Arizona’s COVID-19 shutdown. Sure, they tried online sales, curbside pickup and virtual events, but like so many other small businesses, it wasn’t enough, and Enchanted Chapters didn’t have a “happily ever after.” Their story ended more like a Hans Christian Andersen tale.
If anyone cares to go shopping for me, I know what I want for Christmas this year. First, I’d like a damn vaccine. Second, I’d like a gift-wrapped pledge from our leaders that we will never, ever sink our economy and little gems like Enchanted Chapters ever again. And, third, can I have just one more afternoon watching my girls read books with Bella and Potter?