One Small Voice: Give a try to downshifting Christmas

By Lynn Mandaville

Army Bob (Mr. Robert Traxler) recently posted an opinion piece about the supply chain problems currently plaguing the United States.

It was a thoughtful column, and I shared some thoughts of my own in the comment section, which the editor of Townbroadcast, Dave Young, reposted as a column under my heading One Small Voice.

Bob and I tended to agree on the larger points about the reasons for the supply chain debacle, and each of us had comments on the finer points that differed.

But the upshot was that we both felt the USA suffered from loss of the large, wide manufacturing base this country had prior to the 1990s, when significant manufacturers began moving their production out of the county.

As fate would have it, shortly after we wrote our pieces, and several readers posted their thoughts about the subject, CBS Sunday Morning did a story about a company called “American Blossom Linens,” a company that took over an defunct linen-producing facility in Texas, using and retooling the old infrastructure to manufacture bed linens made from domestically grown cotton that was processed domestically (ginned and woven), and sewn into sheets and pillowcases by American workers for sale in the United States.

What a great story it was!

An American entrepreneur who created her business using existing facilities to produce a product sourced, sewn, and sold (cradle-to-grave, so to speak) within our beloved country!

But the story done by CBS didn’t stop there. They included information about a web site created by another American entrepreneur that offers, free to us users, a growing listing of a myriad of other smallish manufacturers of products made of domestic materials by American workers that are for sale to us through their web sites!  The site is called the USA Love List and can be found simply by entering the name into Google.

It’s a terrific site!

You, the user, are able to search manufacturers by state, by category, by season, by what’s trending, and what’s new to the site!  In a very cursory look-see I found pet treats, shoes (of all kinds), bicycles, skin care products, designer handbags, and foodstuffs. The list does go on and on.

Also, as fate would have it, another Townbroadcast columnist, Denise Dykstra, wrote the same week in Everyday Joys, about a close friend of hers, Christine Weber, who birthed and grew a soap company that outgrew her home manufacturing capabilities, HD Soaps by Hilltop Designs. Such a heart-warming success story of locally sourced and made consumables!

So it may have been premature of Army Bob and myself to bemoan the loss of domestic manufacturing in the good of US of A.

Though what I stumbled on, thanks to CBS Sunday Morning and Everyday Joys, tend to be small businesses, they are, nonetheless, homegrown businesses that use locally sourced components and ingredients and employ American workers, and that can only be good for the country at large.

We are full on into the Christmas season, and other significant holidays are upon us, such as Hannukah and Kwanzaa, where gifts are exchanged, so knowing about these domestic goods may help in finding presents during this time of sparse or empty store shelves.

But I’d like to remind readers that there are other ways to celebrate the gift-giving tradition without the commercialism some of us have grown to dislike.

And I’d like to, once again, share what the Mandaville clan has settled upon as a tradition that works for us.

It began when our son Nick was a small boy, some 35 years ago. He didn’t like the idea that certain events dictated the purchasing and giving of presents. He preferred to buy what he called “love presents.” If he saw something in a store that seemed to jump out and say to him “so and so would really like that!” he would purchase it and give it to the person right away, so it could be enjoyed immediately, rather than sit wrapped on a shelf in a closet until the prescribed birthday or Christmas.

And as the years wore on, that’s how Nick operated. We learned that on our birthdays or at Christmas there would be nothing from Nick. His gifts were showered throughout the year, if and when he found something “with our name on it.” Some years there was nothing. Other years there were plenty.

Slowly, in our small nuclear family, we all adopted the same practice.

Then, a few years ago, one of my sisters suggested that the three of us not exchange gifts anymore, but give the equivalent amount of money to our local food pantries. It was her feeling that none of us needed another tchotchke to put on a shelf and collect dust, but that the food pantries needed our money much, much more. And this we now do in honor of each other every Christmas.

Two years ago, we extended this practice to our son Randy and his wife Laura. Our Arizona homes tend to be short on space, and once again none of us needs another whatever taking up space, collecting dust. So we give even more money to local food pantries or homeless shelters in honor of each other. And for the grandboys, who are 7 and 9, we give them a book, a hefty check to be deposited in their college funds, and $25 that they can spend on whatever strikes their fancy.

I know that our traditions may not be a good fit for other families. Old traditions do die hard, and it is lovely to see a Christmas tree all decked out in bright lights and colorful ornaments with a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts underneath.

But I have seen several posts this season from people of my age bemoaning the pressure they feel to conform to the excessive decorating and gift purchasing the season seems to demand. And I tell my story, over and over again. And I emphasize that it’s perfectly acceptable for peoples’ traditions to morph, evolve or devolve as we see fit. And perhaps, just perhaps, simpler and less ostentatious might actually be more in keeping with the simplicity of Christ’s humble birth.

I don’t mean to sound preachy.

I have celebrated the holidays in every possible incarnation, from our current simple practice to the full-blown event with presents galore and stocking hung by the chimney with care.

Now as an old lady, being conscious of modern constraints such as supply chains, and the need to reduce, reuse and recycle (or regift!), and the benefits of supporting local business and domestically produced goods, I can see that there is a multitude of ways we can express our gratefulness and love for one another at this time of year.

Serendipity is wonderful, when a bunch of events come together to highlight and essentially solve, temporarily, what is a broader economic issue but at our local level. Thanks to great big CBS, and small HD Soaps, and writer/contributors Robert Traxler and Denise Dykstra, we now know about the USA Love List and how we can tailor our gift giving to our own unique styles.

It’s through this kind of knowledge sharing that we can make a difference in our own back yards, if not on a global scale.

May December this year be one of less stress, less worrying about what to give each other, or where to shop for something unique and wonderful that is locally made. And may our giving reach beyond our immediate families.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or Merry Festivus be to one and all in 2021.

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