“Attic Salt” column for Dec. 2, 2012

By ED CULLEN

Sunlight from the shank of a gorgeous day was streaming through the window as a message from the front arrived, the holiday front where festive consumer-soldiers were digging in for Thanksgiving.

A friend had left her quiet home on a lovely rural road in West Feliciana Parish to grocery shop.

Her email reported young shoppers looking dazed and confused, wandering the aisles as though on their first trip to a supermarket.

Do they not shop for food the rest of the year? Do they eat out three times a day? Were they home playing video games instead of learning to shop with their mothers and fathers?

My friend described teenagers drifting through the aisles, cellphone in hand. Their mothers had sent them to the store for some forgotten, key ingredient.

She heard one large child report that he was looking at cans before heading to the baking aisle to inquire, “What did you say you needed there?” Long pause. “Is cornstarch the same as flour?”

Cellphones are wonderful tools as long as there’s someone on one end providing useful information.

These lovely fall days, it’s easy to be distracted by the voice of Andy Williams warming the chilly air of supermarkets and big box stores.

We know Christmas grows near when we read of the first injunction sought against a public crèche or hear a talking head on television offer advice on how to avoid fist fights at the holiday table.

At some point in the national discourse, we stopped observing holidays as depicted in the paintings of Norman Rockwell. We began regarding the holidays, a.k.a. Thanksgiving and Christmas, as seen through the eyes of Dr. Phil’s television show guests.

This morning, a caller was foaming at the radio about people saying “the holidays” instead of “Christmas.”

“We don’t have Christmas cards anymore,” the caller said. “Now, they’re holiday cards.”

Of course, there are Christmas cards, but if someone would rather send a “holiday card” why not?

If I’m talking about Christmas, I say Christmas. The holidays are those days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. But if someone doesn’t want to say Christmas, that’s fine, too.

We have men and women fighting overseas to give people in those countries the right to say what they please. And we’re going to fall out over “the holidays” versus “Christmas”?

My friend finished her shopping and made it back to the quiet of her holiday home.

This Christmas, I’ll have the same conversations, get into the same arguments, take the same long walk after lunch, and agree with the same people that this is a wonderful time of year.

After Thanksgiving dinner in north Louisiana, we took the traditional woods walk, accompanied by a small child we took turns carrying.

We were 10 people on the walk, related by blood or dessert, joined by the spirits of walkers no longer with us.