By Ken Lass
We get out of the car and fall into a line of folks heading through the front entrance. I see mostly women. Actually, I see nothing but women. As we enter the door, we are greeted by a large sign that reads, “Trussville Civic Center presents Totally Christmas.” We are also greeted by a large black arrow and a friendly lady instructing us to turn left. That’s where you start. Don’t even think about turning right. You would be walking against the traffic flow, and your life may be in danger. It would be a terrible way to go, stampeded and run over by shopping carts overflowing with Christmas craft items. You might not be noticed until Sunday.
We begin weaving and zig-zagging through lines of tables. Some of the vendors are out front, actively engaging and connecting with passersby. They have that social personality. You can tell they revel in this, the interaction, the dynamic. Others, not so much. They sit back in their chairs, looking at their phones, wishing they were back home watching reruns of Family Feud. All of them are women. Am I the only man here?
Eventually, I stopped thinking about finding male fellowship and find myself getting interested in the merchandise. There really are some creative minds and talented people in and around our community. One lady turns clam shells into beautifully painted decorations. Another hand-painted crosses onto dough bowls. There is a woman selling Grinch cookies for three dollars. She explains her secret recipe to me. I smile and nod, but I am thinking that if she does this with everyone, she is blowing the secret. Kind of like KFC’s eleven herbs and spices. Some things should remain a mystery.
I find a table featuring Swedish dishcloths. The sign says they will absorb fifteen times their weight, as much as sixteen paper towels! Leave it to the Swedes. Here I thought they only specialized in meatballs. There is another dish towel with an inscription that reads, “If I ever go missing, I want my picture on wine bottles instead of milk cartons. That way, my friends will know how to find me”. Another nice lady inquires as to my interest in something called Kickin’ Jalapeno Jelly. I blush and explain that my sensitive tummy can’t even handle bananas. There is a baby bib with a large print screaming, “Rub My Belly.” We walk past Magic Reindeer Food and a specialty hand soap labeled Euphoria. I can experience euphoria just by washing my hands. Sign me up.
The Trussville Historical Society is here, selling various books about the history of our fair city. One sweet vendor tells me about her struggle with Parkinson’s disease. She takes broken jewelry and superbly crafts it into spiritual items. She explains that the reclamation of the broken jewelry symbolizes how God can reclaim a broken life.
Everywhere on the journey, there are clusters of women gathered in tight circles, laughing and talking. Clearly, this is not just about merchandise. This is a social event. And a good one. Everyone seems to be here. It’s a thing. A ladies’ thing.
Or is it? Suddenly, as we turn to go down the back row, the one closest to the stage, I see them. Men! All kinds of men. Men wearing shirts with team logos on them, sporting ball caps with pictures of construction equipment. I finally found them! My people! As I get closer, I can see their mouths moving. Probably talking about football and hunting and, you know, man stuff.
Wait, they’re not talking….they’re eating! Eventually, a few of them saunter off, revealing a view of the table behind them. It’s a large display of bakery and pies, with plates of free samples out front. So this is where the guys hang out. I make a mental note for future craft shows. I recognize and approach a fellow who used to be one of my neighbors. He explains to me that he is only here to be a “pack mule” for his wife. But the wife is nowhere in sight, and hey, even pack mules have to eat.
Everywhere we went, there were smiling faces and well wishes. Turns out Christmas spirit does seem to have a way of surviving any mercenary taint here. Trussville’s version of the holiday craft show is certainly not on the scale of something like Christmas Village at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center, but that’s okay. You also don’t have to pay twenty dollars to park and then pony up an admission fee just to walk in the door. Totally Christmas is free and growing every year, and I walked out of there with a little more spring in my step.
I can only hope my holiday spirit was shared by the drivers of the three cars that were hovering around my parking space, waiting for me to back out.
(Ken Lass is a retired Birmingham TV news and sports anchor and a Trussville resident.)