JoEllen Collins—a longtime resident of the Wood River Valley—is a teacher, writer, fabric artist, choir member and unabashedly proud grandma known as “Bibi Jo.”

I came across a saved message for this shopping season; although I will record this quote here exactly as written, it applies to all the places shoppers go in our Valley: “Don’t bring your grudges into Atkinsons’ Market.” This observation reminded me of all the complaints made back and forth by or about personnel and the shoppers they serve in the pressures of a holiday season.

Eons ago, I first visited Sun Valley in the company of neighbors in California who were building a new home and planning to move here, seeking a healthier environment for their sons. I followed them here a couple of years later and we became close neighbors again in East Fork. I have been forever glad that our families both settled in this spectacular part of Idaho. Incidentally, I still love “my Golden State” and enjoy the ocean and lifelong friends in California.

The first and most important aspect of being in the Wood River Valley was the gracious hospitality I received from every merchant or employee I encountered. Some of the earlier perks have changed over the years, such as when Pete Lane’s graciously refunded some of my ski rental costs when I didn’t feel well, an unexpected gift and also a tribute to the positive spirits of almost everyone I met. I instantly felt at home and happy to be in these mountains in spite of my poor athletic abilities.

Before I moved here, I was an English teacher at Beverly Hills High School. My students were always polite and courteous to me, and I found also that many of my wealthier pupils, perhaps envied by some for their family’s good fortunes, still needed care and comfort. One girl came to school the day after her sixteenth birthday and shared with me her disappointment that her parents, involved in Europe, shooting a film, had somehow overlooked that important birthday.

Teenagers are pretty much the same, wherever they reside or in what economic level they inhabit. Oddly, though, it was the environment outside of school that sometimes intimidated me. I drove my Volkswagen to the top level of parking (outside and for teachers), passing cute convertibles, Mercedes-Benzes, and other shiny vehicles on my way up. I also did not frequent many of the boutiques and shops around me, because I felt (maybe just my imagination) a lack of salesgirls’ enthusiasms for the middle-aged, simply-dressed person entering their store. One notable time the young woman at the counter didn’t address me from her perch behind the cash register the whole time I was looking at a rack of gorgeous dresses.  She only became hospitable when Paris Hilton came in.

These memories of rudeness have almost vanished because I live in a place where I have many people who welcome me, who make me feel worthy, and are gracious in their jobs and attitudes. I am just hoping that this civility isn’t spoiled by anxious, cranky, and stressed customers. Like “no crying in baseball,” I don’t want hostility caused by seasonal angst.

Cheery season hopes!