Not one, but three people -- Sean, my sister Susan, and Lucy -- all sent me this via email during the past week. Only someone who truly understands me would get why looking at those nauseating pictures would bring me so much pleasure. If you are under 35, you probably don't understand the joys of the JC Penney and Sears catalogs that used to arrive in the mail every fall and again at Christmas. In fact, the Sears Holiday Wish Book was my main reason for living when I was in elementary school.
Every November, my sisters and I would take turns with the Wish Book, poring through its every page (though, of course, focusing on the toy section) and making lists of what we wanted for Christmas. One year, my sister Susan's list ran to over 300 items; whereas I, ever restrained, never filled more than both sides of a single piece of paper. The one item I remember asking for a couple years in a row but not receiving was a Barbie babysitting set, which included a Barbie-scaled infant and what appeared to be an entire miniature layette. I liked my Barbie, but I loved dollhouse-sized things even more, and I think it was the tininess of that toy baby's accoutrements that appealed to me. I'm guessing my mom knew I was on the verge of abandoning doll play and wisely selected something more appropriate for me. (Was it one of those years that I received the 3-record boxed set A Festival of Light Classical Music? Hmmm.)
But it wasn't just the toys that appealed to me. I don't think I knew the word "trousseau" when I was young, but I did have the urge to start accumulating goods for my adult home at quite a tender age. Thus, even though I didn't have the money to purchase anything, I began saving catalog and magazine photos I liked of dishes, silverware, window treatments, furniture, and, above all else, bedding -- if I had actually purchased all the sheets and comforters and throw pillows that appealed to me during my childhood and teen years, I would now need an entire room in my house to store it all. I would need twice as many kitchen cupboards to store my various sets of dinnerware and a walk-in linen closet for all my towels. I also saved pictures of clothing that I thought would look swell on me when I got a little older. I came across a file folder filled with those clipped pictures just a few years ago, and egad. Let's just say that my tastes have changed.
I'm still a fan of catalogs. Shopping online is handy, but I find it very soothing to page through a mail-order catalog. Sometimes, when the catalog is lame, I'll play a little game with myself: If I had to purchase one item from this two-page spread, which would it be? The thought of spending my hard-earned money on the least awful item pictured can be sobering. I haven't looked at a Sears or JC Penney catalog in years, but I do enjoy getting mail from The King Arthur Flour Company, Sur la Table, Hobby Builders Supply, Nova Natural Toys & Crafts, and Crown City Hardware. I must be on every mailing list in the country -- recently I received a mailer from some strangely enthusiastic gourmet mushroom company.
If you're getting nostalgic for the Wish Books of your youth, take a look at this. I know it's a bit early, but Merry Christmas.