Saturday, November 10, 2007

Remembering the Sears Catalog and Holidays Gone By

When I was a kid, I looked forward to September. September meant the end of summer, the beginning of school, and the thought that Christmas wasn't too far away. Plus, September led to October, which meant my Birthday AND Halloween. And the best part about Halloween that in a week or two the Sears Big Book would show up at our house to the delight of me and my siblings.

About two weeks or so before Thanksgiving, that enormous Sears catalog would be jammed into our tiny mailbox. My brother, sister and I would take turns pouring over each page, making our lists of things we wanted for Christmas. I remember being so specific with my requests that it bordered on obsessive-compulsive (that explains some of my neurosis today!). For example, I didn't want just those pants. I wanted those pants in 1) Black 2) Petite 3) Corduroy 4) size L. They could not be 1) Red 2) Average 3) Chino or 4)S, M, or XL. I made notes all over my lists in order to help my mom with the ordering. It was like I was writing an invoice and left no details out.

But of course, Christmas would arrive and I'd tear open a present only to find a pair of red twill pants in a size M that were way too tight in the waist and way too long in the legs. Gift after gift I'd open and it would be the item I wanted, but not in a color or size that I could/would ever wear. I would ask myself why I even bothered to write out a list when my mom doesn't even pay attention to it. She just buys me stuff SHE would want me to wear. This went on until I was about 14 and said that I didn't want ANY clothing for Christmas. But then she'd purchase all the books, movies, music, and gadgets/toys I had on my list for my sister and claim that OOPS! she got the lists mixed up. Every year this happened without fail. And every year I was left with a pile of stuff I didn't want and had to deal with both the feelings of anger as well the feelings of guilt. I felt guilty that I was so pissed off that I got all these things for Christmas when there were people out there that were still wearing clothing from 1979.

When the Sears catalog arrived, you knew the holiday season wasn't far behind. The air was crisp and cold. The house always smelled of delicious things simmering, or cooking, or baking. But when I was a kid, no one I knew decorated for Christmas until, oh, December 10th or so. My parents didn't even talk about chopping down a tree until at least the 15th (yes, we went into the woods behind out house and chopped down our own tree. None of this buy-it-at-Wal-Mart crap of today). My mom didn't bust out the decorations or the Christmas music until the 15th or so, too. I can't even remember The Mall by my house getting ready for Christmas until December. It all seemed perfectly awesome and perfectly normal.

But today, advertisers and the corporate money machines force Christmas upon us before Columbus day even arrives! It depresses me beyond words to see Christmas decorations and pretty wrapped presents alongside spooky masks and treats for Halloween. In my brain, I just can't accept it. It's not even cold! It hasn't even snowed! I haven't passed out treats to little kids dressed up like pirates and princesses! NO!

But it's true. Things to buy for Christmas come earlier and earlier each year. Next year we'll probably see Macy's Christmas displays up and ready before the kids even go back to school. Soon it'll be before the 4th of July. And one day in the not-so-distant future it'll be Christmas All Year 'Round. I swear it's coming, and it makes me want to scream!

I've decided that my own War on Christmas will be to not purchase anything for anyone at any major retailer. There are lots of small indie businesses out there that I'd rather support. We're taught as Americans to SPEND SPEND SPEND! at the Big Box retail stores, but I refuse. Not when Christmas is forced upon me earlier and earlier every year. IF I decide to purchase anything, it will be after December 25th. Not only are there major sales to get rid of all the Made In China shit that they couldn't get rid of before the holiday, but all the Wall Street Holiday Spending statistics will be figured out and sent to Fox News to let every lemming know what a Good American they were this year. And my dollars and cents won't be a part of it.

I do miss the days of the Sears Catalog, for sure. But as I think back on it, I don't like how I spent so much time wishing and hoping for things that I'd forget about in three months. I don't like how I spent so much mental and emotional energy hoping my Mom would buy me exactly what I wanted, only to be let down every single year. I don't like how I put so much emphasis on receiving instead of giving. I can't get that time back. But I can choose to not support the corporations that force a Holiday of Spending down my throat. This year I'm ditching the proverbial Sears book for Etsy, eBay, and local Minnesotan crafters and small business owners. I will definitely sleep well knowing my money was well spent.


Michelle said...

I agree with you about Christmas. It's really gotten out of hand. Major props to you for only supporting local retailers. That is so funny how you made you Christmas list as a kid. Hilarious. I loved the Sears catalog, too as a kid. I cut out pictures of what I wanted for Christmas.

Sornie said...

I have to assume that being I haven't received a Sears or JC Penney Christmas catalog that they either don't print them anymore or just don't mail them. As for how early the retail Christmas season starts, it seems to be extra crazy this year. I will be doing my part and shopping exclusively at the Pamida store in Glencoe (eerily worth the drive) 2 days before Christmas. Trucker caps for everyone!