That Time of Year . . . Again?

It’s that time of year again. Mails are getting heavy with catalogs, most of which you never asked for nor want. Yet time and time again I find myself taking one with me to the bathroom or an easy chair and spending valuable time sifting through the pages. I guess it’s a throwback to those days long ago when, as a child, I so looked forward to the arrival of that J.C. Penney or Sear’s Christmas catalog.

After getting that big book that showed me exactly what the world had to offer kids whose parents had money, I’d spend the next weeks rifling through the pages until they were rumpled and crinkly, marking big pencil circles around each item that I knew would completely transform my life if I could just manage to get it somehow, hopefully through benevolent benefactors since I didn’t, nor ever expected to, have any money.

One year it actually worked. During a dropby visit after school one day Gramma and Grampa invited me into the room across the hall from the dining room where we weren’t normally allowed to be. They opened a big trunk with leather straps around it filled with smells of moth balls and old fabric. They proudly pulled out and presented me with a small doll wrapped in a pink flannel blanket. What a delightful surprise, only to be doubled moments later when they pulled out a second doll identical to the first, except that one was wrapped in a blanket of blue.

Grampa, whom everyone in the family thought of as being very stingy, was especially excited. Immediately we began thinking of names for the new dolls, and he reckoned as how “Pete” would be a fine name for the blue-blanket doll, and “Re-Pete” would work for the other. So that’s what I called them. I don’t remember for a fact, but I suspect there was a catalog somewhere in their living room with a page of dolls turned down at the corner with pictures of my Pete and Repete.

So the other day, when I found a toy catalog from ToysRus in our mailbox, I briefly entertained the idea of passing it along to the grandchildren so they could experience the same joy that I did in turning the pages over and over and daydreaming about Christmas to come. My grandchildrens’ rooms are full of toys, yet they always wish they had more. So I don’t think they will ever experience dreaming and anticipating the wonders Santa might bring – provided the crops have been good and that he has made enough money that year.

I wasn’t the only child in those days who had lean Christmases. Even sadder is the fact that there are still children in this country who will have a very lean Christmas this year, just as they have had every year of their lives so far. So I threw away that ToysRus catalog. I don’t think most children in this country, including my grandchildren, will ever understand and appreciate how much they have. I wish there was an easy way to change that, but I can’t think what it would be. On the other hand, I don’t think I need to stimulate the greedy gene by supplying a “want” book. I guess it’ll be up to Santa to make that decision. 

5 thoughts on “That Time of Year . . . Again?

  1. Your granddaughter doesn’t want that much (yet), but your grandson is one GIANT want. He already gets catalogs in the mail and folds down pages and circles stuff. so you don’t need to be an enabler..he’s enabled himself.

    sigh. i too wish there were a way to combat the material greed this country reinforces so much.

  2. I loved Christmas catalogs and I too came from a family where we didn’t get a lot of gifts. My kids even spent hours pouring over the JC Penneys and Sears Christmas catalogs … They got to choose 2 things and hope Santa brought one of them. If they weren’t too expensive they usually got both. My grandkids love catalogs, too. It’s the best form of entertainment I have for ages 5 to 12! But I agree … no one could love them like our generation!

  3. I was an only child, with both parents that worked. So my Christmas’s were always very nice. Not overly abundant, but nice. One thing I always thanked my mom for (when I was an adult) was the fact that although I was an only child, she never spoiled me. She’d make me wait for things, even though “I” knew she could afford them right then and there. A valuable lesson and I raised my three the same way. I also do the same with my grandchildren.
    As you said, TOO many children today have nothing. And I feel it’s even more important to teach ours this fact and that just because financially they can have it….it means more not to have it all.

  4. There are growing studies suggesting that there’s a correlation between materialism and low self-esteem. While this is hard to generalize, I think it is still a good start to explain and justify our common sense thinking, at least from those of us not brain washed.

    It’s sad that the media has turned a blind eye to matters like these. Social studies like these has been going on for years. But we never hear about them. Like a few weeks ago, the Indian police raided a bunch of children sweat shops. It is estimated that thousands of children around 8 or 9 are illegally employed by multinational clothing chains. In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine something like that still exist.

    News like these rarely reach us because it’s bad business for the media to rat out on their clients. And the particular store that were caught red handed? Gap.

    (excuse me for going on a tangent…)

  5. OOOFF. You know, the commercial for the ToysRUs “want book” REALLY gets my goat. The mom is about to put the little girl to bed, and instead of reading a story, they read the stupid catalog. It’s disgusting–materialism instead of books! Blech!!

    And I don’t think Paul’s comment is really a tangent at all…it’s directly tied to our culture of exploitive labor as well as to the fact that some children live in want when others are lucky enough to just want stuff. How sad.

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