Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Catalogs


Sometimes I miss getting those big Sears & Roebuck or JCPenney catalogs in the mail.  I realize that I am dating myself, but they were especially fun to get at Christmas.  Those catalogs were an education to both parents and kids as to what the newest toys were out there.  I can still remember when the Christmas catalog would come in the mail.  The only way I could get first crack at it was to be home while the others were still at school.  Even then I would lose custody as soon as they got home.  We were also lucky enough to have Uncle Jack’s catalogs to peruse and I was fortunate to get one all on my own.

Uncle Jack and Aunt Hilda were my maternal grandmother’s brother and sister-in-law.  We really didn’t get a chance to see them that much but it was always a special occasion when we did.  Jack & Hilda owned a “Ben Franklin” store in Santa Rosa, CA.  As storekeepers, they rarely had holidays off especially at Christmas time.  Jack & Hilda would send up catalogs for us kids before the Christmas season and we would thumb through these catalogs with great intent.  Mom actually had to tell Jack to send us up two each.  That way we wouldn’t fight over the catalog.  The second one was for our orders.  By the time we sent the catalog back to Jack with our individual requests that first catalog was well used so the 2nd one was kept pristine so it was easy to read.  I’m sure Mom made us tailor down our requests.  Hilda would always add a few items that were more practical…knowing Uncle Jack – he took great fun in filling our requests.

When my parents had my sister, money was very tight.  They were essentially a newly married couple only in their 2nd year of marriage and they had a baby that needed a lot of medical care so the bills were high.  They didn’t have much to buy Christmas presents with that Christmas in 1961.  In fact, they were counting on a shipment from Jack and Hilda to help with Christmas.  Jack & Hilda sent up the big care package through the mail…but as things sometime go – it took longer than expected.  In fact, it was Christmas Eve and the box still hadn’t arrived.  Mom reasoned that my sister as a baby wouldn’t know the difference – but Mom certainly did and was heartbroken that the box hadn’t appeared.  The postman knew that Mom and Dad were waiting for that box, so when he went back to the Post Office after his route, he saw that the box had arrived.  He loaded the box into his truck and brought it up to Mom and Dad’s house.  Mom was thrilled – they would be able to have Christmas after all.
Uncle Jack & Aunt Hilda

Jack and Hilda have both passed away and remain only in memories…just like those old catalogs.  There are still a few reminders of the gifts they gave us though.  My sister has a stuffed Santa Claus that has been well loved and is almost falling apart.  She no longer puts him out but he is in a treasured place.  I think that Santa was in that first box of gifts that Jack & Hilda sent up that arrived on that late Christmas Eve afternoon.  I have a little vest with my name on it and a Santa Claus that only fits a stuffed bear now.  I look at that vest and have to smile.