The greenery is up in the malls. Santa’s village is under construction. The occasional carol sneaks onto the PA system. Television ads and local news segments have begun reminding us how many shopping days are left.
Normally, I’d be on the front lines, decrying “Christmas Creep” along with other refugees from retail, but this year is a little different. John and I will be going to France soon, so I have to get a head start. “Oh!” you’re thinking, “What a great place to shop for presents!” Well, yes…and no. For Sarah and Baby Chloe, it’s the best. Fashionable girls and little children are French specialties. Computer-geeky jeans-and-t-shirt boys? Not so much.
And do you have any idea how hard it is to buy a gift 2,ooo miles from home and keep it hidden from the man you’re travelling with?
This is why some benevolent being invented catalogs. And my lovely postman brings me more every day!
An almost overwhelming number of them have landed on my desk in the last two weeks. Some are from old-favorite companies I’ve done business with before, and probably will again. Others are “friend of a friend” type books. As in, “You bought stuff from these guys last year, we’re just like them, only better.” Some really cool ones seem to be tied to a National Geographic subscription we took out earlier this year (Special 2-for- 1 deal with Mad Magazine. Whole ‘nother story.).
Geeks, gardeners,and gourmets have catalogs all their own. Fashionistas and dog-fanciers, wine lovers and book lovers. We even got catalogs from Jockey and Hanes, just in case we’d rather mail-order our tighty-whities instead of picking them up at Wal-Mart on Sunday with the dog food!
Then there’s the food.
It’s no secret that John and I are un-apologetic foodies. He’s an amazing cook, and I’ve learned a few tricks of my own. We mail-order specialty ingredients all the time. But nothing is as drool-inducing as the holiday layouts in the gourmet catalogs. Cheese collections from far-away lands. Fruit baskets beaded with dew. Desserts so beautiful that, in the words of a fellow-FARKer, “you want to rent it an apartment and date it on the side!” These are almost never ordered, but they do serve as inspiration for our own kitchen creations – and sometimes result in an emergency batch of chocolate-oatmeal drop cookies!
I do love catalogs, have since childhood. My brother and I would spend hours pouring over the J.C.Penny’s, Sear’s and Montgomery(Monkey) Ward’s Christmas books, circling our dream gifts. But it was more than just my “wish list”. It was a dream-window, an imagination spring-board. If I could have the ice-cream machine, AND the E-Z Bake oven, I could prepare a feast for my friends. The plastic tiara and jewellery would transform me into a princess. If I were a grown-up, I’d get that dart set and a pool table and make a really fun game room. And those little chocolates shaped like bottles? Wonder what those taste like? They couldn’t really have alcohol in them! That’d be silly!
So, come Saturday – which is supposed to be rainy and cold- I’ll settle in with a stack, a pen, and a pad of Post-it notes to choose this year’s gifts. I’ll giggle at the cheeky t-shirts no one I know would ever wear, coo over little-girl dresses that won’t fit Chloe for years, and daydream a little over clever-but-impractial gizmos that don’t match up with my list. Somewhere in that ever-growing pile, there has to be something for everyone.