Friday, February 19, 2010

Catalog Shopping

Catalog Shopping

Where do these things come from? I never order anything by catalog. Yet they seem to breed in my mailbox until it overflows. If only my garden would proliferate like this.

Like most of us, I grew up with catalogs--Sears, “Monkey” Ward and Fingerhut and most important, Burgess and Gurney’s Seed Catalogs. And like most farm families, we thriftily recycled them for another use. But I quit ordering from them years ago. That dress, so stylish on the model, cinched me in three inches above my waist. And the shirt sleeve cuff hung uselessly between my elbow and wrist. The yellow damask tablecloth seemed to take on a bilious greenish cast somewhere between the warehouse and my mailbox. Shoes were impossible. Plants guaranteed to arrive healthy and on the peak day for planting in my zone were DOA. Nothing would resurrect them. I gave up.

Anyway, I’m a tactile shopper. I heft the drill in my hand, feeling for balance and weight and grip. I finger the blouse for the texture of the cloth. Color leaps out at me and drags me panting over to the rack of dresses. Now that I am home again, realistically, I shop for bib overalls and steel toe work boots at the Big R. The same principle applies. I need to see it, feel it, hold it, fit it. And I discovered local nurseries with huge selections of lilacs and petunias. I like these lilacs and petunias. They live. They grow.

As catalogs arrived in my mail box, I automatically transferred them into my recycle-paper box, unopened. Until one day shortly before Christmas. Something on a cover caught my attention. I don’t remember what it was—The Beetles Monopoly Game or the John Deere Welcome Mat, or maybe, the Trailer Cash Change Bank. I was mesmerized. I sat down, turned on my lamp and for the next two and a half hours was lost in the Wonderful World of Catalog.

“This is fascinating,” I said. I picked up the phone and called a friend on the coast.

He said, “You need to get out more.”

“No, listen. Somebody is thinking, brains are buzzing, creating all these things. There is no end to the ideas. All this stuff started as an idea in somebody’s brain. And what is even more fascinating; somebody is buying this stuff. This is great. Listen: a Gingerbread Scented Hot Pad. Oh, how can you live without a Nose-Shaped Shower Gel Dispenser? Or a book named: “The 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Book”? Or Battery-Operated Votive Candles? And look here, Elvis Christmas Tree Ornaments. Ooh. ‘Christmas Story’ Leg Lamps, you know, like in the movie.”

“Whoa, wait a minute.” My friend interjected. “Didn’t you know about all this?”

“Well, no,” I confessed. “I realize I have been missing a whole world of creativity. This is world class entertainment. Wow, wall shelves shaped like a ’57 Chevy Bumper and a Skull Toilet Brush Holder.”

Three days later my mailbox was jammed with catalogs, courtesy of my friend from Washington. Now I sit down and avidly browse through them, laugh and marvel and wonder.

Today I am cruising the seed catalogs and thus far have ordered $4,896.27 worth of exotic plants, all guaranteed to die in our climate. But who could resist the giant purple exotic Batflower from China, or the Great Gunnera with leaves five feet across, or the 50 Variety Tea Rose Collection, or the Magnolias or the Paper Birch? Ah, heaven.

Oh, no, I won’t mail in my order but it’s been fun dreaming. Last year I bought petunias in Havre, Chinook and Malta, not because I needed so many petunias, but because I enjoyed the greenhouses. This spring I will plant another lilac and fill my pots with petunias and geraniums, all purchased within 50 miles of home. I’ll buy a new “I Been Bitten” Mosquito T-shirt at the Clothing Company so I can pick the exact color I want. And I will carefully select a new shovel, not too heavy, from Charlie at the Lumberyard. My shopping will be done until the first frost reminds me it is time to buy new wool socks at the Big R.

Sondra Ashton
January 25, 2009

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