Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fall Is Comin' Real Quick-like

My writing about childhood toys yesterday got me to realize just how close we are to September, and the start of fall. Not that the weather changes a lot down here. Winter is pleasant and beautiful, while Summer is hot and beautiful.

When I was a kid though, I loved October. And not just because my birthday is in October either. My birthday was never a big deal to me. I liked the presents and the peanut butter cake Sainted Mother always made for me well enough; I've just never thought much of birthdays as a celebration in general. I know, I'm the Paaahty Poopah.

I talked yesterday about childhood toys, and mentioned that the store in which I bought my camper for Big Josh, had a toy section year-round, although I can't remember what the name of the store was.

This was a HUGE deal for me as a kid. See, the little town we lived in, Vidalia, Louisiana, only had a couple of minor department stores; Otasco, and West Brothers. Neither store had a permanent toy section. So going to these stores was no big deal.

Well, to be fair, Sterling's, the 'five and dime' store had toys all the time, but they were pretty much limited to rubber snakes and junk like that. The kind of toy you play with for a day or two and then stop playing with it.

The occasional trip to Natchez, Mississippi, to Sears or some other store with a permanent toy section was a major event in my life. A trip to the 'Big City' of Monroe (population 50K), and it's KMART was almost total sensory overload. All of those Hotwheels! A whole row of plastic models! A whole selection of model paints. How could a boy with limited funds choose among the smorgasborg of delectable toys? I somehow managed to muddle through though. I was a real trouper, wasn't I?

But in October in Vidalia, Otasco and West Brothers would make some room and put in a few rows of toys. The beauty of this was, that both stores were within easy striking distance of a boy on his bicycle. Like me for instance.

When I saw Otasco clearing out space in October, I knew Christmas was a-comin'! Woo-Hoo!

And at about this same time every year, we would receive our Sears, J.C. Penney, and Spiegel Christmas catalogs. (Spiegel, Chicago, 6-0-6-0-9, as announcers used to intone on old game shows.)

These were books, I hate to admit, that were as precious as a Bible to me. I would carefully flip each and every page in the entire catalog(s) early on. But later, as crunch time approached, when we would have to tell our parents what we definitely wanted for Christmas, I had to relegate myself to the toy section of each catalog only. Time could no longer be wasted looking at junk like clothes and clocks and stuff.

I realize now, that Christmas was probably a tough time for my parents. They didn't make a lot of money, and they saved throughout the year, and come Christmas time, they would give us a maximum amount that would be spent on each of us.

But Christmas was always wonderful, and we always got at least our 'Big' thing that we wanted, and a few minor toys, along with the usual socks and underwear and junk like that, that are only 'filler' presents as far as kids are concerned.

And for most of the years I've been married, I would make a point of getting the Sears and J.C. Penney Christmas catalogs every year.

It was a dark day in my world when they stopped making them. (I was in my late 30's too!)

But although I shop via internet quite a bit now, and truly appreciate the increased variety of things available as compared to even a few years ago; I love to remember the joy of poring over the Christmas catalogs. And as the deadline approached, would solemnly circle and initial my main choices.

I can't wait to tell my grandkids how Santa operated when I was a kid.
--Wait (im)patiently for Christmas catalog to arrive in the mail.
--Engage in the solemn ritual of digging through the catalog for weeks.
--Circle and initial items in printed catalog.
--Mom and Dad filling out an order form by hand.
--Writing a check.
--Sending the order and check off via U.S. Postal Service.
--Waiting weeks to get your shipment or shipments, and Mom and Dad probably praying that the order was filled correctly...

Ah, the good old days. And the excitement always began in October.

And October is just around the corner!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your birthday should be a big deal. Maybe you haven't had your greatest birthday yet because you haven't advertised it. That's right. Advertise it. People are so much nicer when they know it is your special day. And here is a great way to let them know when they should crank up their niceness dial:

You can thank me later. ;)