Shopping before the Internet…

I’m constantly reminded how fast time is zipping by these days. One of the biggest culprits is Facebook. Every couple days when I open Facebook, I’m surprised by a picture from my memories. Could be from one year ago or 5. It’s my option if I want to ‘share’ the photo again. I’m always shocked when I read, “Denise, we care about you (right). This is from your memories 4 years ago.” How can that be? I swear it was just last year! Upon further inspection I see how little Graham was and realize yup, had to be at least 4 years ago. Too fast. Slow down. 

Our Halloween craft project, a dirt cake cemetery in 2013, Graham 4…

Another ‘tell’ is my old calendars. I jot down little snippets, doctor appointments, grandkid’s events we attended, when or where we go somewhere. It’s easy to page through if I’m looking for something specific. When I buy a new calendar I use my current one (adding yet another year to whatever I want to be reminded of) for keeping track of Mom & Dad’s anniversary, special folks in my life who have passed away and how many years ago. Maybe that sounds morbid but it isn’t to me. While looking through the month of October, my eyes stopped on the 19th, and I realize Mom’s been gone 14 years. Can’t be true. Seems like she just called me yesterday (I can hear her voice distinctly) telling me how much she loved me-the night before she passed away. 

Mom, looking lovely in 1992…

Whenever the kids are around if I mention I’m looking for a gadget or need something, the first thing they say, “did you look for it online Mom?” That’s simply not the way I’m wired. I was raised/taught/encouraged/nurtured to literally ‘shop’ for the things I need. That’s why God made Malls. Duh. Who in their right mind would actually order an apple corer off the Internet? (All of my kids if they needed one). My Internet interest span gets seriously twitchy when I’m looking for something in earnest. Everything seems to take too long. That obnoxious little gizmo-the disappearing/revolving circle which means your iPad or computer’s still busy working/working. Drives me insane. This is not something I notice as I’m wondering around a humongous store and not finding what I want. Then again, I lived a much larger portion of my life without the Internet than all my kids. 

Still computer illiterate in 2000, yet I look relatively happy…

For decades we had the 1.0 version of shopping online. It was invented simultaneously by 3 ambitious business men. Namely Aaron Montgomery Ward, Richard Sears and J.C. Penney. Each pretty much had it perfected by the time I was a kid. It was the stuff dreams were made of. All you could ever hope for and covet in your lifetime. It was called The Catalog. Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter versions, plus the best one of the year, (at least according to our kids), The Christmas Wish Book. Hundreds of pages, literally thousands of items-all for viewing at your leisure. No battery draining, no sketchy service interruptions. It was massive, enticing and in bright colors. All the models were thin, gorgeous and happy. The way life’s supposed to be. Slick, shiny pages, filled with endless choices of the latest clothing trends, shoes, linens, kitchenware, furniture, even your next new home! And pets. You could order dogs, and cars, plus more exotic animals like parrots. 

Mom loved Montgomery Ward’s Catalog. Me too, early 1960’s…

My Mom was the ultimate shopper. She was tireless. Driven. Although she was frugal in many ways and saving money was very important, she loved splurging. She didn’t feel guilty about these little binge shopping escapades either. Part of her savvy savings were earmarked for these special shopping trips. It was a rare day if she were not enthusiastic about a trip to one of the Sioux’s-Falls or City. Shriver’s, Younkers, Penney’s, Sears, Montgomery Ward, she loved and shopped them all. But she could just as happily shop in a nearby, smaller town with independent stores, who were more likely to carry different brands than the bigger department stores. Hokey pete, you didn’t want to walk into church on Sunday and see someone else with the same dress or suit on! Oh the shame.

No words for my coat Mom bought. But I loved it…

Before a new school year started Mom and I would peruse her new stash of Fall/Winter catalogs from The Big 3. (She also received the Spiegel Catalog, but we never ordered much from them). We’d pick out a couple of skirts, slacks and tops that coordinated, hoping that our picks were just a little different than the other moms and my friends. Mom wanted my clothes to be unique. For that reason alone, a good percentage of my school clothes were handmade, like all the sweaters she knit. Mom had an expert seamstress on retainer, thus ensuring my black & white houndstooth wool, fully lined Bermuda (winter) shorts were indeed one-of-a-kind. No one else in their right mind were on the same level of originality (as Mom) or me for that matter, to be wearing shorts during an Iowa winter. Knee socks helped, but still, brrrrr.

Showing a lot of leg for an Iowa winter. Loved the saddle shoes, knee socks…

 
Back in those days Mom did not have a credit card. She just added up the cost of the catalog items, looked on a chart for the additional shipping & handling charge and simply mailed a check with the order form. We’d both be so excited, waiting what felt like an eternity for our order to be delivered. I can still remember numerous packages, tissue wrap, (Mom holding all the straight pins), plastic bags scattered all over our living room floor, while I tried on new clothes. Mom had the final say on everything, including quality control of said garments. If the plaid pattern of a new skirt didn’t match EXACTLY from one seam to another-bam-she’d slap that thing right back in the package for a return. Shopping from The Catalog was about as much fun, but in a different way as an actual shopping trip. Weird.

Just pick out your house from the catalog…

The novelty of catalog shopping didn’t wear off after I grew up (I know that’s still up for debate) either. Catalogs were bigger, brighter and competition remained stiff. Those marketing guys were crafty. Suddenly one catalog arrived which was slightly smaller in size. What! Just as the rest of the catalogs were getting bigger and bigger. Why? So the smaller version would be placed on TOP of the rest of the catalogs in your house. It would be picked up first. Sneaky bastards. 

Oh my goodness…

But there was something special about literally ‘going shopping’ which held so much appeal for Mom, and later me. While walking through the store, my eye was drawn to a piece of clothing. I found my size, grab an item off a circular rack, held it by the hanger, swinging it frontwards & backwards. Touch the fabric to decide if it’s worthy of a trip to the dressing room. Unless it was for Joshua or Adam. Neither were avid (clothes) shoppers, so when I brought home new clothes for them, they were usually agreeable. Shannon-not so much. She was ready to pick out her own clothes when she was 3. Whether I went along for the ride was entirely up to me. 

Shannon’s choice, Mom and I were along to pick up the check…

Still, the allure of The Christmas Catalog was overpowering when our kids were small. From approximately 1975 to 1985 the arrival of the Christmas Catalog somehow transformed our once semi-neat, happy home into something between, Children of the Iowa Corn and a shark feeding frenzy after a ton of chum had been dumped in the ocean. They’d immediately fight over first rights just to ‘look’ at the catalog without someone else gawking over their shoulder or trying to turn a particular page too soon. Sigh. Like king of the mountain. Each kid would grab a crayon, pencil, ink pen, or magic marker and circle the toys that could and would make their young lives complete. If only that tight ass Santa would come through. Yes, I still harbor a huge grudge against Santa. He didn’t exist in my home growing up. Imagine my surprise when our toddlers would echo their daddy’s sentiments about the tubby white haired guy. “No, mommy and daddy can’t afford that train Josh. Why don’t you ask Santa for it?” (Are you kidding me)? Too late to take those words back, but he’d get an earful in bed that night!  “John, who’s got Santa’s financial back here? We can’t afford the toys you’re promising he’s gonna bring. Why do you do this to us every year?”

The reason for many fights in the fall, The Christmas Catalog…

Much has changed in the shopping department since our kids were small. Still, when I need something, my first thought is ‘hmm, where’s the best place to start looking for solar shades?’ A couple hours later, exhausted from limping my way through a couple hard copy (retail stores), I dejectedly conclude the Internet is now my only best hope. Although the days of our kids fighting over The Christmas Catalog used to drive me to distraction, I’d love a do-over sometime. 

The fights were over, just waiting to see what Santa brought. He got credit for all the good stuff…

By the time our third kid got ahold of the catalog for their top choices, pages were missing or ripped, other kid’s choices scratched up or torn out out with a vengeance. Like a horde of grasshoppers descending on a crop of munchies in biblical times. Epic. The beat up sad, tattered Catalog was now filled with barely recognizable toys bearing either multiple circles around it, an “X” marked next to, a pastel heart or the sign of the beast. All that remained unscathed was a pristine page of girdles. Great. At least I’d wouldn’t have to suck in my gut during the holidays…

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