Holiday shopping builds big muscles these days

By Karrie McAllister

This afternoon I will partake in my November ritual. I will don my shoes and jacket and head out to the garage. I will find my leather work gloves and put them on and push the wheelbarrow out the side door.
From there I will go past the woodpile. I will go past the plants that need to be cut back. I will go down to the end my driveway and park my wheelbarrow in front of the mailbox.
It is time to check the mail.
Stuffed inside the little rounded metal box there will without doubt be more paper than I can safely haul back to my house without the aid of my trusty wheelbarrow. There will be a few bills from early holiday shopping and bills revealing the first cold snap of the year, but there will certainly be at least five-thousand six-hundred catalogs jammed in there.
I think the mailman must have super-human muscles from lugging these things around—I know I’m getting a good set of my own just bringing them into my home.
I’m also thinking that my name and address must appear on some master list entitled “People Who Have Actually Purchased Something from a Mail-Order Catalog,” because I receive, on average, two catalogs a day during the month of November.
They come in all sorts and sizes, each different and each displaying their own special products that they assume will take care of everyone on my Christmas shopping list.
For the carnivores, I have received a few “all-meat” catalogs. Page after page of raw beef and obscure things like elk sausage and my personal favorite, the tur-duc-hen, which for those who have not received this meat catalog yet is a hen stuffed inside a duck which is then stuffed inside a turkey. Mmmm mmm… but I’m thinking there must be a better name for it.
For all of those sports enthusiasts I know, I’ve got heaps of varieties of catalogs covering every sport known to mankind. Tennis, running, hunting, fishing, you name it, I’ve got a place for you to find it. If only everyone I knew was in need of sub-zero thermal underwear or a new snorkel, my holiday shopping would be a breeze.
But because I have children and I’m on another master list entitled “Suckers Who Actually Bought from an Extremely Over-Priced Toy Catalog,” we get these things by the dozens. Hundreds, even. And at least three-quarters of them are identical versions of another catalog; the only difference being a different front cover, showing a different kid, wearing a different colored construction hat and playing with a different set of blocks.
Yet somehow, my own kids go gaga over ever single catalog that comes in the mail.
They tear through them, pointing out the same exact toys that they went gaga about the day before in a different catalog, ooohing and ahhhing over how cool it would be to have a rock tumbler or an electronic drum set.
They then cut out the pictures of the, and I quote, “coolest presents in the whole wide galaxy.” Next they glue them on a piece of paper, making a visual wish-list that conveniently has the price and ordering information clipped away, not that I’d use it, but at least I would be able to have a good argument as to why they can’t have a twelve-foot teepee. (Because it costs over three-hundred dollars!)
When they are finished and their Christmas lists have grown to gargantuan proportions, I don my shoes and coat and work gloves again and load up all of the now skeletal toy catalogs back into the wheelbarrow. From there I haul them back out to the end of my driveway and leave them there in the recycling bin in hopes that they will be recycled into something better and more useful than one of the thousands of holiday catalogs I’ll get next year…maybe something like protective packaging for the tur-duc-hen…


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