Long before the Internet was a thought, and way before the two-day express mailing was a thing, there was the Sears Catalog for home shopping. As a child, I would drool over this coveted catalog which arrived every year, through the United States Postal System several weeks before school began in the fall. The Sears Catalog, aka "The Big Book", was a thick paperback book of pages, about the size of a sheet of paper. Measuring close to two inches thick with over 500 pages, the Sears Catalog was as thick as a family bible, or a hefty dictionary, and just as significant to my home. Its many pages were segmented into different sections for Men, Women, Children, Household, Tools, etc. The book was filled with attractive men, women, and children modeling the latest trends in clothing or using the most popular appliance. As many of the models were television or movie stars, the items they modeled were all the more desirable.
Traditionally, several weeks before the first day of school, I would seclude myself in my bedroom with the Big Book. There, in private, I would flip through the children's section of clothing to choose outfits that could be mixed and matched for the school year. As far as I was concerned, there were no other clothing or accessory options other than what could be found in the glossy pages of this book. My wish to look as "cool" as the kids that were found on the pages of this catalog was probably never realized, but I always struggled to be as "in fashion" as the Sears Catalog kids.
Because I was not allowed to cut up the Sears Catalog, I would handwrite my detailed clothing requests on lined notebook paper. Details such as page numbers and item numbers could only refer to the items in the Sears Catalog as I had no other options for home shopping. The lists of details and color choices would be handed over to my mother for approval. If the clothing choices were approved and affordable, I would soon see some of these clothes in my closet.
As the weather grew cooler and winter approached, the Sears Corporation released its Christmas catalog or "Wish Book" and the content of the catalog changed to include more heavy coats, fuzzy sweaters, and knee-high boots, as well as an expansive section of toys. Of course, as a child, I was only concerned with the section called "Toys". Flat on my belly, I would lie on the soft, round rug which covered the floor in the living room and flip through this extensive "bible of toys" for hours. Debating with myself, reading the descriptions of each wonderful toy, and circling the ones that were the most desirable, was an annual ritual I will never forget. My "Christmas List", with page numbers and detailed descriptions, would then be handed over to my mother.
Every Christmas morning, I would sometimes find I had been lucky enough to receive one or two items from my Wish Book Christmas List. Joyfully, I would refer back to the Wish Book to see how closely my new outfit matched those outfits found on the books' pages or ponder whether the toy I had received was better than the ones I had not. My Christmas outfit would be worn proudly at dinner time for the whole family to admire and my new Christmas toys would be jealously guarded against heavy-handed cousins.
The tradition of shopping the Sears Catalog went on for many years until I reached high school age. Soon the arrival of the Sears Catalog was not met with as much fanfare as in the past and going to a shopping mall with my friends became much more important. The catalog had been my reference point for all that was trending in the world and accurately showcased the most popular styles for many years, but when it no longer arrived at my childhood home, no one seemed to miss it. However, the tradition of shopping in the Sears Catalog will forever be part of my childhood memories.