In North Mississippi, in the late 1970s, the value of the Sears Catalog cannot be overstated.
It was an endless source of amazement and entertainment. It was my portal into other worlds, where people wore suits and had couches that matched the armchairs and the men wore t-shirts that matched their underwear and the women wore underwear that was not white.
We were dollar store people, sometimes including Kmart and Walmart, darkening the doors of Sears only twice a year – when we shopped for back to school clothes and when we went into the mall at Christmas, when we children were admonished to touch nothing – NOTHING! – and were told in no uncertain terms that we would not be buying any toys here today. After all, maybe Santa would bring us what we wanted.
The catalog was called the Wishbook, but that’s not how I used it, as I had no doubt that there was never any chance of affording anything on offer from there. No, for me it was a Dreambook. I think the closest analog would be the way we use a site like Pinterest now – looking for things that are visually appealing and then using that image as a basis for our imagination to take over. Like, I see how this blogger redid her living room, and although mine is smaller and has fewer windows, perhaps the built-in bookshelves and the hardwood floors would work in my living room as well…
So I pictured a life where I wore a suit like that to work, and where I had a briefcase like that one there, and of course, I would need a gold watch with a snap bracelet and a Cross pen set that matched the watch. I would wear a gold necklace with a little cross on it, too, and a gold money clip. I didn’t know much, but I knew matching was important.
I would have one of those dorm fridges in my bedroom, where I would keep my six-packs of beer. My parents did not drink – nobody I knew really did – but beer is what cool grownups drank, so it was a given that I would have a beer fridge in my room. That bar set was nice, too, and then there was the pool table with the leather pockets and the stained glass lamp that would hang over it. It would all go in the rumpus room in my basement, despite the fact I had never been in a basement in my life, nor did I know anyone who owned a house that had one.
But neither did my imaginings default to so far away as adulthood. You could, back then, purchase Boy Scout uniforms from Sears, and I desperately wanted to be a Boy Scout, but there was no troop for many, many miles. So I imagined starting my own version of the Boy Scouts, and with our own uniforms, and I had found an ancient Boy Scout handbook – at least 40 years old – at a thrift store and we would not only learn things like how to start fires and camp in the woods, but we would also fight crime and assist the police and make the world better. Girls would not be allowed. It was sort of like if the Boys Only club from Little Rascals met the Superfriends and the Eagle Scouts.
I spent hours, laying on the floor of our living room, flipping through that catalog. Dreaming.