The catalog was passed back and forth between the children like a sacred talisman. We circled the items that caught our fancy, putting an initial beside them. Then, we pared down the list, knowing that Santa had only a limited amount of space on that sleigh of his.
Those were concentrated weeks of effort. After all, did the Chrissy doll with the dial on her back that magically turned her from a long-haired beauty to a cropped-top carrot head top the list? Or, could a head be swayed by the handy little machine that turned out perfect sno-cones?
After just a few days, that poor catalog, at least the 120 pages devoted to toys, was as dog-eared as NBC's copy of the Starr Report. Curiously, the 46-pages devoted to socks and underwear remained as pristine as the day it came home from the store.
We had rules. No one could tear out a page, lest one of the other children's "must-have" item was there too.
No one could remove the catalog from the living room, where it held a place of honor.
No one could take the book, for heaven's sake, out of the house.
We didn't honestly believe that everything we marked, pored over and yes, drooled over, would come our way, but that was part of the fun.
We would devise elaborate games.
"If you had $100 (an unthinkable amount to a child in those days) what would you buy?"
Well, mathematics skills were put to the test as we figured, refigured, prioritized and ranked our selections. Those being the days before the advent of hand-held calculators, we wore out lots of erasers doing our figuring.
Looking back, I'm amazed at the importance we placed on that catalog. After all, we didn't take scouting trips to "Toys R Us" or the big retailers. We didn't have access to internet stores where everything under the sun was available. We had the catalog, and everything worth having, we figured, was included between those covers.
So, it was with nostalgia, and a bit of relief, when my 6-year old, who does have access to those things, grabbed hold of the catalog for dear life and wouldn't let go.
He spent some delightful hours over the weekend laboriously marking promising items with an "OK." When his mom noted that there were certainly a lot of "OKs" on the pages, he explained that this was just his "first-look."
Ah, the magic of genetics! Without a word said, a fond memory shared or coaching, he understood that the true fun of the catalog was not the acquisition, but the dreaming.
While he's an only child, with no brothers or sisters fighting for the book, his mom went through the "rules of the catalog." His mom and dad needed their turns.
After all, you're never too old to dream.
Paula Buenger is the editor of the Spencer Daily Reporter, and an occasional contributor to the Pilot-Tribune.