The Coast News Group
Small Talk

A mail-order Christmas

I fight a special battle this time of year.  I have a love-hate relationship with catalogs. I always succumb and order from them, so by September, my mailbox begins to runneth over.
Stacks of them begin to pile up around the house. It’s a habit I apparently picked up from my mother, who never threw away a catalog until she had time to scour it thoroughly. A bagful went with her when she and my dad downsized, as she was sure she still needed to scrutinize each and every one.
I do love to curl up with my assortment, ranging from the Washington National Gallery of Art to one with bags of chatchkes for a dollar. You just never know when you might stumble across the perfect gift. But the risk is finding a dozen things I’d like for myself. It takes true self-discipline to resist ordering them all and filling my own stocking.
Somehow, the vendors have learned that before New Year’s Eve, I have a daughter’s birthday, six stockings to fill and trinkets to find for St. Nicholas Day shoes and several Advent calendars. With that semi-frantic look in my eyes, I am their target audience.
Trouble is, everything always looks adorable in the catalog. That leather-handled boat and tote bag is so handsome, but doesn’t your cousin already have six purses and 10 reusable grocery bags? And do you know you can get a Van Gogh “Starry, Starry Night” umbrella for just $25? But when you are racing around in the rain, is the poignancy of the artwork pretty much lost?
Another catalog has the cutest holiday decorations. How do I know they are the cutest? Because as soon as my daughter sees them, they tend to wander off to her house. (Well, then I just order more.) And I try to order promptly but sometimes find the catalogs smushed under a pile of laundry. Nothing adds to holiday stress like finding they only have one item left, in magenta, in a size 2.
I promise local merchants that I will make at least one on-foot shopping trip, but it is tough to say no to those collegiate mascot neck pillows, or those faux fur-lined, polyester suede-look boots. How ever will I decide?

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer hoping to be ready for Christmas by Nov. 1. Contact her at