Posted by: Hannah | 08/22/2011

blogging the Wish Book – pt 1

When we were kids, summer’s end meant shopping for school supplies, swimming in the ocean that had finally warmed up enough not to make your legs burn with cold, and reading through the Sears Christmas Wish Book.

A quick peek at Wikipedia tells me that in the U.S., a “Wish Book” is no longer published. How sad. The fun you’re missing! In Canada, nothing unites us all as quickly as telling stories about flipping past the ugly clothes, the furniture section, and the questionable holiday decorating choices to get to the toys at the back.

I have clear memories of several letters to Santa that came complete with page number references. Especially if you lived in a rural area – like I did – and you didn’t have cable TV so you didn’t see many toy commercials – me again – the Wish Book opened up an incredible world of possibilities, showed you magical toys that you never knew existed… but that you instantly wanted more than life itself.

The reality was almost always a crushing disappointment, mind you. One year my sister and I begged for the Pottery Wheels we saw in the Wish Book. Using only 4D cell batteries, make beautiful pottery mugs! And vases! And bowls! Comes with 2lb block of clay, batteries not included! Santa brought us each one. They were awful – cheap plastic, weak motor, and as soon as you put the clay on the wheel is would grind to a halt because hey, you can’t actually throw pots using the power of batteries. *sigh*

But that was the beauty of the Wish Book – the potential. Somewhere between 800 – 1000 pages of potential, all displayed next to blond-haired blue-eyed hyper-delighted families wearing festive Christmas sweaters.

Since moving out on my own, I have not had my own copy of the Wish Book. You can only get on the mailing list by ordering something from it, and I haven’t done that for years. Looking at it online just isn’t the same. Every year I get a little wistful, thinking about it.

So imagine my joy when last week, I found one.

I was walking the kids (all five of them, plus the dog – walks are serious business these days). We passed a house in our neighbourhood where they have no children. And are on vacation. And laying in the driveway, water beading on the protective plastic covering, was a copy of the 2011 Wish Book.

So I did something I’m not proud of.

I grabbed it.

Ha. That’ll learn you to leave town and not arrange to have someone pick up your mail.

***

The kids fell instantly in love. They would look at it all day long, if I let them. The cover is ripping off. Thing #1’s Xmas list is two miles long. And I’m getting a horrible feeling… a feeling that I may end up receiving something out of the Wish Book this year.

And that’s bad, because oh my holy hell, was it always 800 pages of utter unbelievably weird crap? Or is that a new thing?

Every time I flip through it, I laugh out loud at something. And so, without further preamble, a totally random sampling of Utterly and Completely Weird and Bizarre Shit Featured in the Sears Holiday Wish Book. (Click here for the full catalogue online. Sadly, I can’t link to individual pages but I will reference them as required.)

***

We open this year with several pages of branded merchandise. Hats, slippers, bobbleheads, clothes… Disney Princess, Cars 2, Star Wars, NHL, Reebok, Corona (yes, the beer), Nightmare Before Christmas (I like the wallets, but the themed Trivial Pursuit game packaged in a coffin-shaped tin is just odd), Transformers, Playboy, Kiss/Iron Maiden, and Animal Planet. Seriously. I… don’t know how I feel about any of it. Two highlights though:

The topless cowboy (?) wearing Corona-branded board shorts and a straw hat. He is wearing a jaunty towel wrapped around his neck which features (apparently) a parrot. Because nothing says wonderful Christmas gift than a box of summertime bling promoting a weak-assed girly beer.  (p. 13)

The programmable replica of R2D2. He’s a foot and a half high and “responds to more than 40 voice commands, plays games, spins and dances”. Judging by the picture, he also fetches cans of San Pelligrino when it’s just too much bother to fetch one yourself. (p. 9)

For some reason we have two pages of items “as seen on TV”. I recently started paying the extra $17 / month for onDemand, so now when I have insomnia I can watch old episodes of Bill Maher instead of crappy infomercials. The things I’ve missed! Like the EasyFeet (yes, the italics are like that). EasyFeet’s package screams “No More Bending to Clean Your Feet!” Well, thank goodness. Because I know that when I’m having a shower, the part where I have to bend over and clean my feet is just one gigantic pain in the ass. (p. 22)

***

And thus begins the “gifts under” section. Helpfully organized from cheapest (gifts under $10 and thus suitable to give to… elderly relatives? your cat’s vet?) to most expensive (gifts under $500, leading me to ask why they are even bothering, because people who can spend that much on one gift are probably not price-conscious anyway). I know I bought my dad’s present out of the “gifts under” section for years. He was always so hard to buy for, and when it’s December 10th and you still have nothing, giant chocolate letters are a GOOD IDEA.

Gifts Under $10

Frog Shoes, p. 28. Remember Moon Shoes? These are like those. Only lamer because instead of cool & deadly springs, these have ropes that your three year old pulls on to hold the shoes on their feet. And they beep. And they have a tongue that sticks out. The (white) kid in the picture looks deliriously happy. Although even in the picture, he is just standing still. Because these fucking things will not work, you can tell just by looking at them. *sigh*

Gifts Under $15

Clear Glass Beverage Boot, p. 31. I could stop right there, and you would get an image in your head, and the image would be 100% correct. It’s a glass shaped like a boot. It holds a litre. I don’t know why anyone would want to drink anything out of something shaped vaguely like Santa’s boot, but maybe as a gag gift for someone at the office? Maybe?

Gifts Under $20

‘Bikini Babe’ Glassware, p. 39. First of all, holy shit these things cost $18.99? And have to be HAND-WASHED? WTF? OK. So, this is a set of six shot glasses. They are shaped like headless, legless, armless women wearing bikinis. In essence, bikini-clad torsos. OR you can buy the large, 1-litre size. OR OR OR if you really love your husband / boyfriend / mail carrier, you could buy both, and serve the drinks from the large one into the six smaller ones. THE FUN NEVER STOPS.

Eau de Toilette Sprays, p. 40. Because nothing can go wrong when you buy perfume… for someone else… without smelling it first.

Inspirational-Theme Sound Clocks, p. 47. These clocks play “Amazing Grace” every hour. Oh, except at night. How thoughtful. Because hearing “Amazing Grace” tinkled out every hour on the hour for at least ten hours a day every damn day until the battery dies is totally fine, but hearing it all night too would be silly.

***

There is so much more! Next time, part 2 – Gifts Under $100. Because when stuff starts costing more, it gets less tacky and awful, right? RIGHT?

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Responses

  1. heh. Just put my order in for one. 😛

    I think they shoot themselves in the foot sending it (and all) the catalogues so far before season…it’s not like it used to be that you have to mail for everything, and by the time winter comes, with Xmas, I don’t even think of Sears. The “thrill” is done before halloween and the catalogue is ruined and in the garbage…

  2. I always get the wish book from the parcel pick up location. You can get all the catalogues there.
    Also in the As Seen On TV section – the cami secret. To me, it looks like a bib for your boobs and can’t help but think of marketing it to stop ladies from losing food in their clevage. But, I don’t have clevage, so maybe I’m missing something.

  3. The cami secret IS a bib for your boobs, and it’s stupid. I do have cleavage, and when I want to show it, I wear a plunging shirt, or undo one more button. And when I don’t, I don’t. Simple. No need to buy dopey bib that straps to my bra.

    I had a friend who had bikini babe glasses, and for some reason he decided that THAT was the glass for ME. Every time I went over for a drink, he’d haul one out of the cupboard. I never knew what to make of that…

  4. I love this so very much. Where do I start? I don’t know. The “Under $X” gifts! SOAP ON A ROPE. Do they still have that? And all the branded merchandise – from Princesses to Playboy. I want to know if the bikini babe glassware comes with its own bikini babe apron. Or bikini babe bathing suit cover up. Because that would be so great. I want to wear one while drinking form my bikini babe glassware. Which I don’t have but I can send you my mailing address should you wish to give me a gift. I would also happily accept the beverage boot.

    The “no more bending to clean your feet” makes me feel gross.

    I so badly wanted a sno-cone maker. It had Snoopy on it! Alas, I never did receive it. I still want it. Do they have the sno-cone maker?

    I like how they also have pajamas with matching slippers.

    SO MANY GIFT IDEAS FOR ME. Oh, I need a catalogue.

  5. Oh, and I want one of those clocks too.

  6. I confess I spent several minutes gazing longingly at robotic R2D2. (He responds to over 40 voice commands!)

  7. I was totally going to write a post on this too! I even marked out the pages. My favorite is the plate with a large ‘Merry Alcoholmas’ or similar. I didn’t bring the Wish Book with me on vacation so I’m going by memory.

  8. Wah! I want one!

  9. Oh the Wish Book. I really feel like it’s part of Canada’s culture, inherited from Eaton’s. Even L.M. Montgomery’s later Anne books discuss the magic of the Eaton’s catalogue for entertaining children, and don’t we all think of “The ‘Ockey Sweater” when it comes to ordering from a catalogue?

    But yes, wonderful to flip through and dream.

    For me, as a child, it was the Scholastic Book Order catalogues. Oh, it was like Christmas… by mail…

  10. BTW, I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t spend any time bending to clean my feet… they just come clean in the bath/shower. Sometimes I scrub my callouses with a pumice stone, but that’s about it.

    So what good is that product to me??

  11. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping my husband gets me this for Christmas from the Sears website. Rob McIntosh is an amazing sculpture, he is God’s gift to the “art” cast-resin statuary.

    @IfByYes — Yes! “We were five Maurice Richards taking it away from five other Maurice Richards.”

    (as an aside: the short film of The Sweater is posted on the nfb site: http://www.nfb.ca/film/sweater/)

  12. Excellent post. Memories of the wish book – and Sears’ catalogues in general – have come flooding back. Any clothes I owned that didn’t come from Frenchy’s were ordered straight from Sears until I was 13 (which probably explains why most of my clothes in those days were so terrible).


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