Catalog Fantasies

by Robin Munson

Catalog Fantasies

I was leafing through yet another catalog the other day – L.L. Bean?  Land’s End? J. Crew – No, I don’t get J. Crew – I don’t know.  They all start to look the same – Meaning no disrespect to the creative people who dreamt up all those charming little accoutrements, but here’s the thing:  For each dust-catcher (the popcorn popper with the extra-long handle, the cute little snowman that fits under your door to keep out the drafts, the Victorian-style nightie in oh-so-soft flannel with a little frou-frou at the neck line – there is a story.  The words “cuddly”, “warm”, “toasty”, “cozy”, “finely crafted”, “old-world”, and many more evocative phrases and adjectives are always included in the description. 

We – you and I, I mean – make up the story that goes with each adorable little item.  We say to ourselves, “Gee, that old-fashioned apple peeler would look so “cozy” atop my kitchen table.  If only I had that old-fashioned apple peeler – of course, sitting next to an old fashioned pale green Pyrex bowl of ripe red apples, back-lit by a perfect autumnal sunset in my rustic log cabin (as shown in the catalog), then – My life would look just like that picture – serene, uncluttered, unambiguous, abundant yet organized, warm, happy.  Ergo, I must have that old-fashioned apple peeler.  (And, after all, at $29.99, it’s a steal, considering its life-transforming properties).

So you wait expectantly every day for your new life to be delivered.  Within five business days (you are too savvy to go for the extra five bucks for the Fed-Ex overnight delivery) the man in the brown uniform delivers an anonymous looking package to your door.  You open it – with your teeth, if you have to – and are somehow, strangely disappointed.  Where is the perfect autumnal sunset?  Where is the pale green Pyrex bowl filled with red, ripe apples?  You almost don’t recognize the item at first – It has been packed in cardboard, Styrofoam and plastic.  It smells of machine oil.  Your heart sinks when you realize that you will have to wait until your soul mate gets home to figure out exactly how it all fits together.

Once he does come home, he stares blankly at your life-transforming purchase.  “What’s this?” he murmurs, suspecting all the while that it can only be trouble for him.  “It’s an old-fashioned apple peeler”, you answer softly as you lovingly hand him the whole kit and caboodle.  If you’re lucky, like I am, he gets a bemused twinkle in his eyes.  Quietly and methodically, he assembles it as you are watching Home and Garden TV.  At exactly 10 pm, he hands it back to you unceremoniously. You put it on the kitchen counter and promise yourself that you will find a “home” for it in your kitchen – tomorrow.

You look down at what you now recognize as a large, unwieldy piece of metal.  With a pang, you realize your old-fashioned apple peeler will never sit fetchingly atop your kitchen table next to a green Pyrex bowl of ripe, red apples in a smoldering autumnal sunset.  Perhaps, if you are very ambitious, and you decide to bake an apple pie for Christmas this year (and you remember its hiding place underneath the pots and pans below your overstocked kitchen counters), you will drag it out, buy a bag of Granny Smiths, and go to town.  Perhaps you will fantasize that it is 1890 and you are in your homespun apron preparing a solemn feast for your kinfolk and a few Indians out on the prairie in your cozy, warm log cabin.  Or, perhaps, you will remember your last apple pie, and you will drive down the street to Marie Callender’s.

© Robin Munson

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