Around the Island

There’s no place like here for the holidays

Some of our RV friends have already hit the road, headed for warmer climates, but not me. I’ve spent Christmas in a lot of different places including Japan, New Jersey and one of my favorite spots, Key West, and if I’ve discovered one thing, it’s that there’s no place like here for the holidays. I love everything about the holiday season on Shelter Island and it can never begin soon enough for me. I like the music, the shopping, the commercials, even the catalogs — especially the catalogs. 

I’ve never been one of those people who groans about being buried under mountains of them during the holidays; I’m the opposite.

“Look at that stuff in the corner,” a friend said to me, pointing to three bulging shopping bags filled with catalogs leaning against the wall in her kitchen. “I don’t have the time to take them to the Recycling Center.” 

“You poor thing. Let me do it,” I said, assuring her that I’d planned to go to the Recycling Center, anyhow. When she thanked me for being such a nice person I blushed and said, “Oh, pshaw! What are friends for?” But I had no intention of dumping that stuff. To a person such as myself — a catalog junkie — three bulging bags of mixed paper was a big enough fix to last an entire weekend. 

Let me clarify something for those of you who think catalog junkies are the same as mail-order addicts and that our homes are crammed with unopened cartons filled with unneeded items such as globes that open to reveal a fully-stocked bar or blooming onion cutters and Ginsu knives. That is not the case. We don’t order anything from the dozens of catalogs we collect. We are not shoppers, we are merely wishers. 

For me it all began during the days of my youth and Sears is to blame for dumping this monkey on my back. It was the Sears Wish Book that got millions of us hooked on wishing. During the month of December we would sit with that big, heavy toy catalog on our laps for hours and turn those pages until a game sort of evolved. I played the game with my younger sisters and I still remember the rules. 

Rule 1. Both players get to hold the catalog. 

Rule 2. You may only wish for one item per page, even if the Wedding Barbie and the Barbie carrying case are on the same page. 

Rule 3. You may not wish for what the other person has wished for already.

Rule 4. The oldest person gets to wish first (I, being the oldest, made up that rule). 

I loved that game. By the time my youngest sister grew too old to want to play, my oldest son was ready. So, carrying on a family tradition, I taught it to him, then his brother, until they grew old enough to rebel at sitting so close and always having to go second. 

Even though my kids outgrew the game, I never stopped playing. I’d turn pages, make my wish then make one for my imaginary (and younger) partner. But it’s not much fun playing the game that way, which was one of the big reasons I was excited to become a grandma and waited impatiently for my granddaughter to become old enough so that she could participate in this holiday tradition. 

Unfortunately, when she did “come of age” she refused to play by the rules. She’d hog the catalog, holding more than half of it on her lap; she’d choose first and if she wanted everything on a page she would say, “I wish dat an’ dat an’ dat an’ dat.” 

“Angel baby,” I would say (because that’s what I called her), “You can wish for only one item on a page. And grandmas are always supposed to wish first.” She smiled up at me with those big eyes and said, “Okay. I wish dat an’ dat an’ dat an’ dat.” Then she’d turn the page before I got my pick, which didn’t really matter because the greedy little brat had already grabbed all the good stuff off the page, anyhow. 

That was probably five or six years ago. She’s way too old for that game anymore, but I do remember one special evening when we snuggled in the glow of Christmas lights and for the first time played the game by the rules. 

I got my pick, then she got hers as we wished our way through a half-dozen catalogs. While it would have been nicer if she hadn’t fallen asleep on the first page of the first catalog, I still remember that special warm and fuzzy feeling I got just sitting there with the catalogs on my lap and her, sleeping under my arm. 

We grown-up Wish Book kids always understood that you don’t always get what you wish for. 

But it’s sure nice when you enjoy what you do get.