Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Flurrying Flutter of Holiday Catalogs

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Flurrying Flutter of Holiday Catalogs

Article excerpt

WHEN I woke up this morning my first thought, surprisingly, was not "Today I will buy me a Wacky Vac, a Tangle Lamp, a Sonic Pest Repeller, and the only super, safe, solid answer to the hot water bottle."

"But why ever not?" you may ask.

I will tell you: It is because I don't read the mail until after breakfast at this time of year. It's the season, you see, of the mail-order catalogs. They flutter through our letterbox like leaves from the sycamore or birch, filled to the edges with bright, fresh, unheard-of, unlikely "innovations" just waiting to make your day easier, your wife happier, your windows clean in half the time, your rice perfect in minutes, your golf balls named, your car ventilated, and your pocket empty. All unasked they come - if nothing else, at least to answer that nagging and tricky question of what on earth to give Uncle Bob for Christmas.

But the hard sell takes thought, I always feel, and novel notions are clamorous, so a good quiet breakfast is advisable before facing bewildering buys from the world of advanced technology and commercial enterprise.

Breakfast is, after all, a reflective prelude, a space set aside from the mayhem of modern living, an oasis of tranquillity in the day, an old-world hour, sacrosanct. It's the time when whole-sleep yields but slowly to half-sleep, when soft dreams may linger a little longer, when ... the orange spurts its accurate, acid juice in the eye to protest the invading squeezer. It's the moment of the day when the toaster, after grasping between its teeth slices of bread, chews and swallows them hard, and then, by pyrotechnic wizardry, transforms them into inaccessible chunks of charcoal.

This is that placid, fulfilling time when the egg boiler, try as you will to please it with the precisely correct quantity of water, still produces a sloppy egg; when the coffee machine continues to drip testily on its sizzling hot-plate long after its jug has been removed; when you try once more to form a gentle relationship with the hermetically-sealed bag in the cereal box, made so tough that no human hand has yet been able to tear it open. And this is the time when our TV complains about its early rising and once more loses all sound just as the newscaster announces the main headlines of the day. Breakfast, as I say, is a haven. …

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