December 13, 2011

Tool catalog
Photo by Jim Ruen
Catalogs are full of my Christmas wishes (circled in red).

Christmas is nearly here, and I am so grateful for tool catalogs. They make gift giving easier for my wife and receiving more satisfying for me. They also allow me to relive one of those great childhood moments … winter-catalog arrival. I am old enough to recall mail order being the rule of the day as online shopping is today.

Living rural meant a lot of things were either not available or were difficult to get. Local stores handled the necessities of life, and driving for an hour to a department store was only done on rare occasions. The catalog offered an economical and timesaving alternative and was filled with everything from the mundane to the magical. Hours were spent compiling wish lists that I knew would never be realized. Like so many things, it was the process that provided the greatest enjoyment.

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Those memories are relived with arrival of catalogs from Lee Valley, Forestry Suppliers or one of a handful of other specialty catalogs I receive. I can admire and dream of owning and using countless tools, attachments and supplies I might never buy for myself. 

My wife likes them, too. She gets an easy-to-work-with list that won’t be misunderstood (e.g. “Did he want a 12-ounce hammer?”) I know it violates my “buy local when possible” rule, but most of these items simply aren’t available at the hardware store or lumberyard. My list this year includes things like unique shelf brackets for stud walls, a hand-operated metal break for light sheet metal, and a right-angle attachment for my power drill. While others might find the items mundane, just making such lists, to me, are a reminder of good days gone by and a hope for even better days yet ahead.

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