Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

The Great Sears Catalog of Imperfections

When I was a child in a small town, we did not have many stores. At Christmas time, we chose our desired gifts from the Sears and Penney catalogs. My family was very generous at Christmas. Each child was permitted to wish list "three big things", which meant twenty to twenty five dollar things, and "three little things", which meant things under ten dollars. I do not recall ever being disappointed at Christmas, and some gifts I remember using for months, and in rare instances, years, after the day itself.

It's become the chic thing to do to blame everything in one's life on the effect of others in one's childhood. As with so many things, this is a matter of degree. Some folks are dealt really horrid hands, suffering abuse, neglect or, to make light of the situation, musicals involving the lyrics of Lorenz Hart. So many of the rest of us, though, have to resist the temptation to blame everything we aren't and may never be upon some quirk or flaw in our upbringing.

Without meaning to minimize any manifold sins and wickedness which my parents, my kindergarten teacher and my junior high football coach should humbly confess, I am enchanted with the idea that on some level, we "choose" many of our day to day flaws. We make choices about who we are, and we make them so persistently that they seem hard-wired. This can be good--I'm glad I made the choice that I love to read anything in sight. But it also serves as a very compelling explanation for what I do wrong as well. When I was five or six, I obviously prioritized organizational skills very low. As a result, the demon I always fight is the demon of how to straighten things up. It's almost as though I'm missing a gene for it, as I'm certainly not afraid of hard work, and yet even with hard work this comes very difficult to me. A similar flaw is my natural tendency to be a "loner" more than a "joiner". What toddler advantage did I perceive in this?

Rather than attribute all my many failings to my parents, our American free enterprise system or even a creative temperament, I prefer to think that much of this is a big Sears Christmas catalog. As I chose my "three big things" and "three little things", I must have made an alternative list for "crosses I wish to bear in this life". Santa Claus came at our home on Christmas Eve, inevitably when we were out driving around our neighborhood looking at none-too-remarkable-but-utterly-enchanting xmas lights after a meal of "bone in" (i.e., T-bone) steaks. I see now that he also left me the choices I made, on an invisible list I did not realize I was compiling, but whose gifts I now savor.

I am tempted to thank Santa, and the Sears Roebuck Christmas catalog, for all the choices I've made that lead me to various of the blind alleys I'm in. I'd like to ask for the Sears catalog to resume production, though. You see, I've decided that my "three big things" and "three little things" on the flaw list need replacing, and Wal-Mart doesn't have what I want. I'll choose new flaws--a creative temperament, too much compassion, and an obsession for neatness, say--and I'll be under warranty for at least the next forty years. Thank you, Santa. Thank you, Sears. Most of all, I thank myself for all my many flaws.
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