Life perks along until that one day you realize the awful truth: time has passed you by.
It happened two weeks ago. Three things on my shopping list could not be had: a glass egg plate, a Christmas card address book and a recipe file box. Over the course of 10 days, I tried to buy these things locally. I went to eight retail outlet—small shops, discounters and three department stores.
Every time I asked for help, the salespeople looked as befuddled as I was.
“We used to carry those (recipe boxes),” the sales lady said. “But we don’t have them now.”
My search for a simple glass egg plate was just as difficult. One store had two—a metal version for $50 and an Easter version with a ceramic bunny in the middle. “A glass egg plate? We have a hard time keeping them in stock,” the clerk said.
That, I surmised, was probably because they were never stocked in the first place.
The address book proved equally scarce. Rifling through the notebook section, I noticed several blank notebooks. Apparently folks are heavily into journaling and poetry, but no one needs to jot mailing addresses.
I explained my exasperation to a good friend. The box and the plate are for gifts, I explained. The address book is for me.
“That’s done on computers or Smartphones now,” she said.
I expressed my frustration at how times have changed, and not necessarily for the better. There was a time, I told her, when you could go to a nice gift store or card shop and buy all three. Not anymore.
My friend looked at me as if to say, “Bless your heart.”
I keep the address book so I’ll know where to send birthday and Christmas cards, a quaint custom inherited from my mother and her mother before her. Mom’s list was a scribbled jumble on envelopes and scrap paper that had to be deciphered every year.
In a fit or organization, I began my card career with my own list recorded in one of those Hallmark booklets that sold for $1. After five years, I graduated to another booklet and then another, each time paying more for the same thing until about 2012 when the booklets disappeared from store shelves along with fill-in-the-blank party invitations and nice ink pens. Why waste time writing when one could waste more time and paper jamming a printer with thick card stock? Or simply send an email?
I am coming to realize that Christmas and birthday cards are going the way of place cards and bridge tallies, but nothing says a touch of class like a hand-written note or a hand-addressed envelope.
As for the recipe file box, I wanted a nice sturdy one made to last. .The problem is that metal and wooden boxes are no longer worth space on the sales floor. The cutesy ones we grew up with—with illustrated pots and pans and painted lobsters and cakes and such–are considered antique novelties selling for upwards of $15 a pop on eBay.
I know because that’s where I wound up shopping. The Christmas card trackers sell for $9.99 these days. They’re still being produced by a specialty outlet in Bean Station, TN. The glass plate is coming from a warehouse in Pendergrass, GA. The recipe file is being shipped from an eBayer somewhere in the “United States.”
Like Mom, I resorted to a mail-order as she did back to in Illinois farm country, where the nearest full-service department store was thirty miles away. Instead of thumbing through a five-pound catalog and phoning in an order, I logged on to eBay.
My point isn’t to show how shopping local can be frustrating—which it can—but how my holding on to some remnants of the past have become impossible without technology. I could not have located any of these things without the internet. Apparently few save recipes now that it’s so easy to Google them online. Few keep an address list when it’s so easy and cost-free to email greetings. And why have an egg plate when one can serve them from a plastic deli container?
Society has changed, but we still thirst for something personal and elegant. I know I do. It’s 2017, but there are pieces of 1957 in me that are still worth preserving.