“Spend the Holidays with Us”
Remember Christmas catalogs? I used to love those thick, glossy catalogs that arrived in mid-November filled with holiday merchandise that could be yours with a minimal shipping and handling fee. My favorite one was the Eddie Bauer catalog. I was always a big EB fan, even though the Northwestern lifestyle they promoted did not resemble my thrift store/metal life. In 2002, I wrote this story about the catalog. I took it with me when I applied for a seasonal job at my local Eddie Bauer store. Needless to say, I wasn’t hired.
I want to live in the Eddie Bauer Christmas catalog. On the cover is a pristine snow-covered hill, ringed with a gray split rail fence. Barren black trees are silhouetted against a deep blue, unnatural colored sky.
The whole scene is unnatural. The snow is Christmas card snow. This snow is made for sled rides and snowmen. It isn’t the kind of snow that piles up in your driveway. It isn’t the kind of snow that causes men to have heart attacks after shoveling for hours. It isn’t the kind of snow that your car gets stuck in, which causes it to be crushed by an oncoming semi. It is Eddie Bauer snow, probably computer generated.
I open the catalog to visit an unfamiliar world. Smiling, handsome black guys make snowballs in flannel shirts and marigold and black down vests. A rugged, cute blond guy in a canvas barn coat ties a freshly cut Christmas tree to the top of the 2003 Eddie Bauer Edition Ford Expedition. Asian guys in driving caps and wool-blend car coats walk pensively in the snow.
Eddie Bauer guys wear dark loden 11-wale corduroy pants and flannel-lined relaxed fit jeans. They string up lights and put logs in the fireplace. They graduate from Ivy League schools. They are kind and sweet and never forget your birthday. They are sensitive, strong, and look good in khakis.
If I lived in the Eddie Bauer Christmas catalog, I would have the silver holiday nightlights. A Christmas tree shadow would dance on my wall as I sleep in my blush colored thermal pajama set. In Eddie Bauer World, my girlfriends and I drink hot cocoa in our snowflake Fair Isle cardigans, long denim skirts and stacked-heel boots in black, brown or caramel. We spend weekends in an expensive, custom designed redwood house in the mountains. When we go tobogganing, we wear fleece lined stadium jackets and heather gray ear warmers. My Eddie Bauer gal pals have wind-tousled hair and perfect skin. They wear expensive perfumes that aren’t too cloying and donate money to the Humane Society.
I exchange Eddie Bauer gifts with my Eddie Bauer catalog friends. I give monogrammed duffels, vintage leather watches, quilted fleece slippers and chenille gloves. I get myself a garnet bead necklace to wear with my washable suede jacket in pistachio. On Christmas Eve, all of us smart, good-looking guys and gals gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols. Of course, I would be wearing my black matte jersey backless dress and matching velvet scarf.
I went to my local Eddie Bauer store and applied for a holiday sales job. I wrote down that I was familiar with the merchandise. I was wearing my Eddie Bauer cotton jeans in espresso and carrying my matching Eddie Bauer canvas satchel in espresso. They did not hire me.
So I will spend my holidays with the Eddie Bauer Christmas catalog, caressing the pages and dreaming of a Christmas that will arrive within a week if I place my order by 3 PM Pacific Time.
A lot has changed in ten years. I am staying temporarily at a friend’s home while I look for work. There is no longer an Eddie Bauer store at the local mall. But thanks to the local thrift store, I do have an Eddie Bauer washable suede jacket and a pair of Eddie Bauer jeans. And I still have a jean jacket and a few sweaters from more prosperous days. I changed my address a few months ago, but Eddie Bauer still managed to find me. This year’s catalog, even though smaller, still features a blue sky and white snowy mountains, along with a tree decorated in lights. Free shipping is available with a $49 purchase. I look at the cute guys in khakis and flannel plaid robes, the long-haired beauties in Essential Down jackets and shearling boots and the ubiquitous black Lab, and I feel the spirit of an old fashioned Eddie Bauer Christmas. Some traditions never die.