By Guest Blogger Ginny Olson

I’m feeling a little nostalgic these days. I’ve been a little down ever since Sears went bankrupt. This may not seem like a reason to cry. But it’s Christmas. And when I was little, Christmas meant the SEARS TOY CATALOG.

Who else wants to admit that YOU ARE OLD? And also long for the days of endless scrolling in a PAPER magazine, circling all the pictures of all the toys you had to have on December 25th?

Join me on a trip down memory lane.


When I was eight, stickers were life. I emptied my piggy bank one day to buy my little brother, sick with the flu, some dog and cat stickers. I made him give them back to me once he got better.

My mother got tired of my constant want for stickers. So when the Sears toy catalog arrived that winter, she gave me a roll of contact paper and a pair of scissors and taught me to make my own puffy stickers. I cut out pictures from the catalog – things like cookware or Laura Ashley-esque floral bedspreads or tiger stuffed-animals. Then I crumpled up some paper scraps for backing and attached everything together with the contact paper, plus a little extra on top that extended beyond the edges of the favored object. Voila, homemade stickers. They were horrid. But this kept me out of my mother’s way while she worked to deck the halls.

The Barbie dream house

Were you one of those lucky girlies who got the Barbie dream house? I hate you. I’m 42 and still jealous. I’ll get over it. Maybe.

My friend Sarah had one – or was it the Barbie pop-up camper? I can’t quite remember. At least she let me play with it – sometimes. The rest of the time, I spent hours ogling it in the Sears toy catalog.

My parents tried to placate me by building a bookcase in the shape of a house, complete with roof and room partitions and doors tall enough for Barbie to walk right through. I was an ingrate, pretending not to be impressed. Although these days, that “doll house” sits proudly in my son’s room, transformed into a fire station. Because my parents still know how to delight small children.

Science things

I wanted a chemistry set like nobody’s business. Maybe even more than the Barbie dream house. The Sears toy catalog featured a gazillion of these sets, each with little bottles of pink and blue and yellow liquid wonderment. Alas, I never got one – probably because my mom was afraid I’d blow stuff up. (Why else do you need one?)

Instead, Santa brought me a boring ole microscope for Christmas that year. Did I mention I was an ingrate? I mean, you had to be extra patient to find things tiny enough to smash onto the little glass slides. Like ants and pine needles and dust bunnies from under the couch. There were no mysterious potions involved.

I also got a skeleton model that year. It was a lady one. Because it had a womb, complete with a baby skeleton you could remove. It was tragic. And this may explain why I avoid the anatomy section of the science center like the plague. I don’t care that my children might LEARN SOMETHING. Skeleton womb-babies are disturbing.

Since we’re talking about science things, I also wanted a rock tumbler. The Sears toy catalog featured many of these: professional grade ones and hobby-sized ones; ones where you could tumble 20 boulders at a time, or just 3 pieces of gravel you’d stolen from your neighbor’s flower bed. Santa never gave me one of these. Because he knows the truth about such things. If I had a rock tumbler, I would need SHARP rocks that would inevitably end up on the floor for my mother to trip over. I would also need JEWELRY ACCESSORIES upon which to display the creations that I would want to give to my mother. And she wouldn’t have been that excited about 20 semi-polished, mostly still jaggedy rock necklaces.

These days, Christmas shopping is an online experience. You can scroll endlessly for the perfect thing, including the Barbie dream house. But there was something sensual about browsing the Sears toy catalog with its promises of earthly delights. The pages smelled of fresh, cancer-causing inks and you could heighten the experience with a big fat, grape-scented marker when circling all the toys on your wish list. Plus, the catalog was so hefty that if you fell asleep, it served as a make-shift pillow. These are things my boys will never know. Thankfully, Santa will also deny them the joys of the rock tumbler.


Ginny Olson is the author of the blog, a love letter to moms, both new and seasoned, journeying from sleep deprived to joy-arrived. When not riding-herd over two small male children, Ginny works full time at a global nonprofit that specializes in leadership development and teaches Marketing for Nonprofits at the local university.

Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to our free weekly newsletters here.