When I was a kid, my mum used to mail-order clothes sometimes. From a company long gone, called Quelle. Living in a rather rural town with no great choice of shops, the big, fat catalogue delivered twice a year was the one and only shopping mall there was. My mum looked at the styles shown in the catalogue, to knit us clothes in as similar a style as she could manage. Or changed hand-me-down clothing in a way, it had the feel of stylish to it. Money was scarce those days. And a blue box delivered with whatever she had ordered, certainly was a special day for the entire family.
Except for my dad, who wasn’t interested in consumerism, ever. He watched, bewildered, how we all admired something new. Even, if it was mainly my mum getting anything new. We kids were still growing, so money was not likely to be invested into something new, that would be outgrown faster than what was considered “good value”.
If at all, it was me, getting something new. As I am the oldest, with two younger siblings to wear, whatever it was, after I was through with it. Poor little sods. Which explains, why I got quite boyish looking things, to make sure, my brother could also wear it later on.
One thing stuck with me from this time: the disappointment I felt, when I looked at the stuff coming out of the box. It never looked anything like the pictures in the catalogue. Somehow, in my kid phantasy, I expected to turn into the happy, great looking person depicted in the catalogue. And then I looked at the flat-folded, creased wardrobe, with which not even the colour was a hundred percent like what I had still in my mind. When trying on whatever it was, I didn’t look anything like the happy-go-lucky kids in the catalouge. Just same old me, with off coloured – and often ill-fitting, poorly cut, clothes on.
I didn’t mind the ill-fitting bit. I never was build to fit into what the industry considers regular human forms without adaptions. My mum usually had to alter this: taking shoulders in, letting the area around my bum and thighs out, taking a lot in around my waist. Trousers legs had to be let out, at times they even got pieced on (often with non-matching material, which I despised). So I was used to waiting for another week or so, until my mum fixed everything in a way it fit me, before I could actually wear my new stuff. What I really hated, though, was the colour not being exactly, what I saw on the picture. The main reason for me, to ever want anything out of that catalogue, was a certain hue or shade of colour I liked. They never got it right. No wonder, I didn’t grow up to become a mail-order person. Quelle blew that for me.
Modern times mail-order is internet shopping. And with that, I am very hesitant, too. Books, yes. Sometimes a present, I can’t find the time to shop for. This is it, for me. I very much prefer to go to a shop and look at something for real, before I decide to buy it. I like to see and feel it first, or try things out or on.
However, my garden made me comply with modern time trade. I love to have special plants one can’t buy around the corner. Which is the reason, I get various parcels delivered from nurseries these days.
It is really interesting to see, how the companies wrap and pack plants, in order to ship them to their destination. I found a nursery selling old varieties of tomatoes and Hungarian sweet peppers that supposedly are organically reared by an Austrian farmer in Burgenland. When I opened the box on Friday, I saw plastic containers looking very much like big water bottles, wrapping the plant. With an extra department to hold the plant’s own little pot with earth, closing in around the region, the stem grows from the earth, widening again to make room for the foliage. Very canny, I thought, and kept the wrapping. Which I will use next year to sprout my own little plants in a green house environment without having to use big containers.
Whereas the peppers delivered look well and fine, the tomatoes arrived almost dead, despite the clever packaging. The feeling of disappointment beaming me right back to the mail-order days of my childhood. All the leaves rotten, I had to cut them back to the stem. I planted them, nevertheless. And hope, new leaves will sprout soon.