By Evelyn Richardson Here and There

Many of the changes in the way we do things make life better, but I do not believe that is true of the demise of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail-order Christmas catalog.

Its arrival in the mailbox was one of the most anticipated happenings of the year. We could hardly wait to turn every page and begin developing our mental wish list.

We knew pretty well what our parents could and could not afford, but that did not keep us from wishing. Staring at the colorful pictures of toys, games, and perhaps a certain sweater gave us vicarious pleasure.

We imagined what it would be like having the object as our very own--holding a pretty new doll, riding a scooter, or playing Monopoly for hours on end with friends. The dream itself was fun.

Persons who designed the catalog's cover were masters of understanding human nature. They were up-to-date on what was most popular at the moment and how to present the images in the most appealing way to entice the customer.

We stared at the things featured on the cover, but we moved on to turn every page. When we found our heart's desire pictured beside a description that gave us even more reasons for us to want one, we lingered long and often.

I don't remember actually writing my "Christmas list," but my parents knew quite well what I was wishing for. I'd show them the picture, and listen as they read the advertisement and try to sense from their body language or comments whether or not they approved of my choice.

No need to turn down a corner to mark key pages; I dwelt on them so much that the catalog almost automatically opened at the right place. Pages became dog-eared in no time at all.

I respected the secrecy of what was written on the order blank, cut from inside the catalog. Never would I have tried to get a peek; that might somehow lessen my chances of having my hope fulfilled.

There was another feared risk that I could do absolutely nothing about; the supply warehouse in Chicago might sell out before our order got there.

My parents always made sure someone went to the mailbox around midday after our order had had time to be processed. They didn't want me picking it up when I got off the bus from school, as I often did pick up the mail. I might be able to figure out the package contents based on the size and shape.

I do not remember ever being seriously disappointed if my wishes did not materialize under the tree on Christmas morning. But if one of my catalog choices did show up, I was ecstatic. The fact that it came from the catalog made it seem more desirable and important.

The thicker spring/summer and fall/winter editions of Sears catalogs were a household staple. After newer editions arrived they were still kept.

Reading the catalogs' content was educational; they were stacked in a chair seat so little ones could reach the dining table; pictures were cut out for school projects, or paper doll play; and they finally were relegated to the little building out back.

Yet, all this usefulness did not take away from the special excitement of the thinner, once-a-year Christmas "wish book" catalog.

The thicker spring/summer and fall/winter editions of Sears catalogs were a household staple. After newer editions arrived, they were still kept.

Reading the catalogs' content was educational; they were stacked in a chair seat so little ones could reach the dining table; pictures were cut out for school projects, or paper doll play; and they finally were relegated to the little building out back.

Yet, all this usefulness did not take away from the special excitement of the thinner, once-a-year Christmas "wish book" catalog.