As a kid I thought God was a schizophrenic being who toggled between New Testament (Friendly) and Old Testament (Scary) versions. With all His talk about love and forgiveness I really liked New Testament God but Old Testament God literally scared the hell out of me, as in Deuteronomy 5:9 when he says “(I) am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation…” That sounded nothing like the heaven I aspired to and uncomfortably close to life at home with a mom that remembered every real or imagined transgression with crystal clarity…for several decades as it turned out. However, that memory for error wasn’t the only aspect of my family’s genetic heritage that seemed never-ending: personality traits and practices have been repeating through 3rd and 4th generations, no more so than in the case of “mailing off for stuff”
The First Generation: Entertainment for my dad centered on the occasional movie and (more often) radio programs. In a case of life imitating art my dad’s childhood existence centered on a ring much like the decoder ring featured in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story. Dad’s Depression childhood was spent on a ranch in Southeast Idaho which meant money was so tight that Ovaltine was considered a rare luxury so he had to wait much longer than Ralphie did in the aforementioned film.
I think it arrived just as he was leaving for boot camp.
Second Generation: I had a similar experience with plastic army men advertised on the back of comic books, specifically a set comprised of competing yellow and blue armies from the Roman Empire. Unlike Dad, I had to contend with a visual hook rather than an aural one and the stunning illustration penned by comic stalwart Russ Heath was like crack for a fifth grader. I did a little better than dad as far as fulfillment goes – delivery was promised in “six to eight weeks” but when you tacked on the extra time required for any parcel or letter heading to Alaska I was fortunate indeed that the fratricidal legionnaires got to me before high-school graduation.
My son Conrad had the typical Third Generation experience in that his Holy Grail was not doomed to a lengthy post-office delivery but was offered as a prize in a school fund raising project to be delivered when the campaign was concluded and all the money turned in. The object in question was a wind-up flying bird featured prominently in the prize catalog and annotated with the warning that it was “Not sold in any stores” which made the situation that much more desperate. Unfortunately the threshold for awards in that catalog was so inflated that the sales required for the award for one of those birds could equip Sterling Elementary with its own aircraft carrier so that particular wind-up flying bird never came in for a landing at our house.
…and now we’re at the Fourth Generation and my grandson Jayden. Like most seven-year-olds he is fascinated by cars, with an eclectic taste that runs from Lamborghini to Tesla. He plays with them often, conducting road rallies on every flat surface in the house, so it was inevitable that one of his cars would get trod on and broken. The Bauling Lane axiom “Papa can fix anything!” was immediately put to the test but for once it didn’t hold so like everyone else in COVID-beset America I ordered a replacement on-line. I didn’t think much of the action until I found Jayden sitting on the front porch ten minutes later waiting for the Amazon delivery man and his new “Lammorgeenie!”
…which leads me to wonder what the next development will be. No doubt Jayden’s son will be frustrated that it takes more than three minutes for the replicator to make that decoder ring he just ordered.