Saturday, October 17, 2009

S & H Green Stamps

Every once in a while someone will say something that yanks me from where I am to a long-ago forgotten place--forgotten because of how inconsequential it was In The Grand Scheme Of My Life.

Like last night.

I was sitting at The Hideout with a group of friends and colleagues, sipping a Lillet on the rocks, when one of them mentioned S & H green stamps.  Seems she had encountered some thing or another that made reference to them and had no idea what they were.

Since I was the Elder in the group (made manifest by the fact that I DID know what they were), I explained their history with the handy assistance of an iPhone and Wikipedia.

What I didn't explain, though, was the memory of a little red patent leather pocketbook stuffed with dollars and an "identification card" filled out with perfect cursive script and school photos of my friends and jauntily folded over strips of S & H green stamps.

Or the booklets that contained the sheets of them, that got fatter and fatter as more stamps were affixed, or the smell of a bottle of Mucilage or the feeling of running a finger over a full page of stamps and noting the ragged edges of the stamps as it went. Or the brown grocery bag that held the completed booklets and the redemption catalog next to Nanny's platform rocker and behind her snuff spittle can. Or the excitement of going, finally, finally, with a full bag of completed booklets to the S & H Redemption Center to turn it all in for some then coveted and now irretrievably discarded treasure.

To be honest, I can't remember one item I ever got for those stamps. The thing was not greater than the sum of its stamps, gathered 3 or 4 at a time and over months and months.

Petite green markers of delayed gratification, they were, like the practice of putting clothes on "layaway" at M.M. Cohn's in Little Rock until I had paid them enough money to pick the clothes up and take them home.

Typing these words, I think of how foreign this would read to someone half my age.

"Save S & H green stamps and trade them in for an object."
"Put clothes on 'Layaway' until you have paid for them."

As awkward and unfamiliar as bowing in Japan or eating with bare hands in North Africa.

And I lament something as I think about this, but I'm not sure what...

A practice, a ritual, a habit?

Surely not the S & H green stamps themselves, or the items they procured for me. Nor even the notion of delayed gratification.
I will go right now and tweet about this...
in 140 characters (instantaneous and succinct)...

and muse later about the slight discomfort I feel...

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