Monday, December 11, 2006


Yesterday while doing some Christmas shopping, my daughter bought a vile of artificial snow. What has the world reduced itself to, I know. You just add a little water, and the tiny polymers increase by 100 percent and create a kind of fake snow. You can freeze it for making snow balls, or you can use it to decorate a Victorian village scene, or you can use it to simulate winter on a movie set. It all seemed very enjoyable to my daughter until I said it was the same expandable, absorbent stuff that goes into disposable diapers. Suddenly it wasn't so amazing anymore. It was nasty. All a matter of perception, I guess.

During the same shopping trip, we went to our local mall that now has a Macy's. The store used to be a Kaufmans but was recently bought out. I always thought the Kaufmans, at least the junior department, looked kind of trashy and over stuffed, so I was eager for Macy's to come in and clean things up. Honestly, I think it still looks kind of trashy and over stuffed, but maybe it's just the nature of junior departments. The sameness didn't seem to bother my daughter. She was so happy to be in Macy's, even if it looked like a Kaufmans, that she walked through the store and said, "I feel like I'm in New York."

Well, I'll tell ya, I've been to the Macy's in New York, and so has my daughter, and the used-to-be-Kaufmans looks nothing like it. But with the name comes a perception of something special and something straight out of Miracle on 34th Street.

My father understood perceptions. When my sister served donuts and pastries for breakfast one fancy Thanksgiving, he took a bite of a Long John and said, "hell, it's nothing more than a hot dog bun with some cream stuffed in the middle." Then when she served a nice hot cup of Earl Grey, he said "hell, it takes like medicine." There was no impressing him with dolled up baked goods or Mother-land tea names. Either it was good or it wasn't, and it didn't matter what you called it to make it seem better than it was.

Maybe someday, the rest of us can adopt that same down-to-bare-earth approach and not be taken in by names and the perceptions that follow them. Until then, I'm going to enjoy a bittersweet biscotti, which of course is much better than a plain old chocolate biscotti. The name tells me so.


Gina said...

I'm with your dad, things are either good or not, shouldn't matter what fancy name they are called.

And what is with Macy's trying to take over the world? They bought out a quite popular chain over here called Robinson's. I personally think Macy's sucks. Give me a Nordstrom any day.

Old Knudsen said...

Yeah but eat it with a smile she still went to the trouble and obliviously wanted to impress, sorry, this comes from a fella with too many complexes than he knows what to do with.

Robyn said...

Gina, in parts of the midwest, Macy's carries a certain expectation of sophistication with it. I think so many other stores had trouble keeping in the black and were forced to sell. I don't personally have anything against Macy's, but I like how regions are different--some people have Filenes, some have Robinsons, some have Marshall Fields. Now we all have the same thing.

Old Knudson, complexes aside, good point. With the old man, you had to take everything with a grain of salt and keep your expectations low.

dive said...

Yikes! Diaper Snow!

With you on the biscotti/perception, Robyn.
I buy my sen-cha direct from Japan. It's the same stuff, from the same village as the export stuff I can get over here, but somehow it's better when there's no English writing on the packet.
Good grief … I've just read that back and realised what a pathetic waste my life has become …

Robyn said...

Dive, here, all you have to do is put "European" on a package of cocoa or coffee, and it just seems better than if it was only a brand name. How silly.

I have to admit, though, we know a printer in Belgium who send handmade chocolate from Turhaut every Christmas, and it's the most amazing stuff I have ever had. It could be the liquor.

Sassy Sundry said...

Mista Snow is scary.

Macy's in New York is so nothing like mall Macy's. Your poor daughter.

Don't diss the doughnuts and tea, I always say.

Dan Martins said...

Robyn, while I may agree with you that fake snow is indeed "vile," I suspect it was a "vial" of said stuff that your daughter acquired. Sorry, I have an inner English teacher that clamors to be let out from time to time!