As anyone who has ever been a guest at my home in the US can attest, I get an inordinate amount of unsolicited mail. Some would call it junk. I call it amusing. Calvin calls it page turning and ripping fun. But this evening contained a piece particularly nauseating.

When I say I receive a lot of mail, I must contextualize. Whenever I go away, the post office organizes a special concession for me. They don’t hold the mail at the local post office across the road. Rather, they set up a bin (or bins) in my building, and start the process of stacking. you see, in an average week, I probably receive about one mail carrying box worth of mail. (And yes, of course I recycle it all!)

The melange of catalogues covers all manner of vendors — Nieman Marcus and Salvatore Ferragamo, to polyester-only purveyors of the most ghastly any-wear you could mentally conjure; Harry and David fruits; wine; outdoor equipment; adventure holidays; real estate brochures; gift catalogues; craft catalogues and more.

The piece that has me irate is not *another* case of free infant formula (honestly, does this costly marketing approach actually work? The stuff weighs a ton!), but a catalogue for children’s birthday supplies. One has to admire the target marketing efficiency of a company who dispatches parents a catalogue of birthday party supplies six weeks ahead of their child’s first birthday. But turn the pages and one cannot but be nauseated by the profferings of nothing but franchised stuff.

The usual suspects were there — poor Pooh bear, the Disney gang, Bratz, Pokemon etc. But also some surprises — who knew Bindi, the daughter of Steve Irwin, has her own set of ‘Bindi, Jungle Girl” plates, balloons, pinatas etc? Or that John Deere has apparently become somewhat of a kid’s icon to include party platters, games and pre-prepared favours?

Ah well. It’s no surprise that we won’t be patronizing any of this, but rather crafting (quite literally) something unique befitting the rather particular heritage of our little guy. A clue? His birthday is also the culmination of Chinese New Year, which ends in a celebration called the lantern festival. Fitting for those born in the once-in-500-years Year of the Golden Pig I guess.

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