In the Heyday of Sears!

My great-grandparents’ home sold, I kept a battered trunk found in the attic. I’m ready to see what’s inside. Carefully wrapped motheaten clothes? A well-worn deep plum velvet dress with tiny waist. A once vibrant red and black plaid wool vest with watch pocket. And a faded sepia-toned photograph: them standing in front of their new house, wearing these same clothes. Eyes closed, I’m with them. I dress in their stories. Patterned and purple as night, they hold my hands. Celebrating, dressed up, I feel their happiness.

Back to the trunk! One last item. A yellowed brittle 1911 Sears Catalog. I open to the page marked by a faded ribbon. Houses for sale in a Sears Catalog? It’s this house! “The Clyde: $2,608. Kit includes 10,000 pieces of framing lumber and everything you’ll need, including doorknobs.” And I have trouble with model airplane kits!

Written for Prosery Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today, we’re not doing poetry. Rather, we’re to include a specific line from a poem given by the pub tender, in a piece of flash fiction that is 144 words or less, sans title. The line we must use today, worded exactly as it appears (we may change the punctuation) is “I dress in their stories patterned and purple as night.” The line is in the poem When we Sing of Might by Kimberly Blaeser, an indigenous poet. This was a tough line for me to incorporate, partly because of the first person and tense used in the line. This, by the way, is pure fiction.
Images from Searshouseseeker.com

Note: By 1908, one-fifth of Americans subscribed to the Sears & Roebuck Mail Order Catalog. At its peak, it included 100,000+ items on 1400 pages and weighed 4 pounds. It was free to receive in the mail. In 1908, kits for 40 “modern homes” were offered in the Sears catalog. From 1908 to 1940, the Sears Modern Homes Program offered mail-order houses, called “kit homes.” Would-be homeowners sent in a check and in a matter of weeks, they received everything they needed via a train car, to build their new home. IE lumber came precut with an instruction booklet. Everything was included, including doorknobs. Sears advertised their homes (each named, IE The Magnolia, The Clyde) could be completed in less than ninety days, without a carpenter, by someone with “rudimentary skills.” Over 75,000 homes were shipped. There is a website with photos of these homes that still exist across the US. Illustrations above taken from that site: Searshouseseeker.com