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Forget the rest; Christmas is here

Somehow Caitlin had spotted the Toys 'R' Us "preholiday" catalog in the rat's nest that the Sunday Times had become, plucked it from the mess and was now curled up on the couch, dreaming.

They must have been pink-tinted thoughts, since our 6-, nearly 7-year-old, seemed to be lingering on the pages that said "BARBIE BARBIE BARBIE BARBIE BARBIE BARBIE" across the top.

I did the same thing at her age, before I knew that Santa had a budget. But there was something wrong with the scene. It was the date on the calendar _ Oct. 9.

Gee, Caitlin hadn't even decided what she wanted to be for Halloween yet. Our Thanksgiving turkey probably still has its head. And here was the "world's biggest toy store" beginning its Christmas marketing campaign.

This is the first year the company has sent out a preholiday catalog to homes, said Doug Romain, who is in charge of inventory control for Toys 'R' Us in this area. Until last year catalogs were in the stores but not inserted in newspapers, he said.

"It was a huge success, being in the homes," Romain said.

And about the early date?

"It's getting people out there to start thinking about what they want," he said.

It's not only Toys 'R' Us that is trying to get people in a Christmas holiday mood before the pumpkins are carved.

In Gulf View Square Mall there are scenes that look as if they came from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas _ as when the Halloween skeleton tries to become Santa Claus with disastrous results.

Something Special has Santa afghans hanging a few feet from Halloween gift bags.

Down at Everything's $1 the sign in the window says: "Ho Ho Ho Stocking Stuffer Headquarters." And the window is full of Christmas wrapping paper.

Burdines already has its garlands and wreaths and some poinsettias up.

Dillard's has a Christmas section full of collectible village buildings and Santas.

I went to Target the other day to pick up a small propane tank for a portable barbecue grill, only to find that the grills and lawn furniture had disappeared _ replaced with aisle after aisle of artificial trees and tree-trimmings.

Hey, I love the Christmas season. But at this rate of holiday acceleration, by the time the Macy's parade winds through Manhattan on Thanksgiving Day we'll all be dying Easter eggs.

Still, there are benefits to shopping early. After all, that Camp Barbie Cabin Retreat might be scarce by November. And, when everybody else is scrambling around for Bicyclin' Barbie, Santa could have Caitlin's tucked away in the back of her (uhhhh, I mean his) closet.

I guess that Toys 'R' Us catalog is working.

So, in the spirit of retailers everywhere, maybe it's time for us to jump on the bandwagon and help all of you write your Christmas wish lists.

Let us know what you want for Christmas and what your children and grandchildren are asking for. If we get enough responses we'll put together a gift-giving guide that might give the Santas in your life a little help.

Hey, I promise to wait until after Halloween to print the results.

You can write me at 11321 U.S. 19, Port Richey, FL 34668. Or, you can call and recite your list to TimesLine if you have a touch-tone phone. (West Pasco) 862-0019; (Holiday, south of Moog Road) 462-0019; (Central Pasco) 221-0019. Then punch in category 8950.