by Cathy Allie
My baby hasn’t asked for any toys for Christmas again this year, not even any techy thing I could consider a toy, and I am heartbroken. Granted, she is almost 14 and hardly who anyone would consider a baby anymore, but some of the magic of Christmas morning leaves when there is nothing to steal the batteries from the remote for, argue with my husband about assembly directions, and then watch my daughter rush to it on Christmas morning.
I was glad last year when llamas were all the rage because it gave me the opportunity to buy a stuffed one, which she snuggled on Christmas day then placed in a closet bin to bond with the other 6,304 animals residing there.
Oddly, when we try to purge those, she can tell me where or who each one came from, pleading with me to spare the poly-filled friends, and yet cannot remember to grab her lunch from the refrigerator for school about three of five days.
The year before, when she determined she was no longer interested in toys, I was determined to interest her in games again. I put together a basket with all my childhood favorites, like Uno, Candy Land (with funky looking bright colors and not the beautiful pastel candy I remember), Clue, Racko, and some newer game gang members like Left Right Center, Five Crowns, and Apples to Apples. I had visions of laughing teens at my kitchen table, merrily competing with one another, just like are pictured on the Mattel commercials.
My daughter’s response to a basket of fun was--well--best described as underwhelming. She was thankfully polite, and later in the day when I suggested some games, she suggested a movie. Her suggestion won.
When she was 11, I tried craft kits as a sub for toys. She made several string bracelets, a couple of very odd smelling candles, and a beaded keyring, always a popular accessory for a middle school backpack. Later, I found the candle wax tangled up in some of the string when I vacuumed her room, successful clogging the vacuum hose. I guess we are done with crafts.
Art supplies seem to be the one whimsical thing she loves. She feels about them the way I feel about office supplies, so I get it. But the marker pens I bought for her last birthday, with which you can blur lines and create shading the easy way, were the same cost as a root canal. I am currently busy squashing every artistic notion she has, to avoid bankruptcy.
I have done the next best thing in my fervor to purchase toys, moving on to children of friends who are young enough to appreciate them. I have to be careful with my four present rule friends (something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read), so as not to interrupt their careful parenting.
And maybe I won’t find anything for the kids anyway, because I long for toys of old. Where did the plastic vanity dresser complete with fake lipsticks and a styrofoam stool go? We converted the top of the vanity seat into an amusement ride, starting at the top of the stairs and sliding all the way down. We could fly on that old olive green sculpted carpet.
Where are the Baby Secrets of the world? She had a string on her side to pull, and her lips moved as she spoke to you. Granted, some of the phrases now seem a little weird in today’s world. “I want to sleep with you” and “ I know a secret!” may be the two most egregious. Never mind on Baby Secret. Don’t even Google her if you don’t want nightmares.
I also had a Baby Tubsy, with two little teeth on her gum line and a big smile, who came complete with her own terry cloth hooded towel, washcloth, and plastic pink tub. And her arms moved up and down and splashed water everywhere. Great fun!
The one flaw? The batteries to make her arms move were in a compartment on her bottom, which was submerged in water. After about two baths, Baby Tubsy began to leak battery corrosion, which appeared to be very baby-like diarrhea.
What about a Rings and Things plastic toy and ring maker? The concept was very hot metal plates with molds, into which you poured colored plastic from bottles that looked like Elmer’s glue, then you cooked them at a high temperature to firm up the plastic. What could go wrong with that?
The outdoor type? How about Jarts lawn darts? The really sharp, metal tipped missiles were fun to throw underhanded. That’s how we ALWAYS THREW them, I swear… Not into Jarts? What about a set of Clackers, acrylic orbs on a string that you banged together and whipped around your head in patterns, like an Olympic ribbon dancer with much less safe equipment?
Or maybe a Chinese jump rope, one continuous loop of incredibly strong elastic that hurt so bad when it snapped you cried. Made of the same thing as bungie cords, those jump ropes were wicked. I was pretty good at jump rope, and I suppose personal dexterity was not the reason.
Pretty much everybody I knew either had a Go Go the Burro, which was a precursor to the western comeback of bull riding in the bars, where your ride was dictated by your ability to hang on and to bounce (and later in life how many Tequila Sunrises you had consumed), or a Radio Flyer horse, usually named Blaze, attached to crazy bouncing springs.
I saw a version of Blaze at a big box store the other day, and they had carefully covered the huge springs which trapped many a sibling’s finger and either injured it badly or snapped it completely off when one rider wanted on and the other didn’t believe his or her time was up.
One day I will be a grandmother, God willing. I can tell you right now my daughter will be mad at me all the time for the toys I am going to drag into her house to make really cool memories. Four present rule be damned!
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.