Picture a bright, hot, cloudless August afternoon. We actually had a few this year so it shouldn’t be too hard. Now picture me coming out of my house, clad in a tank top and shorts (that may be a little tougher to picture, but please refrain from laughing as you do so), admiring my flower bed resplendent with blooming – better make that “wilting” – pansies, and full, brilliant orange marigolds; and then skittering barefoot across the shimmering hot concrete driveway as I make my way to my mailbox. As I open the door to the mailbox, which incidentally is still not speaking to me, my greatest hope is that someone has mailed me a tall iced tea in a frosted glass with a fresh lemon slice twisted decorously atop the rim. Instead, I reach into the box and find… a Christmas catalog!!!
Talk about befuddlement. But hey, there are a limited –albeit plentiful – number of shopping days ‘til Christmas, so I find a cool spot in the shade and delve right into the toy section of the catalog. Maybe if I find some toys that both the kids and I like, I won’t mind so much having to pick them off the floor every day.
My girls are so young that they’re relatively easy to please. As long as it’s pink, Catherine will love it. And as long as it is sturdy enough to withstand a tug-of-war between my two little angels, Annie might actually get to play with it sometimes.
I’m glad I’m starting early. Toys have changed since I was a kid, so the selection is more complex than merely weighing the relative virtues of Lincoln Logs and building blocks.
I remember talking dolls that said, “Hi, my name is ____.” Or “Would you like to play with me?” These days one hip chick says “You got it, Dude,” and a doll named “Urkel” is quoted to quip “Hee-Hee-Hee, Snort!” I guess I don’t watch enough TV to keep up with doll linguistics.
The stuffed animals haven’t changed much over the years, except for a few novelties. The “patch-up pets” kitty is kind of cute. It comes with a medical kit and bandages so kids can play doctor. The doll also “comes with her own ‘injuries,’” but I bet any kid can provide injuries that that stuffed kitty never dreamed possible in all her nine lives.
Then of course there is the “Armed Forces Bear” that vaguely resembles General Norman Schwartzkopf.
It’s interesting how toys reflect our current culture and the state of civilization. As product of the ‘60s, I enjoyed a kit that taught you to grow your own sprouts. Now in this environmentally conscientious era, one can purchase a kit for recycling old newspaper into notepaper and envelopes.
Another environmental offering is an “Earth Book” which “cheerfully illustrates” how to check detergent phosphate levels and test water for oil pollution. Or you can get the science kit and learn how to contain an oil spill and study the effects of acid rain on plants. What fun.
The photo of the science kit shows two plant containers. The one on the right, next to the “normal water” packets, holds a thriving green plant. The container on the left, with the ”acid rain” packets propped against it, has a browned stub of a plant poking from the dirt. Wicked stuff. Maybe we should all send science kits to our favorite legislators for Christmas this year.
The toy I like most is the pretend tool kit. I can envision hours of fun teaching Catherine to replace a leaking wax seal on a toilet, or helping Annie build a bed frame when she outgrows her crib. Better yet, if I can interest them in woodworking, they can just build their own toys. Then I won’t need to look at Christmas catalogs at all. I’ll just go to the nearest lumber store and stock up on wood, nails, and glue. It may be a little harder to gift wrap, but I’m willing to try.
I’m beginning to see why the Christmas catalogs appear so early. It takes about four months to decipher all the new trends in toys. I can also see why a lot of people wait until December 24th to do their shopping. It’s just too darn tiresome to deal with until you absolutely have to.
Now picture me going into the kitchen to make myself that tall, cool glass of iced tea… Christmas can wait.
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These articles are like time capsules. Norman Schwartzkopf? Urkel? “Stormin’ Norman” is retired now and lives in Tampa, Florida. Jaleel White, who played “Urkel” in a ‘90s television series, is more recently known for his TV appearances in the 14th season of Dancing with the Stars. Rumor has it he got into a big fight with his professional dancing partner, Kim, but that has absolutely nothing to do with me or depression, so I’ll just leave that one alone.
All the best,