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The magic has lingered long after the toys are forgotten

December 04, 1997

The magic has lingered long after the toys are forgotten

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

I'm sad. It's nearly Christmas, and I feel Scroogey. All of a sudden I don't like toys. I borrowed the 1997 Sears Wish Book from my sister at Thanksgiving. We didn't get one in the mail this year. I guess Santa knows that my kids now are 18 and 15, and it's other catalogs that interest them.

I was feeling a bit nostalgic for the "good old days" when Santa would eat the cookies, and wishing for toys and making "the list" were all-consuming autumn rituals.

The arrival of the Wish Book always kicked off the holiday season.

My son, Will, was really into the magical volume of dreams. He would spend hours studying it. He took it everywhere - in the car, to his grandparents' house, to bed. He once woke from a nursery school nap with toy descriptions and a price list imprinted on his sweaty little face. He had fallen asleep on the Wish Book.

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His sister, Maggie, helped him with his list before he could write. When he learned his letters, he would do it himself, printing, later typing, exhaustive litanies of action figures. Although he knew it would be impossible for Santa to bring every single WWF wrestler, every He-man good guy and bad guy, he didn't seem to be able to stop.

I'll admit to over-indulging my kids. I have a basement full of Barbies, Cabbage Patch kids, Transformers and Legos to prove it.

At an earlier time in my life, I must have had a less cynical attitude about toys since I let Santa leave all this stuff at our house.

Today I look through the Wish Book and marvel at the talents of the toys.

Most of the dolls do something. I guess it's no longer enough to just be a doll and become a baby in a child's imagination.

* A sweetie who needs two "C" batteries - not included of course - crawls and falls and cries for her mommy. She's a plucky little rascal, though: She picks herself up and starts all over again.

* Another sips play juice through a straw and makes a slurping noise when fed with her spoon. Charming.

* Newborn Diaper Surprise really scared me until I read the fine print and learned that the surprise is not in the diaper, but in the Diaper Surprise Center that makes the dirty diaper magically disappear and dispenses a clean one.

Somebody ought to tell the parents of the septuplets about this device.

I shouldn't poke fun. I had my share of over-hyped and equally bizarre dolls. There was Betsy Wetsy. Guess what she did?

But there were no Diaper Surprise Centers when I was a little girl.

Another strange but well-liked plaything was perhaps a precursor of all these versatile babies. "Magic Lips" - that was her name in the catalog and only thing I ever called her - had an auburn, Jane Russell-style hairdo too mature for anyone who would squawk "Ma-Ma" when her stomach was pushed.

I'm having trouble remembering what possibly could have been appealing about these and other toys on my Christmas lists.

What I don't have trouble remembering - even after many years - is the excitement I felt Christmas Eve as I lay in my bed unable to sleep, afraid that Santa wouldn't get there. I also remember the thrill of Christmas morning as my younger twin sisters and I were released - in matching bathrobes, rubber hair curlers and identical pink hairnets - to run down the stairs and into the waiting lights of my dad's movie camera and presents under the tree.

When I was in first grade, I came home in tears one day, exhausted from debating the existence of Santa Claus with two unbelievers in my class.

"My mother says there is a Santa Claus, and my mother would never lie to me."

When my sophisticated opponent asked me if I had ever seen him, I countered with "Did you ever see God? No? Well, you believe in God don't you? Just because you can't see Santa Claus doesn't mean there's no such thing!"

Maybe I didn't convince Sarina Trufolo and Jeffrey Schneider, but I did convince myself.

And, hey, I'm being convinced again.

Thinking about all those good feelings makes me think about the people who made them happen.

Now, in place of the nail-biting excitement, there's an appreciation for parents who made my childhood Christmases so magical. The little New Jersey schoolgirl was right. You don't have to see Santa to believe.

Kate Coleman is a Staff Writer for Lifestyle.

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