Sunday, January 6, 2008
Christmas is past, and if I may say so, it went off with a bang. And a whistle. And some humming, and some loud music, some crashes, some booms and some alien laser-fire. But enough about the toys my kids got.
I received my most technologically advanced gift when I was just 7 years old - a baby Thumbelina. Thumbelina wasn't a mere doll that lay lifeless and still in your arms. She writhed and squirmed like a real baby, and so enchanted was I that she quickly became the entire focus of my life. My grandmother, whose generation had never seen the like of such toys, could not believe that a doll could seem so alive. I am not sure that she is so beloved in my memory because of her amazing talents, or if it was because her life was to be so short. Snatched from my arms by a neighborhood dog, her brief existence ended in shreds and tatters.
Compared to the toys that my daughter has owned, dolls that coo, walk, talk, eat, and must be potty-trained, Thumbelina was not a technological wonder. I think I loved her more though, than my daughter did any of her dolls which were endowed with more human qualities. Toys of today require so much less imagination of our children, and that is a mistake. Imagination is the greatest gift our children possess and it should be cultivated and nurtured. Toys that do everything appeal to them, and they clamor for them, but watch what happens when they actually get them. The more bells and whistles the toy possesses, the more quickly it is discarded for other pursuits, such as making a car out of the cardboard box the toy came in.
My son received video games, a realistic plug 'n play car steering wheel with racing games on board, and a host of other toys that beep and flash to music and sound effects. He has spent the day instead crafting two swords complete with scabbards, pirate hats and a world of knights, kings and dragons - equipped with nothing more than a block of construction paper, a pair of scissors, a roll of tape and his imagination. What he has fashioned from his own creativity has completely replaced all other toys in his inventory.
It would be impossible to put empty cardboard boxes and scissors and tape under the Christmas tree. They would be spurned, the children would view them as the equivalent of coal in their stockings. The bangs and whistles and bells and booms must be tied up in ribbons and left by a loving Santa who will understand when they are forgotten and replaced by a child's imagination.