By Marla Boone
It amazes me, every single time, when I see a kid who appears to be about two years old playing with some elaborate electronic toy. All children are, of course, issued cell phones at birth. It is no longer unusual for us to see a child who isn’t remotely acquainted with potty training engrossed with a phone. They can’t grasp the simple notion of not doing doo-doo in their pants but they know how to download and run the most sophisticated games in the universe. Maybe there’s an app for that. Potty training, I mean, not children. By the time they get to pre-school, kids are running programs only slightly less complicated than the control panel of the space shuttle. Occasionally, if I speak very gently and kindly to it, my phone will allow me to make a phone call. On good days, it will let me send a text or two. All other nuances of this powerful instrument are lost on me. If it weren’t for sending photos of my latest decorating attempts to my fashion/feng shui consultant, I could probably make do with a tin can and a string. (I’m kidding about the consultant. I concede that I am hopeless at fashion and I firmly believe feng shui is ancient Cantonese for “I have you believing you shouldn’t put that table there.” There isn’t a consultant alive who would take on a project like me. At least not without a very large retainer and anonymity.)
After that disclaimer, it will probably sound like sour grapes to mention that (cue scary music) when I was a kid, our toys were a little more modest and by a little more modest, I mean by an interest and complexity factor of about two zillion. A big toy sensation back then was the Slinky. The Slinky was a sharp-edged metal coil which had three functions. (1) It would, if properly goaded, go down a flight of stairs end over end. (2) It would, if given half a chance, impart a cut on your finger that would take weeks to heal. Apparently, Slinkies were made out of semi-toxic materials left over from failed nuclear power plants. (3) It would, with the slightest provocation, become hopelessly entangled in itself which rendered #1 impossible and #2 even more likely.
I had three sisters. It was inevitable, I suppose, that somewhere along the line we were given dolls. I did not like dolls in general and these dolls in particular. Even back then in the Toy Stone Age, there were dolls that would talk or drink from a bottle or do a dainty little “job” in their diaper (sold separately). The dolls we were given would more precisely have been called corpses. They didn’t do anything except lie there in all their rubbery essence. Goodness knows what dark evil possessed me, but I played an ill-advised game of Barber with my doll. I chopped off all its hair and then shaved its rosy-red cheeks. With my dad’s razor. My mom was horrified at my obviously deranged mind and my dad was horrified when he nearly bled to death from using a razor on his face that had only recently been slicing away on a doll’s.
And then there was Mr. Potato Head. This was a boxed set of impossibly small plastic parts that creative children were supposed to insert into a potato (sold separately) to devise a wacky and entertaining face. The small pieces, which today would give OSHA and the EPA and Children’s Services and every other policing entity a mass heart attack, included eyes and ears and noses and mouths. There might have been a pipe…clearly the Tobacco Institute had infiltrated Hasbro Toys. What it didn’t have, as previously mentioned, was a potato. A kid with enough imagination to (literally) think outside the box could just as easily have used an apple (Mr. Truncal Obesity Head) or a pear (Ms. Child-Bearing Hips Head) or a banana (Mr. The Less Said The Better Head).
The toys I really wanted were an Erector Set or that Playskool car garage or, forgive me, a Barbie doll. There was no way on earth I was going to get a Barbie doll but one fabulous Christmas I got the best present of all. My parents got me a pony. A real, live, honest to goodness pony. It was mine, all mine. I fed it, curried it, watered it, rode it. I also had to clean up its barn. There was absolutely nothing dainty about the “jobs” it was doing but I also received a shovel. Sold separately.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today