Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fisher Price Christmas

It was all much easier when the Fisher Price Farm was the only toy in my cart.

It sat right next to the jumbo box of disposable diapers and a two pound bag of animal crackers. Perched in the front passenger seat was a toddler who periodically clapped his hands and goo-ed at his sister. Having been bumped out of the seat by a brother who arrived just after her first birthday, she soon discovered it was much more fun to walk next to us, wrapping her tiny fingers through the slick metal bars of the cart basket because mommy said if she didn’t a stranger might take her away.

They were easy. It was physically exhausting to care for their constant daily needs, but in some ways life was much easier. A Barney video effortlessly bought me a half hour of quiet. I knew where they were and exactly what they were doing for as long as the dinosaur’s friends bopped and danced through their pretend neighborhood set.

I could fit most of their dirty clothes in one big load. Weekly laundry was a breeze. Little clothes are quick to wash and even quicker to fold. Nothing needed ironing and on most days these two little buddies of mine were more than thrilled to help tuck it all away in dresser drawers.

They strategically and loyally napped at the same time every day and we all met up again in the late afternoon, refreshed and ready for the next adventure the day might bring.

And then came the holidays. Money was tight but they never knew it. Most of the treasures under the Christmas tree were bright colored toys that had been scrubbed of their $1 and $2 price tags. Garage sales and thrift stores seemed to overflow with perfectly good preschooler toys.

Every year we bought one item from the department store. One brand new toy that two little people could share. Most years it was a set from the Fisher Price people village. A farm joined our family one year, a schoolhouse the next. Slowly our collection grew and soon we realized we owned the whole neighborhood. Twenty bucks at a time our little town grew.

Then time flashed by and our household expanded by two more boys. The second two seemed to leave their preschool years behind them at a much faster rate than their older siblings had. We barely got out FisherPriceville anymore. New shiny hot wheels and forts their big brother made out of bed sheets were much more exotic and exciting. Barney grew dusty in the VCR and was eventually given to the new mommy next door.

And Christmas became much more expensive. Twenty dollar sets of round plastic people didn’t cut it anymore. Now each item on Santa’s list averaged forty, then sixty dollars. All the new gadgets being flashed across Nick Jr. and the Disney Channel were electronic and expensive.

Suddenly it was a long term commitment. You buy the unit then realize it’s not enough. There are chargers and screen guards and earplugs and upgrades to buy, not to mention the endless stream of new game cartridges that are all sold separately. Now the average price for one item often topped a hundred dollars. In our house that was multiplied by four different lists.

Our budget did not expand as dramatically as our (once little) family so every year we still give the speech about how money is tight. Now they are old enough to understand what that means. Lists are reviewed and prioritized while alliances are made to share any and all new gaming systems and cartridges that might make their appearance under the tree.

As heartbreaking as it is for a mother who wants to wrap pretty presents, several of my older kids are now requesting the cash instead of the gifts. They like having the control to pick for themselves and not waste limited Christmas bucks on some item they really never wanted.

Jeff and I walk the aisles, hands clutching four carefully constructed lists from four very different kids. We have round and round discussions about where the money could best be spent. With each passing year we browse in and out of the electronics section a bit more than the toy section. Very soon we will have no reason to even steer the cart over to the brightly colored displays of teddy bears, Tinker Toys and building blocks.

But this year, as we glide down the aisle of pretend toys, I will brush my hand along the smooth surface of the Fisher Price village and try not to shed a tear. It just doesn’t seem right that my favorite little round people are moving on and finding love in a new little preschooler’s chubby fist.


Mom101 said...

I appreciate you giving me a whole new appreciation for the plastic crap that pollutes our home, pours out from toy boxes and hides under the couch. Suddenly it doesn't seem half bad.

Thanks for pointing me here mama. And good luck with that cool new leg of yours!

Table for Seven said...

OK, so could you just come and sit in a corner and ALWAYS point these things out to me??? I need these reminders.

You have a gift. I, for one, am grateful you use it.