Last Christmas, Dave and I had one of those dumb “The Atlantic Ocean is better!” “No, the Pacific Ocean is!” fights, wherein he said it was stupid to buy toys at the fancy little local toy shop downtown, and we should just go to Toys R Us. I finally conceded to going there with him, knowing full well the experience would prove I was right. Sure enough, within minutes Dave was essentially hyperventilating and holding up some insane toy (a fluffy kitty with a CD player in its belly? a robot that plays disco?) and wondering aloud at the direction of this country’s youth. We bought a few Hot Wheels for Eli and some of those Schleich animals for Henry (he has dozens of them — they would totally be his desert island toy), and got out of there as quickly as we could. (And yes, he admitted I was right. It doesn’t happen very often, so I made an official document verifying the event and had it notarized.)
I kind of forgot about this whole thing until I got a Wal-Mart toy catalog in the mail the other day. I have shopped at Wal-Mart exactly once, when I went a few years ago because they were the only local place that had humidifiers still in stock, and given that the humidity level in Maine during the winter generally hovers around 2 percent, I felt like I had to get one immediately or else I would wake up one morning looking like one of those dried apple people. I bought a few other things while I was there, and I literally had to return every single item because they were all broken. The moral being that it is a waste of time (not to mention morally reprehensible) to shop at Wal-Mart. (And that if you slather a half-inch thick layer of Aquaphor and Lanolin all over yourself, and drink 152 ounces of water a day, you can manage to stay sufficiently hydrated until your mail order humidifier comes that you had to order off the internet after the Wal-Mart one collapsed into shreds.)
But I know a lot of people do shop there, and, judging by the catalog we got, they buy completely insane and nonsensically hilarious toys for their children.
For example: The Micro Aggression Elimination Chamber. Because most kids, while they may be working on their aggressive tendencies, have not yet reached the full aggression of an adult. Thus, a line of Micro Aggression toys.
Also: Barbie Party Cruise. Comes complete with Hangover Barbie and Binge Drinking Skipper.
Don’t forget Little Mommy Gotta Go. You could buy it for 50 bucks, but I already have one named Eli. I guess I could see some merits in a doll that your kid has to potty train, just to prove what a pain it is. This is a doll full of euphemisms, though, if the description on Amazon.com is any indication (all links are to Amazon.com, these things were surprisingly hard to locate on Wal-mart’s website, which is odd since the catalog was from them). For instance: “In the meantime, when the doll is positioned on the toilet, the “water” in the toilet disappears, with the expected “potty waste” appearing in its place.” Then, oddly: “Once the fun is finished, your child can simply lay the doll on her back. She’ll yawn, say she is “sleepy,” and the doll will enter a sleep mode. Move the doll to “wake” her up.” Am I wrong to read this as: “After hour six of failed potty training, and once you’ve sufficiently watered her bottle down with brandy, she’ll start to lose consciousness. Get her safely to her crib. Occasionally prod her to make sure she’s still breathing.”
And then, a toy that I can actually understand the fun of, but GOOD LORD who would allow this in their home?
The Nickolodeon Super Slimer, sort of a water gun, but one that shoots slime 25 feet. Maybe if you live in a warm part of the world, this might make an ok Christmas present, because at least you could go outside and…no, never mind. This is a terrible thing no matter when it’s given, or why, unless the reason is because you hate the parents and you don’t want to be their friends anymore.
Paradoxically, right after I pooh-poohed everything in the Hideous Catalog Tribute to Chinese Plastic, we went to Home Depot, where I stood, rapt, for fully half an hour, in front of all the ridiculous Christmas inflatable geegaws. Suddenly I wanted it all, I wanted our yard to be full of sparkles and animated reindeer and inflatable ornaments as large as an exercise ball (hey, maybe that’s the new way to get rid of holiday pounds…”I’ll be right back! I’m wading through the snow to do some crunches on our 4-foot Christmas ball!”). There were battery-operated candles that looked like they had started to melt (part of the realistic effect), jingle bell wreaths, cinnamon-scented villages…I wanted all of it. Not really, of course. I don’t actually want any of it. As it is, we have so many ornaments we can’t even put them all on the tree. And all that stuff is such a waste of electricity and storage space. But still, something about the massive sparkling horde of it made me want to have a giant Christmas House. I couldn’t let any of this on to Eli, of course, who was there with me, and the kids can most definitely smell when I might possibly cave and make a purchase. I let him be content by admiring all these gigantic plastic ball ornaments, the handling of which left him completely covered in glitter, and in the end, that was sparkle enough for all of us.