A friend was telling me she’d found some old games at a yard sale a few weeks ago, and was asking me if I had this one or that one. I started thinking about the toys I never had. In spite of the fact that I was an only child, there were a number of really sweet toys that I never got, for reasons that I don’t understand. It’s possible that my mother didn’t realize I wanted them, and I think that excuse will cover a couple, but there are a few that I know for a fact I just never got. And yes, thirty five years later, I am still somewhat bitter. Here is my list of Toys I Never Got And My Mother Is Just Lucky I Didn’t Grow Up To Be a Psychopath Or Rob Liquor Stores Because Of My Sadly Deprived Childhood.
I wanted this thing SO BAD. And this is one I’m
pretty sure my mom knew I wanted, but just didn’t want to buy. I think it goes
back to a bad experience she had with Baby Alive. For the uninitiated and those
who spent their formative years as boys, Baby Alive is (I think they still make
a version of it) a doll that you can feed and then, shortly after she eats, she
poos and needs a diaper change. Her mouth had some sort of battery powered
mechanism that made a “chewing” movement that ingested the food, and then it
would go right through her.
The thing was, she only came with maybe four
packets of food, and naturally you fed those to her within the first twenty
minutes after getting her home from the store. Then you spent the next six
weeks nagging your mom to buy Additional Food Packets Sold Separately. And the commercial was on TV often enough
that you’d ask, she’d say no (or perhaps hem and haw, if you were still in
weeks one through three), and just about the time you’d forgotten about being
totally out of food packets, the commercial would come on and the whole cycle
would start again. I suspect it was something of a living hell for parents of
All of this is a rather long-winded explanation
for why she looked on the Easy Bake Oven as some kind of instrument of Satan.
Because of course, it would come with enough mix to make two cakes and two
cookies, and then you’d be out and start nagging for Additional Mix Packets
Sold Separately. I think in her mind it was just Baby Alive with a light bulb
but without diapers.
“Lite Brite makin’ things with liiiight, outta
sight, makin’ things with Lite Brite!” I don’t think my mom really realized I
wanted one of these. I don’t recall ever putting it on a Christmas list (of
course, I don’t remember ever making
a Christmas list, so there’s that), and by the time I got old enough to want it
(4th grade) after playing with it at my friend Jill Schultz’s house,
I was too old for her to overhear me tell “Santa” it was what I wanted.
She did that, you see—I remember very clearly the
year we were at Lord & Taylor
looking around the Toy Department (in 1972, in the days when department stores still
had Toy Departments) and I saw something called Baby Butterball (don’t ask),
who came with a wicker basket and a full wardrobe of precious baby clothes. I
think out of guilt over having told me a couple of years earlier that there
wasn’t actually a Santa Claus (she couldn’t “lie” to me, was what she always
said in later years), she decided to buy exactly what I asked Santa to bring.
Not sure I was fooled—I wanted very much to believe in Santa, but I couldn’t
quite get over her telling me he didn’t exist. It doesn’t really matter, and
it’s off topic, so we’ll move on.
Anyway, I thought the ability to stick pegs in a
board with a light bulb behind it and have it look like a duck or a unicorn or
Elvis or whatever was just the coolest thing EVAR. But either my mother didn’t
agree with me, or she didn’t know I felt this way, because a Lite Brite was
“I don’t believe it, I just don’t believe it, the
things I can do with my spirograph!” (One could perhaps argue that the reason I
wanted some of these things was just because they had catchy jingles that
stayed with me, but I’d retort that one would be wrong—this was cool shit.)This
is another one that I think may fall into the she just didn’t realize I wanted
it category. But damn I loved this thing. Really cool random spirals and arcs.
I even have a memory of straight sided shapes in addition to circles. My
neighbors, Peter and Laura Albert had one, and I used to play with it all the
time. Laura Albert was also allowed to wear jeans under her skirts, which my
mother thought was dumb (“Wear one or the other”) so naturally I thought she
was pretty damned lucky.
I loved Barbies and I adored playing with them. I
would act out scenes from books I was reading with them as the characters. I
had some small doll furniture that I’d use, and then I also had carrying cases
that doubled as a bedroom with a closet. Ultimately I was given an RV/camper
thing that was so big (three feet long) that until I was in 8th
grade and it was given away (yes, 8th grade—so what?) I had to
include it in the furniture placement plans I drew up every time I decided to
rearrange my room (which was about every three months).
But did I get the Barbie Dream House? The four
level town house with the real working (manual) elevator? That came with all
sorts of cool furniture? That Tamar Holley had and I did not? (Spoiler: I
didn’t.) Was I and am I bitter? Hell yes. This does not go on the she didn’t
know I wanted it list. She knew perfectly well, and since she bought me the
RV/camper thing that took up as much (if not more) room, and couldn’t have cost
much less, I really don’t know what the logic was for getting that and not the
Dream House. It’s not even possible to ask the question, since my mom passed
away over 20 years ago, but believe me, if she were still here, it would be
really high on my list of things to get straightened out.
This one I’m actually not bitter about anymore. In
retrospect it was sort of a lame-o toy. It consisted of a round platform with a
post that stuck up out of the center (all molded plastic, of course). I think
it had some optical illusion spiral sticker thing on the platform, which of
course didn’t show when you were using it, because the method was that you sat
on it with your legs sticking out in front of you, and spun the top of the post
and it would rotate the platform and you’d spin around. Sort of a personal
merry-go-round, if you will.
So if I ever decide to knock off a gas station, I think
I’ll leave this one out of my conversation with my attorney prior to the trial.
Besides, he’ll probably be horrified enough to hear of about the Barbie Dream
House that he won’t need any more to work with. Might include the Easy Bake
Oven for the sympathy angle.
Again, there was no question that I wanted this. I
longed to go speeding down the sidewalk, and then, just inches before jumping
the curb and being hurled into the oncoming traffic, I would reach down and
yank up on the lever to be thrown into an uncontrolled spin that would send me
flying backwards into the oncoming traffic.
In retrospect, maybe I see why I never got one of
So that’s the sad story of the toys that I never
got. Of course for every one of these that I didn’t get, I had a hundred that I
did. I had Perfection (which I loved because it didn’t require a second person
to compete against to make it fun and since I was an only child, someone to
compete against couldn’t be assumed); a ton of Barbies and clothes for them; a
doll house; and a house, barn, and town for those Fisher-Price people with no
arms. I wasn’t really that deprived--hell, I wasn't deprived at all. But I’m still bitter about that
Barbie Dream House.
Epilogue: In my 40s I received both a Lite Brite
and an Easy Bake Oven. That was only a couple of years before it was announced
that Easy Bake Ovens would be going out of production because you can’t make a
cake (even a small, crappy cake) with an energy efficient light bulb. My
husband bought it for me at a yard sale. The Lite Brite was a gift from a
friend who was cleaning out, knew of my pathetic childhood without one, and my
continued longing (and bitterness), and sent it out to me so my children would
have to find something else to bitch about in 35 years.