Toy Story

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.

Easy Bake Oven
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 the time.

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
“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 never forthcoming.

“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.

Barbie Dream House
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.

Sit ‘n’ Spin
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.

Big Wheel
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 these.

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.

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