“Toyland, toyland, wonderful girl and boy land, while you dwell within it you are ever happy there.”
The words to this old song come to mind often this time of year. It’s the season when reality bows out for a while and kids of all ages enjoy the glow of magic and make believe.
You don’t have to be a kid to love toys. When a toy is labeled “suitable for children ages 5 and up,” there is no limit to the age of “up.”
Most adults never really grow up. Each of us still has a little child in us who wants to have a new toy. How else to account for the lines of people outside the Apple Stores a few weeks ago? I will bet that many of them already had the older version of the iPhone, but the added bell and whistle or two of the new model appealed to a wide-eyed inner child.
Some say that we go through a second childhood. I don’t think so. I contend that we are all simply living the long-play version of our first childhood. And that’s a good thing.
You can tell it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas when advertising inserts outweigh the rest of the newspaper. The little boy in me could not resist thumbing through the 40-page booklet provided by a local store.
If my actual age were the same as that of the kid inside of me, I would already be busy writing my letter to Santa Claus. As I browsed through the colorful catalog of toys, the child in me was attracted mainly to the things that still appeal to me as an adult. Those electronic games would have amazed me as a child, and they amaze me now.
As I think back to my original childhood, the one six decades ago, the toys that I wanted were the ones that made me feel like a grown-up. I remember well the Christmas that I received the Cub Printing Press. As an 8-year-old I became a newspaper publisher. It was tough using those tweezers to place the tiny rubber letters into the miniature rack, but it made me feel like a real editor.
Another year I got a chemistry set for Christmas. I saw myself as a scientist in search of a valuable new formula. A year later I found a microscope under the tree. For weeks any insect venturing into my world was likely to find itself pinned to a glass slide and magnified 100 times.
Every year brings a new list of “hot” toys. What is interesting this year is the presence of some old friends back in the spotlight. An electronic pet named Furby was all the rage in 1998. The furry creature is back this year to enthrall a whole new generation. Thanks to upgraded technology, Furby is smarter and cuter than ever.
Cabbage Patch Kids are back in town. The center of a vortex of shopping frenzy in the 1970s, the adorable dolls still contain not one battery or computer chip.
Perhaps the most amazing “hot” toy this year has been sizzling for quite a while. Legos, introduced in the 1930s, still fascinate young architects who yearn to create a whole world made of interlocking plastic pieces.
Those of us who grew up in central Indiana have wonderful memories of the Toyland created by the L.S. Ayres and Co. department store in downtown Indianapolis. Each year their eighth floor was magically turned into a Christmas Wonderland. The bright red “Santa Claus Express” railroad carried passengers through the enchanted land. On the outside of the building, the store’s big show windows displayed delightful holiday scenes with animated figures.
This season, those who remember Christmastime at Ayres will want to visit the IPL Building on Monument Circle. Animated figures in the windows create scenes from Norman Rockwell paintings. Included are treasures from the old Ayres displays, including Santa’s elves and a section of the old Santa Claus Express.
The song about Toyland says that “once you pass its borders you can never return again.”
That doesn’t apply to many of us, who have lingered in Toyland all of our lives.
James H. Johnson is a retired teacher who lives in Greenwood. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.