Herald and Journal, November 9, 1998

What will it be this Christmas?


I was in my local grocery store tonight after work and I made a startling discovery. The Holiday Oreos have hit the store shelves. Is it that time again, already?

I haven't been out shopping much lately, so please excuse me if I haven't seen the signs before this. This was my first sighting of a Christmas product for 1998 - and before I even have my Halloween decorations put away. It seems that we are being treated to the sights and sounds of the season a little earlier each year. Usually, after Halloween is over, the onslaught begins.

When my children were in grade school, I always had a pretty good idea when Christmas was approaching. The Sears' and Penney's catalogs were thumbed ragged from grubby little fingers pointing out what they wanted.

I used to tell people that my kids made choosing their gifts easy because they wanted one of everything. I always knew what toy was the most sought after by youngsters everywhere. All you had to do was watch for the most frequently advertised toys on the afternoon kid shows. That's what the kids would ask for.

Sometime over the summer, I would start hearing "Mom! Mom! Come in here!" or "Mom, hurry you're going to miss it again!"

I would rush into the living room to see what Mom and Dad were supposed to put under the tree this time.

It seems like all five of my daughters got a Tender Love doll at one time or another. The kids didn't always get what they asked for, though. If the toy was too expensive or too ridiculous, Santa would bring something more suitable.

One year, Jason wanted a toy that he saw on TV. We decided that since this was something he really wanted, we would make sure he got it. The Ricochet Racer was actually a gun that shot a little car. Jason was thrilled with the idea of getting this toy right up until the time that he opened the gift.

Oh sure, he played with it. But, somehow it was more fun wanting the thing, and hoping he would get it. When he actually had the Ricochet Racer in front of him, all the excitement and anticipation were gone.

I remember one toy from my childhood that would have been my dream come true. I asked Santa for a Coke machine. It was featured right there in the Sears catalog. Of course, I didn't realize at the time that you would need to buy the Coca Cola to put in it. I was just sure I had to have it.

Christmas morning came and no Coke machine appeared under the tree. Instead, there was a kit called Shell Craft. You could make jewelry with the shells, glue, and accessories in the kit. I was not excited.

I spent many an hour trying to put the jewelry together. It seems to me that I must have been craft-challenged even then, because I was all thumbs when I tried to glue the shells to the bases that were provided. The one piece of jewelry I remember making from the set is probably the only one I succeeded in putting together.

Looking back on it now, I realize that it was quite a monumental achievement. I picked out all the shells that I would need for the cameo pin. The cameo would be glued to the center of a black plastic oval. Then small shells would be glued around the cameo. A pin would then be glued to the back of the oval, so the cameo pin could be worn.

I never saw such a mess in my life. The glue was stuck all over my fingers. So were the shells. Every time I tried to apply another shell, one that I had previously applied would come off and stick to my fingers. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been Super Glue.

No doubt, my Mother was tempted to throw the kit right out the door after hearing my wailing and complaining over the trouble I was having. She helped me clean things up and get the shells stuck in the right places.

I had that cameo pin for years. I don't know if I ever actually wore it. It was kind of a badge of honor just to show that, with a little help, I had succeeded.

I wonder what the most sought after toys will be this year. Will there be another Cabbage Patch or Tickle Me Elmo frenzy? Each year there seems to be that special toy that every child must have.

I would be willing to bet that we won't witness any near-riots in the toy store aisles over a Shell Craft kit.

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