virtual children by Scott Warnock

Not letting the toy story end just yet

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First off, I hope my kids don’t read this column before Christmas, although I think I’m safe. Why? In a couple months, I will be living with three teenagers. They have their own interests. The house feels older, more serious. Christmas has followed suit. Presents come in envelopes. They have screens. They’re practical. Simply put, they’re not toys.

Toys are fun all the way around. They’re fun to look at it in catalogues. They’re fun to shop for. They’re fun to wrap. They’re fun to watch someone open.

Now, Christmas is still wonderful and all that, but the straight-up reality is that my kids don’t want toys anymore. They’re too – raise your chin and stiffen your upper lip — mature for that now. The new “no toys” reality has detracted from the whole experience for me a bit.

I know there is no sense in fighting it. But, in response to the toylessness of Christmas now and Christmases certainly in the future, prompted by the urging of an equally mad and impractical friend, I resisted this yuletide dampening.

I bought my two boys a toy. Oh, and not just any toy. I bought them a megatoy, an awesome, amazing Star Wars set. The Sandcrawler, set 75059. (My daughter is out of the equation. Her wants revolve around five-figure items that require keys to operate. A toy would cause a Christmas war.)


The Sandcrawler, in all its awesomeness.

There’s backstory here. My boys were once way into Legos, as young ‘uns. I found one of the great pleasure of being a dad in building those sets with them, racing to stay one step ahead in finding the pieces they needed.

They especially liked Star Wars sets. Lego purists, I have been told, don’t love the Star Wars sets because they contain too many specialized pieces. The Sandcrawler was a throwback, full of core brick-like Lego pieces. It maintained the integrity of the endeavor, I suppose. I remembering reading about all this and desiring the Sandcrawler — for the boys!

However, for some reason, the Sandcrawler set was discontinued. You could get it, but its priced matched its rarity. No-chance pricing, for me. Then one day, a few years ago, my wife came home from a thrift store with it – for like $10!

I was so excited — for the boys, of course! — that I immediately dug into the bag and laid out the directions. From the start, I realized a major piece was missing. Then another. Then another. It ended up that thousands of pieces were missing. Ten bucks indeed.

The years have passed as they do, quickly. Our Legos have been forgotten. I tried to sort them, to rekindle the boys’ interest. No luck. The Legos currently sit in big, flat plastic bins under beds upstairs. Once in a while, I subversively try to get younger kids in the neighborhood to come over and ask my boys to break out their Legos. I know: Feeble gesture.

But there was always that Sandcrawler. So it was serendipity when I learned Lego reissued a version of the Sandcrawler (not quite as massive as the original, but 3,200 pieces — Damn it! Good enough!); the quest could be completed, linked with the desire for the final token of childhood.

Am I a fool? I know they’re too old. I know they’ve lost interest. I know I could use the money to buy 1% of the overpriced vehicle my daughter has demanded. (She ain’t getting it!)

I know that perhaps all I have done is buy myself a gift.

I hope someone in my house takes a few minutes to play with it with me.

Happy holidays. I’m taking a break and will see you in 2017.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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6 Responses to “Not letting the toy story end just yet”

  1. Let’s talk to grace and have a lego build fest at orange blossom. A day of play for folks who need it!

  2. Really great column, Scott. But, I think the toy story doesn’t actually ever end. Just look in my basement…. It rests for a while, sure, but the lost wonder of toys at Christmas can always be recaptured, when college and teenage years are past. It’s why men I know “collect” Star Wars memorabilia, build model rockets, make robots, fly model airplanes, or play Dungeons and Dragons with their friends. One of the most popular gifts this year are “adult” coloring books. So, let me know if you want to play Legos over vacation. I’m down.

  3. Boys always love toys, Scott. They will play with that set with you because they–and you–are still boys inside. You will play with toys together until you get grandchildren who want to play with you, and they will play with their children.

  4. As a kid growing up I loved jigsaw puzzles, the kind with 1000+ pieces. After many years of raising a family and not having time for them I stopped. Now in my retirement with a little free time between golf and biking etc. I started and am having just as much fun as I did when I was 10.
    Have a great holiday

  5. Scott,

    You’re right Of course you’re right. This is just one more chapter that our parents left out of the “On Being a Parent” manual handed to us after the birth of our first child. (they also left out the paragraph on the first time a boy breaks up wiht your daughter and how it hurts YOU more than it hurts them, but I digress)
    This is one argument for a “bonus baby” like we have here on Elm. He’s full of Lego wonder and awe. I’m just going to follow Mick Jagger’s lead and keep having kids until I check out.

  6. Scott,

    Merry Christmas to you and the family.
    I look forward to reading your thoughts on Betsy DeVos in 2017. What a great pick by Trump!

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