Visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past

As a child there were always a handful of things you could always count on; things that are etched in my memory banks. Like the feeling of sitting anxiously by the radio waiting for the announcement of your schools closing for winter’s first snowfall. The certainty of one’s grandparents, aunts and uncles ceaselessly citing the way things were when they were young; always harder but somehow better than the present. And decidedly best of all, the anticipation and thrill of waiting for Christmas morn- from the careful crafting of your wish list to the hours-long slumber strike as you restlessly awaited the sound of sleigh bells in the night sky or hoofs scuffing across the roof. Christmas always fosters some of the warmest memories from my childhood.

ca. 1942 --- Picture shows Santa Claus in a jeep with a Christmas tree and presents. Undated photo circa 1942. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

So I’m not yet a grandparent but I am an uncle at least a dozen times over which more than qualifies me to make a few observations about how things are today. Things that are brought to light at this yuletide time of year.

First of all, it seems like the kids today are being shortchanged. It seems as though our society has become so technologically advanced that kids don’t feel the need to utilize their imaginations anymore. Any kid that gets caught going out into the front yard and pretending like he or she is engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a race of apes in attempt to foil their plan to overthrow the human race would be quickly prescribed a strong sedative and assigned to a special class secluded from the primary population. We did this kinda stuff all the time and it was completely normal.

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Kids nowadays literally have an entire world of possibilities in the palm of their hand. My teenage son can create a hi-res image of my wife and I, in matching Christmas sweaters, in a lovers embrace at the base of the Eiffel Tower, at no more than a moment’s notice. A pretty tall order considering I’ve never been to France and we don’t own any matching outerwear, or “unders” for that matter. With such powers at your fingertips, it gets pretty easy to shelve the old imagination in favor of the app-of-the-day delivered across a worldwide 4G network.

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I, for one, miss the good old days. I long for the days when toys were made of metal, and wood, and things that were not so wisely-sourced because, well, that wasn’t even a thing yet. I remember Tonka trucks that you could stand on, and drop from a second story window, not to mention leaving out in the driveway so Dad could back over it with the Olds. Sure, after a few years it would get scratched up and start to rust but a few shots of Rust-o-leum and she’d be good as new.

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I miss the days of GI Joe dolls. Yes, dolls for boys. But these dolls had accessories that made them anything but a girl’s toy. Machine guns, semi-auto handguns, grenades and even bazookas, which could all be grasped firmly with the startling complexity of Joe’s patented “kung-fu grip”. Toys like this challenged a child’s imagination to develop plots and storylines in which to your prized action figures, unlike today’s handheld gizmos that merely separate and desensitize. It would seemingly take hours to even set-up GI Joe’s base in preparation to play. I can’t say that I ever remember the actual playing taking any time at all in comparison to the eons spent in set-up and breakdown.

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I miss the days of my sister’s playing with Easy-Bake ovens, a toy that was clearly as capable of creating a semi-edible cake as it was causing disfiguring burns accompanied by substantial property damage, if not properly supervised.

And then there was Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars…I think every car guy / girl in the world owes a least of portion of their love for cars to an early infatuation with these tiny jewels. To find one of these stuffed in to your stocking on Christmas day was enough to distract you from your LifeSavers Storybook. As I remember, the sight of dozens of these cars lined up in the area under the tree was as commonplace a sight on Christmas as scraps of wrappings and ribbon.

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So my hope for this Christmas is that we will set our technologies aside and make an attempt to get back to some of the simpler things. Put together a model car, play a board game with actual people or even get down on the floor and play with some cars. Heck, maybe even venture outside? Can you imagine what the neighbors will think? OlllllllO

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