THE SONIC BOOMER
Ah, Christmas — the one time each year when adults can freely roam the toy aisles, looking at and playing with everything, no questions asked. I used to manage a toy store, and it was always great fun around the holidays. Grandmothers would come in carrying letters referencing the desires of far-off grandchildren and matter-of-factly say, “In which aisle would I find a Reebolder 260E with laser-fed moonbeams and a shadow sword, not the red sword but the blue sword?”
And I would say, “Aisle 4, but we’ve been out of the 260Es with blue swords since Oct. 15. We only have the ones with red swords left.” And then the poor grandmother would start to shake because a determination had to be made — was the 260E the most important part of the request, or was it the blue sword?
No one likes to disappoint, especially a grandma. A phone call would have to be made to the son/daughter to whom little Johnny reported. Oh, bother!
Now, a grandfather handles things differently. Upon hearing that there are no more blue sword-carrying 260Es, he will simply say, “Does the more expensive model carry a blue sword?” and I will say, “Well, sir, you can get the 260F. It’s twice the price, but all the Fs carry blue swords.”
“Wrap one up,” he’ll say.
Now, on Christmas morning, little Johnny will be in absolute heaven when he unwraps the present from Grandma and Grandpa because instead of the toy he asked for, there will be a huge, insidious version clearly labeled, “Exclusively for ages 16 and up by order of the Surgeon General of the United States of America,” and his parents will cower in fear as he haphazardly swings this thing around the room, ultimately squeezing the trigger and disintegrating the family cat.
Then the outraged parents will get on the phone to Grandma and demand, “What were you thinking?!” and she will hand the phone over to Grandpa, who will merely chuckle and say, “He’ll be fine! I always hated that cat anyway.”
I myself remember looking forward to toys from peripheral friends and family members the most. These people no longer had kids of their own at home and were therefore out of sync with age-appropriateness. Perhaps, at the last minute, Mom had invited them to join us for Christmas dinner and they were so grateful to be invited to eat my Mom’s good home cooking that they were trying to show their appreciation by bringing presents for us kiddies.
These well-meaning folks had not a clue what to buy and would often just get us things they themselves had once wanted. They’d come over bearing gifts like a 20-pound, three-story gingerbread house (for me) and a BB gun (for my 3-year-old brother). Two minutes after these items were unwrapped, Mom would call everyone to the table. And the moment the door closed behind these guests, she would immediately send us to brush our teeth.
Meanwhile, she hid the remains of the BB-riddled gingerbread.