planesDec 27, 2023–Memories of our favorite toys are as faulty as the toys were.

When we grow up and don the mantle of Santa, we are excited to pass along our favorite toys from childhood.

Through cloudy mists of memories, we re-visit those idyllic days, model trains puffing around the Christmas tree, dressing a favorite doll, building Erector set castles with working drawbridges, and Tinkertoy windmills that spin gaily on scratched coffee tables.

Lies, all of them.

I’ve pointed out in the past all the flaws in the most popular kids’ toys of our black and white childhoods:

  • The Slinky that transforms into a Gordian Mobius construct after snaking down the basement steps.
  • The Superball that cost a paperboy’s wages and was supposed to bounce over a house, and did, never to be found.
  • The Tinkertoys made with real wood so the joints either slipped loose or were gripped tighter than the stone-encased Excalibur.
  • The Model Trains that jumped the tracks at the farthest turn, making you spend more time setting the tiny plastic wheels back on the track than hauling plastic cows to Farmer Fisher’s farm.
  • The Slot Cars where you spent hours adding pin stripes and decals to your miniature Batmobile, only to watch it shatter against the brick basement wall at the first cross-over over-and-under figure 8.
  • The Chemistry Sets that placed alcohol burners, glass pipettes, and tubes of hazardous materials into the hands of ungoggled, ungloved, pre-Ritalin, hyperactive boys, with detailed instructions on making things explode.
  • The Erector Sets that required you to use impossibly small, slotted bolts and nuts, to build robots that didn’t roll and catapults that didn’t vault.
  • The Carom Boards that offered more play value blasting the plastic pucks off the built-in glass-fronted cupboards and under dust-bunny infested couches, not to be retrieved until new owners moved in.
  • The Hot Pads home-made with mismatched loops of combustible rayon stretched over sharp-edged metal looms using pointed wire hooks, that melted into your skin the first time they came in contact with a hot cookie sheet.
  • The Pick-Up Sticks that had the play value of a roadside clean-up community service crew.

On my most recent holiday gift-buying binge, I have been reminded of a few more faulty gifts:

Balsa wood airplanes

I grabbed these for the grands, but I’d forgotten how flimsy those flying machines are. They are fashioned from balsa wood shaved so thin you can read newsprint through the wings. As we assembled the first one, the fuselage snapped in half and the tail fin split. We dutifully applied a dab of Elmer’s and after a sufficient wait were able to cobble it together for a test flight. It was a flight that lasted half a second and nose-dived into the garbage. There it stayed.

Not giving up on my memories, we moved up to the next model–the plastic planes with the rubber band wind-up propeller. I remember many harrowing take-offs and landings on our side porch back at Rainbow Ranch airport.

Alas, as I released the plane in front of young eyes filled with wonder, the aircraft went vertical, the body rotating like a batter beater, hanging in midair until shredding itself in the driveway. By now I’d lost the youngsters’ interest and they went back to drawing pictures on a roll of discarded newsprint.

Our kids learn; adults forget.