Like most of you, I’ve spent the last few weeks poring over my children’s Christmas lists and dividing their requests into three simple categories:
- Let The Relatives Spring For It
- Is My Kid Effin’ Insane?
That last category covers most items on my daughter’s Christmas list. Our li’l diva, having been brainwashed by the flashy lifestyles of Disney Channel sitcom teens and tweens, believes the Yule time entitles her to a cell phone, a MacBook Pro and a 42-inch flat-screen for her bedroom among other things.
ME: “What is this you wrote here: `dress form’?”
LI’L DIVA: “It’s on this website.” (Clickty-clickty click.)
ME: “It’s a mannequin. … That costs $199!”
LI’L DIVA: “Yes! I’ll put my clothes on it so I can figure out what to wear to school.”
ME: “You already have that in the deluxe two-piece model. It’s called a body and a mirror.”
My son, however, is far more practical.
He started his Christmas list with a few must-have items. This year it’s all things Beyblades, which regardless of the obviously opium-induced storyline behind them, are simply metal tops. You spin them in a stadium (A thin plastic bowl. Only $9.99. While supplies last!) until one knocks over the other. Well, it’s no dress form.
Then, over Thanksgiving weekend, he padded this list by scouring the kilos of sale ads retailers had stuffed into the newspapers. I know this because when questioned why certain items had made the cut, his reasons consisted of “I dunno,” “looks cool” and “it’s on sale at Target.”
I can’t blame him. I essentially did the same thing at his age with the toy section of the Sears catalog. I figured The Jolly Round Man in Red owed me something good from these pages as a reward for the hours I had spent throughout the year waiting at the pick-up counter of the local outlet with my mother while minimum-wage clerks dug out our order of fitted sheets or butt-chaffing ToughSkins jeans.
However, tucked into this mishmash of random wishes on my son’s list this year was one simple item that made me all weepy. And I quote: “A big empty box.”
Ah. The cardboard box. Possibly the greatest and most malleable of all childhood toys and best Christmas present ever. Not to mention, the cheapest.
I had many a cardboard box while growing up. Those were often procured, by my mom’s request, from the stockroom of the local A&P after those magic brown cubes had valiantly protected a different kind of butt-chaffing item — individual rolls of Scott toilet paper in shades of pink, green or whatever pastel color matched your groovy `70s shag toilet seat cover.
“This is awesome!” I said to my wife as I showed her our son’s Christmas list. My mind whirled with the possibilities he might have in store for this most awesome gift.
Formula One racing car.
Castle to defend from the treacherous Knights Who Say Ni. (Note to self: Introduce son to the genius of Monty Python and the Holy Grail over Christmas break. Fast-forward over the Castle Anthrax scene: bad, wicked, naughty Zoot!).
I just had to know what wondrous creation he had in mind for his cardboard box. So I made my fatal mistake. I asked him.
“I want to use it as a stadium for my Beyblades,” he said.
“Huh. Really?” I said. “That’s it?”
I trudged out to the unfinished part of our basement and then, after a dozen seconds or so, returned.
“Happy early Christmas,” I said.
I wonder what are the chances he’ll figure out the cardboard box I handed him contained one of the other presents he had on his list. And I wonder, in the end, which he’ll like more.