Bat­ter­ies Not In­cluded

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It has been said that I may have played too much hockey with­out a hel­met. As a re­sult, I may have dif­fi­culty re­mem­ber­ing things or my mem­ory lapses are be­cause I’m get­ting old. Re­gard­less the cause, I can­not re­mem­ber when the phrase “bat­ter­ies not in­cluded” be­came part of our ev­ery­day lan­guage, par­tic­u­larly at this time of year. I have ac­cepted the chal­lenge of try­ing to find the “per­fect” gift for our bright and pre­co­cious eight (eight-and-a-half if you ask her) year old grand­daugh­ter, Mandy. There seems to be a plethora of gift ideas but few toys that do not re­quire bat­ter­ies or charg­ing. My search be­gan with a quick scan of last years “Wish Book” cat­a­logue which Nana had strate­gi­cally left with Mandy dur­ing a rainy af­ter­noon last sum­mer. Mandy had played the wish book game and used a mark­ing pen to high­light her choices of ideal gifts. Nana sug­gested that 10 items to wish for would be fun and Mandy re­sponded with a thought­ful list rang­ing from clothes to toys, then at Thanks­giv­ing we had Mandy do the same in this year’s Wish Book. This should have made my Christ­mas shop­ping quest a lit­tle eas­ier, but as I was about to dis­cover, things change a lot from one year to an­other in the cat­a­logue and in a lit­tle girl’s likes, dis­likes and wishes. Our gift to Mandy last Christ­mas was the ex­act vel­vet dress and shoes that had been felt penned in the Wish Book the sum­mer be­fore. As luck would have it, they both per­fectly fit the ever-grow­ing child. The dress and shoes were a hit and got a lot of mileage dur­ing the Christ­mas visit (they are in most of the pic­tures) and then some more mileage for a month or two af­ter Christ­mas at school. Then the ever-grow­ing Mandy did what ever-grow­ing kids do; she grew out of the shoes first and then the dress, a short time later, leav­ing the out­fit to be handed down to her smaller cousin, keep­ing the fam­ily hand-me-down tra­di­tion alive. The felt penned high­lights in this year’s Wish Book were eye open­ing, to say the least. Not so much the choices, them­selves, but the cat­e­gories to choose trea­sures from. How dif­fer­ent the op­tions are from when I was eight-years-old. I do not re­call hav­ing a Wish Book in our house…there is that mem­ory thing again. Maybe we were poor? We were so poor that we had to rent a tur­key for Christ­mas din­ner….bada boom! (rimshot). We were so poor we got the first pet rocks… bada boom!...and they were hand me downs…bada boom! I was lucky I was the old­est. I al­ways got fresh rocks…. bada boom! There! I feel bet­ter now, but toy and gift op­tions for mod­ern chil­dren are al­most un­lim­ited and un­be­liev­able, not to men­tion ex­pen­sive and need­ing bat­ter­ies or charg­ing. Last year and again this sea­son, there was a pop­u­lar an­i­mated movie fea­tur­ing mag­i­cal princess sis­ters that “froze” out all the other movies and sound­tracks for kids. So the smar­ty­pants$el­lit­guys coloured ev­ery toy they could imag­ine blue and put those princess char­ac­ters on them and set records for mer­chan­dis­ing. They even had a snow­man char­ac­ter. Of course they mar­keted a snow­man char­ac­ter making kit for $35…some as­sem­bly re­quired, with some snow and n bat­ter­ies. When I was eightyears-old, our snow­man kit was a car­rot. Lucky kids th­ese days. There was some re­mote con­trolled fly­ing things cir­cled in this year’s Wish Book. Again, it seemed that al­most any­thing can be coloured a pas­tel shade, la­beled “Princess” and then mar­keted to young girls. A re­mote con­trolled fly­ing fairy princess seems to re­sem­ble a re­mote con­trolled fly­ing at­tack drone, ex­cept for the pas­tel colours and some dif­fer­ent de­cals, but they both need bat­ter­ies for the re­mote and the fly­ing thingy. Techy toys for both boys and girls re­flect changes in our se­cu­rity aware so­ci­ety with “spy” toys that would have made Maxwell Smart green with envy. Toys like video sur­veil­lance cam­eras with play­back watches that can tell time, as well as record­ing sus­pi­cious neigh­bours or rel­a­tives, pro­vid­ing the bat­ter­ies are charged. Per­haps the coolest spy toy is a pair of night vi­sion gog­gles. For a guy like my­self that is afraid of the dark, this just might be what I ask Santa for this year. As I flipped through the toy sec­tion of the Wish Book, I re­al­ized that Mandy was a child of a tech­no­log­i­cal time in history. She is as com­fort­able with the bat­tery op­er­ated toys as Grumpy was with pet rocks. I won­der if Mandy would be happy with a retro pet rock as a Christ­mas gift???…bat­ter­ies not in­cluded, of course.

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