Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Toys ‘R N’t Us

The place where I work out runs a major Christmas deal-i-o for children who are poor and homeless, and most of us gym-rats take kids names to buy gifts for.

Last year, I took a couple of teen-aged boys, who were easy-peasy enough to buy for. One trip to Radio Shack, and a couple of low-end iPods and iTunes cards later I was done.

This year, having spotted some type of Toys ‘R Us opening up on Washington Street (i.e., within walking distance of both my home and the gym), I figured I could take on a few younger kids.

As I looked through the request list, a family jumped out as just perfect for me. That’s because the 16 year old daughter wanted a gift card for a bookstore. At least that’s what her mom said. Mom. Kid. No difference. I certainly wanted to support a family where someone thinks reading is important.

One brief in-and-out to Borders, and that gift was done.

The gift request for the 12 year old boy was easily enough realized, as well.

He wanted sports equipment.

One basketball, one soccer ball, coming right up.  This left the problem of how to wrap the suckers, but I figured the UPS store would have a box that could hold both balls. (I was correct-a-mundo.)

The request for the youngest child, a girl of 5, was for either something called a Leapster, or for a Barbie doll with some outfits.

There was a fourth, non-related child on the list for this particular shelter: a 3 year old looking for a doll with some accessories.

Toys ‘R Us was calling to me…

Having googled and figured out what Leapster was, I knew that Toys ‘R Us carried it, but that it might be a bit problematic (i.e., over the $$$ limit), once you got the player, and the battery juicer, and a couple of games. I lauded the mom’s desire to have her little one learn stuff, but this seemed overly complicated.  Barbies ‘R Us I could deal with more easily.

For the 3 year old. Oh, baby, that’s who baby dolls are for, no?

It took me about 14.5 seconds to figure out that Toys ‘R Us Express in downtown Boston bears exactly no relationship to the big-box, packed to the gills Toys ‘R Us’s I’d been to out in the ‘burbs.

Untiled floor. Dreary lighting. Poor selection.

A couple of Barbies to choose from, but only one other outfit. (The store-stockers clearly don’t know Barbie, that’s for sure.)

The baby doll selection was equally grim.

I was beginning to wish I’d taken a bunch of MP3-player craving teenagers.

Then a lightbulb, a Christmas bulb, as it were, went off in my head.

I was having lunch with an old friend in Cambridge, in the Alewife Station area, and the Alewife shopping plaza had a real Toys ‘R Us, where I was quite sure Barbie could shop ‘til she dropped, and that baby dolls would be cooing to me as I walked the aisles.

Well wrong I was!

The Alewife Toys ‘R Us – which has been there for eons; I was working nearby when my niece Molly was born 14 years ago, and remember walking over at lunch to buy her a couple of outfits when I heard it was a girl – is gone.


But just as the Toys ‘R Us lightbulb was flickering and dying, another one went off.

Say, wasn’t there a Kay-Bee Toy Store in the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall I always forget exists?  And isn’t that just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the Kendall T Station that I’d be whizzing through on my way home from the abortive trip to the hole-in-the-mall formerly known as Toys ‘R Us.

Before the T went into tunnel mode, I googled and saw that, yes, indeed, there was a Kay-Bee at the Galleria.

Light of heart, and with visions of Barbie dolls dancing in my head, I made my way through pelting rain to the Cambridgeside Galleria.

Alas. Alack.

Kay-Bee’s gone.

At least it was a warmish pelting rain.

And fortunately, there was something at the mall called ToyZam.

At first, it looked suspiciously like the down at the heels Toys ‘R Us Express on Washington Street, but on closer look, at least there were outfits for Barbie.

So, I got some sort of Barbie kit, in which B was wearing what appeared to be a cocktail dress.  The package also held two other outfits, so that B could switch off to something “business-y”.  Or to a school-girl plaid-ish costume that, quite revoltingly, resembled that school-girl plaid-ish costume that Japanese little-girl-look prostitutes (and, I believe, Britney Spears in some early video) seem to favor.

Anyway, I bought Barbie a couple of additional outfits: two prom dresses – one formal, one semi, and some career duds.

One was an outfit for Nurse Barbie, which, frankly, looked like it was designed for a Naughty Nurse, soft-core porn flick.  The other career outfit was, I think, for a zoo worker, a la Joan Embry of San Diego Zoo fame. In any case, the prom dresses were far less suggestive than the career gal clothing. If suggestive is the right word to use when writing about a 11.5’’ plastic doll.  Sigh.

ToyZam also had some Groovy Girls, which I love, and which I felt would be a fine substitute for a baby doll.

But there were no Groovy Outfits and a Groovy Girl without Groovy Outfits is like Barbie without a wardrobe.

Back to the baby doll with accessories.

There were actually quite a few choices, but I settled on the one that came with a bed and car seat.  There wasn’t much else to accessorize it with, but I did by a bottle-bib-binkie combo for good measure.

Of course, once home, when I went to open the baby doll box to shove in the bottle-bib-binkie combo, I noticed that the hem on the cheap-o baby doll cap had come undone.

So, there I was, stitching up the unraveled seam of a pink and blue baby doll cap, when I should have been doing something like, ah, working. Or blogging.

No doubt, someone will spot the amateur sewing job and decide that this baby doll is used, and, thus, damaged goods.

I didn’t fully examine the baby doll, but I assume it is not damaged in the way that one baby doll of my childhood was.

The plastic had melted wrong on one of the doll’s arms, and the arm hung at a warped angle from the doll’s shoulder.

Although the doll technically did have an arm, we named it Amputatee. Amputatee became a regular fixture in the crazy games we’d play when our parents sent us down to the damp, unfinished basement when it was a cold winter night, you couldn’t play outside, and we needed to let off steam.

Ah, Amputatee.  She may have been a baby doll that only a mother could love, but love her I did. Even in the craziest of games, I always looked out for her and never, ever, ever let her be killed with a rubber dagger, or thrown overboard. No way.

May the three year old who gets the baby doll with the hand-mended cap get as much joy out of her dolly as I got out of Amputatee.

Anyway, all is calm, all is wrapped, thanks to the box I got at UPS that fits the basket- and soccer balls, but which took most of a large roll of paper to fully cover.  I had an old boot box which nicely fit Barbie and her outfits, and the baby doll with stuff came in its own large but wrappable box.

I really do hate cheap pink plastic crap, but so many toys, especially the less expensive ones, ‘R cheap pink plastic crap.

Made in China goes without saying.

I most enjoyed wrapping the gift card from Borders.

Years ago, I had picked up – in Filene’s Basement, for a few bucks -  a small, hinged, ceramic Villeroy-and-Boch Christmas box.  I had always meant to give it to my sister-in-law, who collects ornate tschotkes – or did until she began de-accessioning recently.  Anyway, the box itself came in a very nice gift box. It was very easy to tuck the Boders gift card in.  I hope the young girl who gets the gift buys books and book-ish things with the gift card, but the $50 is hers to spend on whatever she wants that Borders sells.  I also hope she likes the little Villeroy and Boch box. She’s living in a shelter. It may be the only pretty thing she has.


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