I Could Have Poisoned My Family

Today is the era of meth labs like the one built by Walter White in “Breaking Bad” and terrorists creating bombs to hide in their shoes and underwear. In such a world, I cannot imagine that the chemistry sets that Dad and I played with as children would be permitted to be sold to the future scientists of today.

I remember experimenting with my beakers and chemicals in my grandmother’s kitchen, which at least showed some concern for safety because it kept me away from my four younger siblings. My research into those labs from the good old days showed that those kits most likely did contain small quantities of chemicals that could have caused a certain level of harm.

With a little knowledge, I probably could have blown up my grandma’s kitchen or poisoned my brothers and sisters. I think that Grandpa just hoped that gift would have encouraged me to walk in his footsteps. He did not see the potential for evil.

The advent of consumer safety laws and more skeptical and distrustful parents ended the market for those toys. Oh, those were the days, my friends.


What Toys Withstood the Test of Time

I thought it would be fun, after discussing the toys the three of you played with as kids, to tell you about mine, particularly noting those which crossed generations. Because of my “advanced age,” I am looking at those playthings of both the fifties and sixties.

We didn’t have as many board games at our house as you did, but what I recall are Monopoly, Candyland, Checkers, Twister, and I think, Careers. I played them all, but it is possible that some were played at a friend’s house. Chinese Checkers was a game I recall playing during the summer at the recreation program at John Hill School.

Mr. Potato Head definitely changed over the years. I thought my recollection could not possibly be correct, but a quick search by Mr. Google showed that my brain is still working correctly. Check out the photo I found courtesy of myfitnesspal.com. We use real potatoes as the body, sticking in the eyes, ears, nose, etc. into the real vegetable bought at our nearby A&P Supermarket. It could not have been easy, and I cannot imagine a three-year old being able to play without the assistance of an adult.

Mr. Potato Head

The dolls I recall playing with and owning were Shirley Temple and Chatty Cathy. Shirley Temple was a child actress who we watched on television, and I have a vague memory of having her doll. Chatty Cathy was a very primitive talking doll. You would pull a string located on her back, and she would respond with random sentences such as, “Let’s play house”, “Please change my dress”, “I love you”, or “Tell me a story.” It didn’t make for great conversations because you never knew what she would say, but she was new and innovative.

We had Colorforms, and you all had them, but as you know, I have been having great difficulty finding them now. I was positive that Mast General Store, which is filled with retro toys, would have them, but all of the salespeople looked at me with a blank stare when I described them. Never one to give up, I checked again today and was rewarded with my persistence by discovering that, not only do they still exist, but the newest favorite characters of children today—Paw Patrol—are available as Colorforms!!

Did you play with Pick-Up Sticks? Somehow I believe you did. They resemble very long toothpicks, but much longer in size. The idea is to spill them out of their cylindrical-shaped container, and then pick them up one at a time without disturbed the others.


I had, you had, and now Bryce has, Play-Doh. I don’t recall the variety of colors back in my day (mostly just the basic primary colors) or having the kits with all the accessories to make a pizza, but I know we all spent many happy hours rolling and cutting and shaping it.

Silly Putty was another favorite, and besides bouncing and squeezing it, the best activity was to press it against the Sunday comics, which always did, and still do, come in color, and then stretching the putty to make the faces in the comics look distorted.

The Slinky I had then worked much better than the one I recently purchased, which refuses to walk down the stairs.

We had a hula hoop, too, but ours was black. They did not come in the pretty colors like in your day, and certainly not did they sparkle!

What I remember doing the most during the summer was playing hopscotch in the driveway or jumping rope with my friends. When I got together with my many cousins or the neighborhood kids, we played tag, kick-the-can, hide-n-seek, kickball, and spud until it was dark.

When I had a only a few playmates, we laid in the grass and looked at the ever-changing clouds in the sky, tried to catch birds with salt, climbed trees, played school,  caught lightening bugs on a warm summer evening, and went downtown for a coke and fries.

The toys which you and I played with which withstood the test of time were the simple toys. Few made annoying noises like so, so many do today, and hardly any required batteries to operate. I can’t wait to return to Mast General to see what “new toys” I can buy for the kids!

What Color Toys Did You Prefer?

Dad and I have been enjoying the adventures of having a little boy in our lives after experiencing parenthood with only girls. I wondered if boys are taught to play rough and like particular toys, but I now believe it is part of their DNA.

I have been outside enough to witness the excitement as a car or trucks comes into view. None of you ever showed any interest in diving headfirst off the bed or sofa or jumping across a line of cars because you had become a monster truck.

It will be fascinating to see if Bryce teaches his sister his dare-devilish stunts, or if she is will be content to sit quietly and play with her own toys. Where will her interests lie?

I pulled out your baby books for some reminders of your interests based upon your birthday and Christmas gifts. These presents are another trip down memory lane. I was surprised to see many gender-neutral gifts.

As the oldest, I was shocked to see that I mentioned very few of Kelly’s gifts except for a shopping cart and Winnie the Pooh—apparently her favorite toy on her third Christmas! I was surprised to see that Jamie was not the only fan of the cuddly bear.

Jamie’s received more “neutral gifts” on her birthday. I see Sesame Street Colorforms, Magna Doodle, puzzle, Dorothy Gale doll, and sand and water toys. (She was the only summer baby.) At Christmas she received a Mickey Mouse airport, Little People playhouse, and puzzles—all neutral gifts—for her second birthday, she got arts and craft gifts, a camera and binoculars, and her first Barbie—finally a “pink” present.

For Casey’s second birthday, she received ruby slippers, a Dalmatian puppy, Ariel doll and outfit, Ninja Turtle mug (from your boy cousins), a puzzle and a Magic Nursery Doll. The third birthday was a dollhouse with accessories, “5-Little Baby dolls, and Beauty and the Beast Colorforms. (No “blue” gifts that year.)

I believe you all got more opinionated around your fifth birthday with the surge of Barbie dolls, clothes, and accessories. I believe that Casey’s abundance of “pink” toys as early as her second birthday was a direct result of the influences of her older sisters.

I must admit that I am surprised that the gifts were much more neutral than the abundance of boy toys I see scattered around Bryce’s playroom. Do the toys make the boy or did the boy direct the toys? While I am no longer as certain now as I was when I began this story, I still believe his actions were more aggressive than the three of you. It will be very interesting to see what color toys Lily will receive, and whether her DNA or her brother influences her behavior. As far as her toys, I predict lots of “pink” toys.

Toys- Then and Now

As a former child, mother of three, and now a grandma of one and counting, I feel qualified to discuss toys. Now that I am in the business of entertaining a two year old, I have been reflecting about the past and attempting to locate some of the winners from yesteryear.

While getting down and playing with all of you was fun, I will argue that there are times when independent play is necessary and educational. It fosters independence for the child and sanity for the mother. The most important requirement is that the toy must not cause a big mess, so that eliminates glitter, finger paint, or toys with too many teeny tiny pieces which can be lost, swallowed, or flushed down the toilet.

I admit that as a child, I loved to finger paint. I enjoyed the joy of digging my fingers into the squishy paint and then swirling it around on a clean, white piece of paper—a marriage of textures and a blend of colors. I am fairly confident that this form of artwork never crossed the threshold of 516 Cornelia Street. Grandma was too smart for the inevitable disaster that this would bring into a house of five children. I was not as wise.

Now I have a very sweet and loving grandson, but I wouldn’t trust him in a New York minute with finger paint. I will graciously defer to his mother or other grandma to introduce Bryce to this form of creativity. I have learned from my motherhood history not to make the mistake of allowing that or glitter into my house. (Sand Art was another “no no” that I naively permitted in our home.)

I was thrilled when I went to the local, amazing children’s museum in town, Edventure, and discovered a Mr. Potato Head exhibit. Talk about a walk down memory lane! Bryce loved sticking a nose in an arm hole or eye where the mouth should be. The only problem–a happy problem–was that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head table was so popular that it was difficult to find a seat.

Let me return to my observations of toys. You all loved your dolls, Legos, puzzles, and play doh. Bryce loves his trains, and I noticed that Jamie had a Mickey Mouse train set. I looked in your baby books and learned that Colorforms were popular playthings at that time as they were for me, so today, when I went on my quest for coloring books, I decide to inquire about them. First, I need to discuss the coloring book problem in our country.

Much to my surprise, they were not easy to locate unless you are an adult. I noticed that on my first toy outing, but I did not realize the magnitude of this problem until I turned on the morning news and learned that adult coloring is the new rage—a means of relaxation and a fun form of nostalgia. Okay, I get it, but this should not replace child-themed coloring books for toddlers. Absolutely not! Are the coloring book manufacturers absolutely crazy! This is a sin! They clearly do not have a mother on their board of directors. (I could go on but I won’t.)

When I asked the very young salesgirls at the toystore if they had Colorforms, I was met with blank stares. I preceeded to describe them and insisted that they still exist. Naturally, doubting the obviously very old customers that Dad and I appeared to be, they had to go on the internet to verify this. I was right. Duh!

Colorforms are very thin, vinyl shapes, which can be positioned, and repositioned, over and over and over on a shiny laminated board. They are sort of like stickers, and they foster great imaginative play. They were created in 1951, which makes them dinosaurs in today’s market. Casey had Beauty and the Beast Colorforms, and Jamie had Sesame Street Colorforms. Kelly, I am not sure if you had them, but as the oldest sister, you do not get a break on not remembering them. You were eight when Casey got them so you most certainly played with them. These will be part of your son’s life—when I can find them.

In the meantime, I am now going to see if I can find a set of metal Slinkys and some Silly Putty. What is this world coming to??