So, just what do you get the 5-year-old who has everything for Christmas, anyway?

My grandson, Jakey, has every single toy known to man. I'm certain, that between all of his grandparents there's not a single fad and/or toy that's missed winding up somewhere in the literally stacks of plastic, tin and cloth that can sometimes litter his room to the point of making it impossible to tell the color of carpet on the floor. He has Megasores, or something that sounds distinctly like that to my ears, that turn into no less than 15 other helicopters, jet fighters or assault boats.

A disclaimer here. There are more small pieces to these things, whatever they are or are supposed to be, than your average home computer. And if you want to know what it's like to walk through an unmarked mine field, just try getting across Jakey's room in your bare feet in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom.

He has a nearly complete complement of ''Star Wars’'' collectibles, from Episode IV, to sequel, prequel and enough devices and means of interstellar conveyance to fill that galaxy and every inch between here and it's current position, far, far away.

He has each and every Rescue Hero, from Jake Justice to Jack Hammer (what simple-minded marketing nitwit came up with these names?). He also possesses the a sundry several million water, air and land craft and their required storage structures. Oh yeah, he's also got the Rescue Heroes command module, that stands about shin high and hurts like hell when you run into it in the dark.

He has Batman, Robin, Superman -- both the original and new versions -- Dragonball Z, Pokemon (whatever these two weird looking characters are) and enough other action characters to fill out the complete morning roster of a fully equipped infantry division.

He has Lincoln Logs, Legos and enough other various construction mediums and bits of miniature equipment to completely disassemble his hometown and rebuild it from the ground up.

He has more than enough guns, from water to battery operated, and/or pieces of camouflage wearing apparel to open his own Army/Navy store. Jakey also has swords, both the light and conventional models. He's got himself one of those elephant head devices that's a flashlight with a tube attached I bought him at the circus that he uses as a back-up light sword. He has baseball gloves, which he has very little knowledge of what to do with, bats, balls and hats.

You can never be too prepared for the needs of a future major leaguer. Does anybody know just what we did before we had all this plastic junk to augment our play? I mean, just what on earth did kids between the ages of 3 and 10 do for fun before there was television animation, clay or drawn, and special-effects movie blockbusters and all their various product spin-offs and mass marketing?

Well, I think we might have had a toy in our arsenal that today's array of computer-generated graphics and accompanying software could have a tough time matching.

If I remember correctly, we had the ability to turn the backyard into the wide expanses of the Grand Canyon. We could pretend-gallop our make-believe horses for hours upon end, making sure to ride in the sunlight and stop in the shade, just like we saw it done on the Saturday morning black-and-white TV screen.

We had no idea that the Lone Ranger wore anything but a black mask and white outfits, or that Hoppalong Cassidy might look cooler in color. Why, bullets bouncing off of Superman's chest like fireflies and his twisting guns into pretzels was all the super power we needed or were capable of handling at the time.

Yeah, whatever happened to the ''Good Ol' Days?'' Then, I was watching Jakey a few weeks back and he comes to me with an old blue bath towel and a pair of yellow dish-washing rubber gloves. ''Tie this around my neck grampa,'' asks the little guy, who's in an awful hurry.

Then, just before he flies off in his makeshift cape, he asks if I want to come to his room and play Batman.

''You can be whoever you want, grampa,'' he says as if he's just granted my fondest wish. But, I'm promptly informed, his sister Emma has already landed the role of Robin, and would I mind terribly tying a hand towel around her neck just to complete the ensemble.

So, despite all the colored plastic, flashing lights, computer-generated voices and television marketing, I suddenly discover that things haven't really changed all that much after all.

But, that still leaves me with my original question: Just what do you get the 5-year-old who quite obviously has everything for Christmas?

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 19, 2001

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