Jan 06 2009
Inflating. Screwing. Hammering. Snapping. Twisting. Cursing. Snipping. Re-snapping. Re-re-snapping. Undoing. Taping. Duct-taping. Copious cursing. Bleeding. Band Aid-ing. Measuring. Reading. Misunderstanding. Re-reading.
Throwing. Holding. Stretching. Gluing. Pulling. Peeling. Sticking. Injecting. Injecting? Tweezing. Squeezing. Re-sizing. More screwing. Flipping. Turning. Painting. Exhausting. Infuriating. Overwhelming. Brain-mush-erating. Me percolating.
Finally (sigh) rest.
So went the march of the toys at my house this Christmas. Or should I say the toy assembly. I spent a lot of time assembling, and I mean A LOT.
I must admit, it was fun. But also draining.
This was the year of the real toy. No more baby stuff with “no assembly required.” My daughter is 3 and far beyond the wooden blocks, plastic rings and single-part stuffed animals of past Christmases. This year was about toys that came looking like broken China. They came with pieces so small I needed a microscope just to see them. They came with instruction manuals that looked comprehensive and confusing enough that I thought they might teach me how to launch my very own space shuttle.
Some I haven’t even finished putting together yet. I’ve pushed those into a corner hoping clothes or a pile of dust will hide them forever, and that my daughter will forget about them.
It’s been tough. I have blisters on my hands and splinters in my fingers.
I put together a little Playmobil house that partly resembles the picture on the box. Actually, it’s how the house in the picture would look if there was zero gravity and it was parked on a 38-degree incline.
There was a trapeze from my dad that needed to be installed on the swing set out back. There was a pair of Dora roller skates from my aunt that came with a coupon for a free ambulance ride to the hospital, but no pre-assembled parts.
I think we even received a sweater that needed some final knitting.
There was a foosball table, also from my aunt, that took considerable swearing, sweating and head-scratching, not to mention a fair amount of improvisation. My brother had to help me with that one.
Kiddie toys, I’m finding, often require a lot of winging it. That happens when you reach an indecipherable point in the directions or mix up the screws so bad that you just start attaching random pieces helter-skelter in the hopes that if everyone squints their eyes just right, it will actually look like it does on the box.
“Yes, most cars do have four wheels, that’s true. But I was attempting something much more avant-garde and environmentally-friendly. It’ll be all the rage next year, so think of yourself as a trendsetter.”
I had to inflate some kind of rubber hoppity ball late on Christmas Eve. The instructions were easy enough, but ominous in their declaration that I MUST NOT inflate more than 80 percent of the desired diameter. What the —? Are you kidding me? Say I even knew what diameter meant, how was I supposed to know when I had achieved 80 percent of it? And what would happen upon over-inflation?
That’s what I hate about putting toys together: Lots of warnings, but no explanation. Will the hoppity pop? Will I die? Will poison gas be emitted turning everyone in town green? Is this why my wife said she would do all the present wrapping and everything else if I took care of just this one gift? I think she knew something I didn’t.
But it’s all done. Christmas is over and the house is littered with mutant toys and what look like little houses that have been through a California earthquake. Spare pieces, screws and other forgotten bits that no doubt would serve important functions (if I could just figure out where they go) keep turning up.
And, after all of that assembling, my daughter hasn’t played with a single thing I’ve built. Why? Because she’s much more interested in the pile of wooden blocks we got her last year. No assembly required.