In Retrospect, Part Un

All my childhood gifts were wolves in sheep's clothing.
October 29, 2009
In Retrospect: The Greatest Gifts Ever... At the Time

I really don't have the greatest recollection of my childhood toys. I like to place the blame for that one on my mom, who raided the glorious collective of treasures strewn about my closet and consequently sold them at one early morning garage sale. Through the devious acts of a woman with the stealth of a ninja, the height of an oompa-loompa, and the cold-heartedness of a person who would steal such a cache from her young and unsuspecting daughter to reap the rewards for her Bridge Club's pishka, most of my trinkets were in the dirty little hands of the neighbor's kids before I'd even dug the prize out of the brand new box of Fruit Loops.

That was a sad day in the timeline of Finch. Imagine my shock when I slid open my closet doors to find… absolutely nothing. All of my Legos, my sharks that spit water at unsuspecting siblings, and even my Steve Irwin Stretch Armstrong (may he stretch in peace) had been replaced by a barren tundra of desolate wooden paneling. My tantrums were only answered by tired sighs; I will never forget the phrase she muttered in my general direction that day: “It was a mess. Maybe if you cleaned your room more often like I'd asked, you wouldn't have lost all of your little toys.”

I don't remember him looking this creepy...

Exit Mama Finch.
Ever-slouching from that cruel moment when a white flag waving would symbolize only that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had finally faded from the seat of a pair of my underoos, now tied to a fallen branch from the oak tree in my backyard and waving frantically with cries for justice, I don't have too much tangible evidence to base my list off of, so I'm going to go for the gusto and just utilizing the ol' noggin to the best of my ability.
This article is a list of gifts received over various birthdays, holidays, and why-the-Hell-not? days. They're not just any gifts though; these are the gifts I pined for, whined for, tried to slip into the shopping cart when Mama Finch was searching for the two-for-one Chivas Regal… Hell, I damn near tore the Toys-Я-Us catalog circling with all of my fervent washable marker glory for these toys. These are the toys whose boxes were opened and I was enlightened, and this is me looking back wondering, "… Why?"

This is my first article, I have the swine flu and a fever of 102, and not too much to go off of. Bear with me?
Without further introduction, I present to you, atticusfinch's list of toys that were the greatest gifts ever… At the time.
(Listed in no particular order of mediocrity, they're all around the same level of lame.)


The first school I ever attended was for mentally advanced babies. The most hideous excuse for giving rich people hope that their drooling poop machine was going to do something more with its life than suck its trust fund dry and toil away the family fortune, I was among the harbored babies who “exhibit superior mental and learning abilities”. All I exhibited was rich parents and an uncanny ability to eat while I slept, but I spent my time there observing my caretaker's two teenage sons play the Beavis and Butthead video game, so it's comforting to know it wasn't all money wasted.

"Exhibiting superior mental and learning abilities"

After that was Kidz Corner, then we moved to the leafy green wine country. I attended a preschool at a church, where one day when practicing for the school play, (the three wise men, Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem so Mary could give birth, etc.) I reached for my halo (I was playing an angel, great casting director) and some girl bit my arm. Seriously, some random four year old with curly locks of fury pulled me into her bear trap-like grasp and straight up started gnawing on my arm and growling, all under the gaze of the giant crucified Jesus.

Visual Approximation of angry four year-old girl:

After I stopped crying and the girl got sent to another school, it was all good. More importantly, a girl named Nikki came up to me and comforted my fragile soul with fifth-grade insults, and later that day at recess would snarl at anyone who tried to play at the water table. From then on, everyone knew those were our octopus figurines.

We can't stay here... This is octopus territory.

Which brings me to the gift!

Fast-forward to winter vacation of 1999, when I was in limbo between first and second grade. Iron Giant themed slumber party! After watching Baby Geniuses and a heavy debate with my brother over the usefulness (or rather uselessness) of Aquaman (we won), it was cake + presents.

Advice: Never let Hogarth hit the pinata first.

As custom, I opened Nikki's gift first.

My eyes widened – I held in my hand a gift whose sole equivalence was the Holy Grail…

The Blues Clues Handy-Dandy Notebook

Yes, an exact mass-produced replica of the one held in Steve's dainty porcelain hands, and it was now in my possession. Fully equipped with chair on the front and the striped green crayon for clue-drawin', it was the ultimate gift. I nearly cried. I looked at Nikki, and from the look on her face, I could tell she didn't even get one for herself because something this unbelievably awesome isn't better as a ‘twinsies!' deal.

Nope, I was one-of-a-kind, and enjoyed every moment of the other girls basking in my newfound glory. After reveling in its beauty, I donned a fake smile for some other gifts. They were cool, especially some spinny tops with markers on the end to create swirls I got from Olivia, but at the time, they were just some cheap ink-tipped dreidels. Nothing could compete with Nikki's gift, and everyone knew it.

But why?

Looking through pictures that day, we were mostly crowded around the notebook. The notebook that took notes. Really, it's one of the most useless things I can think of. After a few days of playing Blues Clues I ran out of pages, and the crayon was so cheap it chipped off pieces all over my house, which disappeared until my dog got really sick.

Yeah, ew. :/

Why was this toy so fantastic? Why were we so mesmerized?

Kids are dumb.

Which brings me to my next gift.

That very same slumber party, I did receive another gift that truly enchanted my guests and I. Victoria graced my humble little hands with something so awe-inspiring, I couldn't wait to use it. In fact, I had to use it, right then and there.

Hyped up on grasshopper pie birthday cake and left with the what-to-do-next conundrum, this gift solved that pretty fast.
What I held in my hands was the one, the only

Titanic soundtrack.

Even seven and eight year old girls fawned over Leonardo, and we commissioned my brother to push the furniture out of the middle of the living room and proceeded to blast “My Heart Will Go On”.

It's crazy what that song does to people. We formed some weird mob dance party thing and semi-pogo'd to the hot mess that is Celine Dion for at least 30 minutes. Although she was eventually replaced by Britney Spears, then Christina, we kept no CD in my stereo longer than the Titanic soundtrack that night.

Celine Dion doesn't need a caption.

Probably the strangest category of gifts that I receive falls into the Barbie category. The first strange Barbie gift I received was an impulse buy from Mama Finch. You know what's coming –

The Barbie Phone Fun cell phone

This hot-pink treasure was my hookup to Barbie herself. Well, Barbie's friend Skipper (seriously who?), but you get the idea. I know a girl who knows a girl. In fact, I had her on speed dial – every button. No matter what numbers I pushed, I got some sort of self-affirmation from my homegirl(‘s friend Skipper).

I also had the Skipper doll, but I don't really remember her. And I don't have any pictures with her, just me with my cell phone, chattin' it up with… Skipper.

Two other Barbie gifts from my mom kind of creeper me out. One of them was this Barbie who wore a flannel nightgown (really) and when you put her head underwater for extended periods of time, her eyes would shut. Only in warm water though. When you dunked her face in cold water, her eyes would open again!

Homicidal tendencies cloaked by the glamour of flannel. Completely useless, save the Sarah Palin jokes we're in such desperate need of. Unfortunately, one day when Victoria and I were playing summer camp in my Jacuzzi (shut up), creepy drown-me Barbie's hair got stuck in the jets and she got mangled. We weren't allowed to bring dolls in the Jacuzzi anymore :[

Perhaps the creepiest Barbie gift I've ever received was from my aunt. She doesn't have any children, but I give her credit for trying. One day she showed up at my house with the most amazing thing I'd ever seen – Barbie, her daughter, and a little plastic toilet. It was potty-training Barbie and her daughter, who honestly looked old enough to pee by herself.

Potty Training Kelly

This one also had a weird effect on me. For the next few days, it sent me on some maternal kick. I wouldn't let anybody else play with her; she was too fragile in her learning state of mind. She needed to potty train, and I was the Miyagi to her Daniel… Sort of.

Stray away from wax on, wax off jokes

That doll was so creepy. You had to unscrew this plate on her back to fill her with water, and to make her pee you had to squeeze this button on her stomach. They'd shaped the button like a heart to distract you from the fact that it looked like a giant surgical scar, and she had to be completely nude for the whole process.

A few days and I got bored with her, and would only use her to make jokes with friends. She vanished in the garage sale as well.

Another great piece in the history of gifts that were all too glorified comes from another aunt of mine. She is a stewardess and the few and far between visits meant one thing: sweet presents.
Upon arrival, it was the usual cheek-pinching and “Look how much you've grown”-ing, but my mind was elsewhere, specifically on the thin box-like thing held in the curve of her arm. It didn't look promising.
Sitting Injun-style on our futon (yeah, we had a futon), she regaled no one with her tales of angry passengers and “that one time we thought the plane was going down but it turned out to be extra turbulence!” After the torment subsided, she got to the goods.
A replica of a replica of a painting for Mama Finch. Imported alcohol for Chief. A beret and foreign literature for my sister. Yo-Yos and CD-Rom games for brother bear.
I ripped apart the wrapping, completely unafraid to show my excitement, and what did I get?

Placemats individually emblazoned with a map of the United States of America.

Democracy so clean you can eat off of it!

My initial reaction was something along the lines of, “WHAAAT?!” This was quickly followed by a tantrum, no dessert, and smushing my face into my Aladdin pillow. But when my aunt left, something magical happened.
The next night I went to the dining room and there sat five settings, each stamped with the embarrassment of US map placemats. My brother stuck his tongue out at me as I stormed to my seat, refusing the poop that lie on my plate. When dinner was over, Chief asked my sister, “What's the capital of Alabama?”
The two are famous for after-dinner intellectual challenges, and my sister looked puzzled. After a moment, she scoffed, “What do I care?” and continued reading her book.
Breaking my silence, I muttered under my breath, “It's Montgomery, dummy…”
“What?” my sister snapped.
“It's Montgomery. Montgomery is the capital of Alabama. “
Thus began a heated contest to see who could name all of the states, capitals, each state's main export… Though the thrill of the placemats took its time to surface, it affected family dinners even after my sister moved out. There's nothing quite like being a four-year-old who can outsmart her college-bound sister.
On the surface, it all appears to be some Lifetime special, the placemats that brought a family together, but it's not. After dinner, we'd just go to bed; in the morning, we'd wake up. I made such a fuss when we had to throw them away, but come on. They're freaking placemats.
One of the more understandably exciting gifts I've received came from my sister's friend. She handed me a small canister with this goo inside of it. I waited for something to happen until she reached for the goo and pushed it down into the bottom of the container. As she pushed, the most beautiful sound ever to grace a child's ear soared into the atmosphere like a thousand cherubim singing their holiest song; the sound of a fart.
I keeled over and was thrown into a gigglefit. In between laughter, I gasped, “DO IT AGAIN! DO IT AGAIN!” She continued making magic with her fingers until I had too much drool on my face to be considered cute anymore, and threw the plastic cup my way.
“Here you go, kid.”
I marveled at the container. I studied the label and realized what I held in my hand:

I just realized that this is from RJ haha...

Elegant, inspiring, perfect.
I sat in my room for hours, waiting for my brother to get home from kindergarten so I could share the eighth wonder of the world with him. When he got home, his excitement equaled mine, and we made fart noises until my mom yelled, “Knock it off!”
Alas, every rose has its thorn. GAK is indeed an amazing toy… Until you've had it for a week and it's picked up fragments of every substance scattered around your house and attained a smell like tar mixed with antifreeze and baby puke. (I figured it would smell like a fart…) Plus, GAK has a number of meanings, not all of them child-friendly. GAK is slang for cocaine, methamphetamine, and weed. Even more disturbing is that GAK is also an improvised band featuring members from the bands Metallica, Guns n Roses, and Skid Row.
Considering all of this, I would've preferred my sister's friend investing in a Whoopee cushion.

These are the stories of a few gifts from my childhood whose ability to captivate me leaves me to wonder what happened so early on in my life that made me so easily entertained. Why was this crap so amazing at the time? The only conclusion I can come to is that I was both a very creative and very simple-minded child.

But that's really not a far cry from who I am today.

I guess my point is that they were really really dumb gifts, but also that I still laugh at fart noises. :]

However, the questions I asked myself when writing the article don't bother me as much as the one that came to mind when proofreading it:

… Why did my parents send me to a Christian preschool?

*When commenting, be gentle with me :[
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