You’ve seen those TV adverts at Christmas – you know, the ones where the toys fly through the air with sound effects, full digital backdrops and every component of the play set ever invented. The toy looks amazing. Your child craves this gift like no other gift ever conceived. You search high and low in every toy store. You succumb to store rage as you attempt to wrestle the last remaining box from the death grip of the granny who got there nano-seconds before you. You get the box home, hide it at the back of the wardrobe and rest easy, knowing your precious little cherub will have the gift of their dreams on Christmas morning.
Come the big day, you’re all gathered round the 8 feet pine in the corner. Carols play cheerily on the radio and snow falls softly outside. The gentle banter of happy families echoes throughout the house (work with me here, this is not real life, okay?!). It comes to little cherub’s turn to select a gift, and s/he of course, goes for the biggest box imaginable. They tear open the paper and the screams of delight cause the crystal in your glass of Buck’s Fizz to vibrate. Everything goes downhill from there.
Fast forward two hours. You are surrounded by the product of the package designer from Hell. Every single stupid component is fixed to the cardboard surround with enough wire ties and shrink wrap to withstand lunar re-entry. Cherub has long since got bored and has wandered off to gorge on Christmas chocolate to ensure violent vomiting immediately everyone site down for dinner. You’ve stabbed yourself several times with the knife you are using as a screwdriver, the edge of a wire tie has poked under your fingernail and the plastic moulding has sliced through your fingertip. You are currently dripping blood everywhere as you extract and assemble the miracle toy. Your sprit flags still further at the sight of three sheets of sticker to be affixed to the various components.
Finally, all is done. You step back and examine the fruits of your labour. Is that it? Is this sad assembly of plastic figures, buildings and vehicles the toy that was advertised so eloquently? Little cherub comes in, picks up the plane and flies it round in a desultory manner. S/he delivers their review, “S’not like on TV. It doesn’t do anything.” With that, they are off and playing with the packaging.
I thought this scenario was done when our kids grew up, but then we got Bruno. He is a 7 month old freakish large mutt with a capital M. He could easily pass for a fawn, and if he were a teenage boy he would be the one sent in to buy the beers. At 7 months he could pass for 5 years old at least. Bruno is always fascinated by anything and everything Kizzie has. Kizzie is our 9 year old Labrador and she has trained us to exactly the humans she wants. Kizzie knows which toys she likes and she revels in her playtimes. Bruno watches these playtimes and is, of course, enthralled by the excitement sand pleasure on Kizzie’s face, so he has to have what she has. So he steals the toy from her mouth. He then walks round the room, wondering why it doesn’t work for him.
We were on a walk today. Kizzie had grabbed the best ever stick and was happily carrying it round, waiting for throw time. Bruno was stalking her jealously. He watched as she played with this magical flying toy that leaped and bounced and gave such huge pleasure to Kizzie. So we gave Bruno a stick to carry. He held it for a second and spat it out, as if to say, “She gets the magical flying wonder toy, and I get a stick? Really?” He then stalked her some more and eventually stole her stick. He held it for a minute, then dropped it and looked at us, “Dad, it’s broken. The batteries must be dead.” He looked in amazement as the stick suddenly transformed again for Kizzie.
It’s a sad life for Bruno. He doesn’t understand how Kizzie can get so much fun from a toy, when for him, it’s just a stick.