Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Very G.I. Joe Christmas

I know it's after Christmas! But I'd promised to run this story that ran after the Barbie story. This is the little boy version.

 

Having two daughters born less than two years apart, our household was a cornucopia of all things Barbie.  I'm convinced that for years there was a pink haze emanating from our home that could be seen all the way to California.  My poor husband, Matt, was surrounded by girls; heck, even our dog, Ginger, was a girl.  But that all changed when our son, Dakota, known as "Boy", was born.  And life as I knew it changed forever.

Boy didn't have a pink bone in his body and he had little tolerance for his sisters' Barbie obsession.  He would just as soon use the Pink Princess' house as target practice for his GI Joes and their flame throwers. 

He didn't start out with the army tanks that he fell so in love with.  Nope, he coaxed me into a false sense of security that all toys would abide peacefully with each other under the same roof; kind of like a toy version of the Brady Bunch.  I had no idea what was coming.

It started innocently with "Land Before Time", where a longneck dinosaur named "Littlefoot" and his friends went in search of the Great Valley.  Of course, there were perils along the way; it wouldn't have been a watchable series of movies if not.  But Littlefoot and his friends were peaceful, noble plant (or, "green food") eaters, and grateful mothers watched as their children willingly tried to eat vegetables like their hero, Littlefoot.

There were even catchy songs and plush, snuggly stuffed dinosaurs.  Little did I know that action figures were looming large in my very near future.  The first wave came in the form of "Power Rangers".

For those of you who don't possess a boy type, Power Rangers were a group of teenagers who morphed into kung fu fighting super heroes.  They went around battling the myriad of Ninja-like villains and their horde of monsters that apparently run rampant in our cities and towns.  They were determined to take over Earth, if not the entire universe.  Their harbingers of evil had names like "Lord Zedd" and "Rita Repulsa".  And, no; I'm not kidding. 

However, that was tame compared to what was to come.  GI Joe.  And for as many friends as Barbie needed, GI Joe needed armies!

Now, armies for little boys can come in all shapes and sizes.  Like Barbie, GI Joe is also an eleven-and-a-half inch "action figure" (you can NOT use the word doll when referring to boys' toys).   But Joe's army doesn't discriminate when it comes to the size, race or even species of his recruits.  Or tanks, flame throwers, cannons, gas masks, sniper rifles, pistols, tear gas canisters, and every war toy imaginable.  Like Barbie, they come in miniature form and are also most likely to be stepped upon in the middle of the night. 

Then, Boy added Star Wars action figures to his growing army.  Luke Skywalker was a Four Star General, Han Solo was of course the Top Gun, and a hairy Wookie named Chewbacca was a field marshal.  Like I said, good old Joe doesn't discriminate even a little bit; all species welcome.

Legos were added to the mix soon, and as any parent of a child addicted to Legos can tell you, we're torn.  First, thank you to whomever invented them; they've helped our kids with their motor skills and imaginations. 

On the other hand, all too many of us have had the pleasure of hearing the grating sound shrieking from your vacuum cleaner as it sucks up one of the small little bricks, turns into a ball of smoke, sets off the fire alarm, sends screaming kids running out the door while you try to find your way through the plumes of smoky air to open a window.

Once things had calmed down, it was time to toss said vacuum into the car for its sad monthly visit to the appliance repair shop.  Usually, Lego owners are on a first name basis with those folks, and there's no longer a need to say a word when handing over the humiliated Hoover.  I'd venture a guess that most appliance repair stores are still in existence due to Legos alone.  So, yeah; thanks there, Lego.

Shortly after Legos, but still in the middle of the army stage, robotics was introduced to Boy in the form of a room monitoring robot. I guess he was concerned about those crazy Ninjas!  It came equipped with motion sensors, flashing lights and a voice loud enough to rival a sonic boom.  Once, when putting clean clothes in his room, I set off the alarm that had been silent, until I arrived.  This sent the two foot robot charging from his hiding place, strapping himself to my ankle, screeching "intruder alert, intruder alert".  As this was going on, buzzers and whistles were going off and there were enough flashing lights to rival a discoth√®que.  You never know true humiliation until you've surrendered to a two foot toy robot.

On the bright side, the violence of toy armies and weaponry weren't based in any type of reality for Boy.  They allowed for his imagination to take root and fly.  Stepping into his room, the average person might have seen the floor covered with army men, pillows scattered everywhere, Lego towers in corners of the room, and army men hanging from string.

But in the imagination of a Boy, a fierce battle was raging.  The men dangling from string were repelling down cliffs; the pillows that were covered by groups of men were foot hills, with soldiers strategically placed on them.  Screeching robots roamed the battle field, shooting lasers at the opposition's tanks.  Lego obelisks served as camouflage for flame throwers as well as communication towers.  And the skies overhead were patrolled not only by army jets, but X-wing fighters, the Millennium Falcon and a large Wookie.

I know that there are those who feel army toys are detrimental to children.  However, in Boy's world, good always triumphed over evil and saving the world happened every day.  It made him aspire to be the good guy in his real, every life.  A goal that his mommy thinks he achieved.

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The Curious Case of the Brunette Lucy

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