Our daughter celebrated her fifth birthday all week last week. First at Mermere’s, then with Mommy and Daddy on the actual day, and then at Briar Bush with about eight or nine of her friends. All in all, a fine time had by all.
From New England, we brought back yet another haul of toys, most of which will end up at the back of the closet sooner rather than later. And then in some landfill somewhere — the real island of lost toys. Watching her grow up every day, I can see the things that truly hold her interest. On any given day, she’ll pull out coloring books, pads, her blocks, legos, or anything that allows her to create. For me, it’s a satisfying sight seeing her working intensely with a box of crayons and ripping through page after page, filling them with pictures that spring from her imagination.
At no point does she much need anything that sports a copyright notice from the Walt Disney Corporation. Yes, like any little girl of that age, she has a fascination with all-things-princess, but if you watch her, she tends to go through that stuff like so much junk food. Consumed. Discarded. Forgotten.
Well, I’ve had it. As someone who for the past twenty years has attempted to spread something called “The Recipe for an American Renaissance: Eat in diners. Ride trains. Shop on Main Street. Put a porch on your house. Live in a walkable community,” I have to put my foot down for the sake of my daughter and for the sake of our society.
I do not mean to sound in any way ungrateful to anyone’s expression of generosity toward my daughter, but is it too much to ask to use a little more forethought in the selection of her gifts? I do not shop at Wal-Mart. I find its corporate practices repugnant, it’s stores ugly, and it’s very existence ultimately destructive to our society and contrary to the “Renaissance.” I ask that you refrain as well, especially when it comes to gifts for Cecelia.
In our area, you can still find many independent toy stores that feature a wide array of interesting and innovative toys that spark the imagination and do more than simply promulgate the march of merchandising. These toys and gifts may cost a little more, but they last longer, both physically and in Cecelia’s mind. Purchases from these stores also helps to support the local community. In Jenkintown, we have a wonderful little shop called Rhinoceros, which sells an amazing array of fun and fascinating toys.
I’d much rather see Cecelia get one toy of quality than a pile of crap where much of it will break or wear out even before she loses interest.
I’m told by my fellow parents “good luck with that,” when I mention this, but I’m dead serious. I will return anything that comes from Wal-Mart in exchange for cash and deposit it in her bank account. And that includes anything — anything — from Disney or brandishing logos or cartoon images belonging to companies that have already profited obscenely from the petulant rantings of materialistic children.
Cecelia (like most other children) already derives far more joy and learns a great deal more from a blank sheet of paper and a crayon than any gaudy, cheaply made landfill fodder that passes for toys found in any chain department store.
Encourage our children to use their imaginations. Start by using yours.
Here’s a few videos from all the festivities.