The first major play item I bought for the little girl we babysit was, I believe, a set of Legos for toddlers when she was over a year old. When I say I bought them for her, I mean I bought them for her to play with when she's here. She has lots of toys at her house and at both sets of grandparents' homes, but we had very few toys around for a kid to enjoy, and she was going to be spending a lot of time with us.
Her motor skills weren't well-developed at the time, but she did enjoy playing with the Legos, especially when Cliff or I played with her. It turned out to have been a sensible purchase.
Around this same time, I became an Amazon Prime member; it seemed like the sensible thing to do. That's when I, the woman who doesn't drive and has always hated to shop, became sort of a shop-a-holic. I don't spend huge amounts of money with this addiction, but Amazon has given me the ability to find treasures and little gadgets (sometimes useless) that I would never have known existed otherwise. And everything is rated by satisfied customers, so you KNOW just how wonderful it is!
Because the Legos were such a success, I found myself drawn to the toys on Amazon.com more and more, and before long I became fixated on a Fisher-Price Happy Sounds home, which comes with a family of three and a car, and has a phone that rings and a bathroom stool that "flushes", and the house sings a song when your people go up the stairs or open the door. What little girl wouldn't love that?
And Cora did love it! Ah, but I had opened Pandora's box. Every time I opened the laptop, I heard Amazon's siren call: the next irresistible toy I found was a barn, with horses and other assorted livestock. Like the house, you can change the time from day to night and the sounds will change appropriately, with cows snoring... you get the picture. And anyhow, the child NEEDED a horse because her parents have horses, and she needed chickens and cows because she sees my chickens and cows every day.
She loved the barn! Of course the barn came without a tractor, and Cora already knew any farmer worth his salt has a tractor. Besides, the little set that included a tractor and trailer wasn't very pricey.
And then I bought a stable. And a set of farm animals that weren't included with the barn when I bought it. And a doctor's office complete with a doctor in a white coat (it was pretty cheap though) and Mickey Mouse and Minnie with Pluto in their happy little co-joined houses, and a pig-sty with a wallow and pond, and oh my goodness, Cora just HAD to have that little birthday party set with a birthday cake that actually plays Happy Birthday! And oh how I was rewarded when the first time she heard the tune playing she started singing along, with the biggest smile on her face you ever saw.
The other day I received a revelation. I've had a lot of those since I started my daily meditation sessions. These don't come during the time I'm meditating, but later on in the day.
"Cliff," I said, "I don't think I'm buying these things for Cora so much. I think I'm buying them for me."
"You're just now figuring that out? I knew that a long time ago."
Cliff has a little magnetic sign on one of his restored tractors that says, "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."
Especially if you have a bright-eyed child around to remind you how much fun it is to be a kid. Yes, friends and neighbors, I'm reliving my childhood.