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When hide-and-seek isn’t an option, Lego is still there

Burt's Eye View

Toy commercials are back!

They probably never went away, but it’s the first time in years that I’ve taken notice with the rapt attention of my youth. And by “rapt attention,” I mean scribbling them in a notebook so I can detail my Christmas list for Mom and Dad.

If I had spent as much time poring over my geography textbook as I did the toy pages of the Sears and JCPenney Christmas catalogs, I’d know in what country France is located and what’s the capital of Buenos Aires.

I was too busy dreaming of becoming the quality control inspector at Hasbro.

Naturally, like most little boys, I grew out of my fascination with Nerf balls, slotted race car tracks and Batman action figures. Right after I turned 40.

Aw, who are we kidding? Boys never grow too old for Mattel, Tonka and Wham-O. I still get Play-Doh for Christmas — even if I have to buy it myself. I’ve got my eye on that new Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Candy Delight Playset that I saw on TV last night. It’s now on Page 47 in my notebook.

I’m feeling nostalgic this year after the challenges of 2020. I want to call a timeout and go back to be a kid again with my G.I. Joe, Ertl tractors, View Master and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. That’s what tickles me so much about this year’s crop of commercials — there are a whole bunch of wacky toys powered by imagination instead of high-tech limitations.

The pages of my Christmas notebook contain notations such as these:

* Nerf Ultra Three Blaster — The range on these babies is much better than what the old suction-cup dart guns could do. And they won’t poke an eye out.

* Hot Wheels Sky Crash Tower Track Set — Instead of Mom yelling at us for crashing our metal cars together, airborne collisions are included. (We still might throw a few cars on our own.)

* Lego — There are roughly 6 gazillion sets featuring 1,000 or more foot-piercing pieces each. Forget the kits. Just grab a bundle of blocks and build whatever comes to mind. That’s how we tinkered with our Lincoln Logs (then made from real wood) and Erector sets. They were almost as cool as big, empty refrigerator boxes for inventions.

Missing from the commercials were all-time greats like the Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker, which let us kids heat goop to about a million degrees; woodburning sets, which let us kids watch the smoke billow from our little plywood projects; and chemistry sets with little bottles of chemicals that could cause explosions if mishandled — which became our deepest desire.

I caught a commercial for a tabletop game called Shark Bite. Players use a plastic fishing pole to hook plastic fish out of a shark’s mouth, until the spring-loaded shark pops up and snaps at the losing player. It reminded me of our delightfully noisy, chaotic family games of Kerplunk.

That’s what this crazy year needs — laughing around the table with Mom, Dad and my siblings over Clue, Scrabble or the Uncle Wiggily game — because we’re a little too slow and creaky to play hide-and-seek. (“I see you. You’re hiding in your easy chair again.”)

Until then, I’ll sit here inside my blanket fort with my toys, notebook, cans of Play-Doh and memories of days without knee pads, helmets — or masks.

• Play games with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.

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