Nerf Zombie Strike Hammershot Blaster

Pillow Pets Paw Patrol Skye Stuffed Animal Plush Toy

I started making out a Christmas list of toy gifts for children while gritting my teeth. Come on, I said to myself, open up Amazon (not a great fan), open up the Toys section, and plunge into lists of a million toys I never heard of, in the most excruciating detail:

Lego Brickheadz Star Wars the Mandalorian (what is a Mandalorian?)

Hot Focus Unicorn Nail Stickers Glow in the Dark Nail Polish (Wait, how old is this kid? Evelyn is 7? I don’t think I even noticed nail polish till I was 12)

Lego Disney Frozen 2 Elsa’s Wagon Carriage Adventure Building Kit with Elsa and Sven Toy Figures 116 Pieces.

Can you buy it if you can’t even say it, I wonder?

Some weeks ago Jimena and I agreed to put together a list of toys for Christmas, one toy per child, in the $15-$20 range. I would post it and ask readers to buy a toy or two for the kids. Jimena, bless her heart, put together an attractive handout in Spanish, which we gave out when we distributed food cards, asking for the children’s names, ages, and what precisely they wanted. Often, she would review each page verbally with the parents. I asked her why she did that, given that the handout was in Spanish, not English.

“Because so many are illiterate,” she told me.

“They’re illiterate in Spanish?”

“Eve, they’re lucky if they went to first grade before being sent to work,” she explained.

“About how many are illiterate?” I asked her.

She squinted her eyes in thought. “Maybe 40%, maybe more.”

A week later the answers come in (see above) and I sit down to compile an Amazon Wish List. This won’t take long, I think, I’m an old hand at this after making up the school supplies list last fall. Besides, I add stupidly to myself, they’re poor kids, they don’t know much about toys. Ha!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I know the kids have had trouble with remote learning and do lots of make-up classwork in English reading and writing (Jimena does this with them outside in the park in summer mornings), but THEY KNEW EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED. Not only that, they could copy the exact title with all the details, sometimes even the model number!

“Kids are kids everywhere,” I tell Aussie as I peer through the Amazon website, searching for arcana in the Toy Universe like Pokemon TCG Cards: Legends of Galar Summer Tin Featuring Zacian and Force 1 Techno Race RC Car. “I’m getting a headache.  I also can’t find Peppa Pig.”

She yawns from the futon behind me. “Peppa Pig shouldn’t be hard.”

“It has to be a plushie.”

“What’s a plushie?”

“Or Jinx Minecraft 11.5” Snow Golem Plush. Isn’t the Golem supposed to be Jewish? The Jewish Golem was certainly no plushie.“ I turn to face her. ”If that’s not bad enough, you know what else girls want, Auss? They want slime.”

“I love slime!”

“That’s because you’re a dog. When I grew up we were told to avoid slime at all costs, but look at this: Original Stationery Unicorn Slime Kit Supplies Stuff for Girls Making Slime.

“At least I bring my slime in from outdoors.”

After a while I started to relax. After an even longer while, I started to smile. Soon, I was positively luxuriating in the list, like in a bubble bath.

Before that a friend and I were comparing notes on how we hardly got any gifts when we were children: “You know what we got when we were kids for Christmas?” she told me. “There was a hole in one corner of the room where the wall met the ceiling, and our parents would tell us that Jesus came through that hole and put presents in our stockings. And you know what those presents were, year after year? Underwear and socks. And maybe a doll the size of a pencil .”

My family didn’t celebrate Christmas, but if we had that’s probably what we’d have gotten, too, and been told to be happy with it. So in the beginning there was that familiar, old, stingy voice inside: I didn’t get any of this when I was a child!

But as I went through Glowcity LED Star Soccer Ball Size 5 Glow In the Dark and Nerf Rival Finisher XX-700 Blaster (Quick-Load Magazine, Spring Action, Includes 7 Official Rival Rounds!), my heart warmed up.

“You know, Aussie, it’s almost as if I’m the one getting all these things finally. I didn’t get many gifts as a child, and now look!”

“You really want Paw Patrol Jet to the Rescue Skye Delux Transforming Vehicle with Lights and Sounds at the age of 71?”

“Well, I’ve been into transforming vehicles for a long time, Auss.”

I finished a list of some 63 gifts on Amazon and another 8 in Walmart; the Walmart ones are being bought by the children’s teachers; the 63 I’m entrusting to the universe, to you.

“The kids might get something from charity organizations for Christmas,” another friend who’s worked in social agencies told me, “but they’re give-aways, you know? They’re not what they really want.”

I started researching and inputting this list feeling blue, and ended up with so much joy in my heart I was practically singing. I was reliving my childhood, only this time not just with underwear but with Kinetic Sand, Lego Marvel Spiderman vs. Doc-Ock (what kind of a name is that for a superhero’s arch-enemy?), and the one I loved most, Disney Frozen Musical Adventure Anna Sinning (Amazon finally informed me it was Singing).

If Bernie was alive he’d say that maybe, just maybe I’m letting go of my mind of impoverishment.

You can find the Amazon wish list here.

Please consider buying one or more of these toys for the kids. They average in the range of $15-$20, some are less and some are more but none more than $24.99. The kids range in age from 6 months to 17 years, children of families we’ve fed since April. Each wrote what s/he wanted, above (except for the 6-month old), giving two choices. This year they’ll get one thing they really want–and they spelled it, right? The link to the Amazon Wish List for Christmas is here.

Thank you for your kindness and generosity.