If you're in the mood to get away from adult concerns and feel young again, just spend some time with this year's toy catalogs.
Several showed up in my mailbox last week, and it was nostalgia-inducing to browse the offerings for the upcoming Christmas buying season. Old classics like Easy-Bake Ovens (now in an "Ultimate" version that makes cookies and mini-pizzas), Play-Doh kits, and the latest in Lego and Hot Wheels track sets are still big.
Notably different from the catalogs of the past is the number of movie-tie-in toys and, of course, the preponderance of electronic offerings.
From edutainment-style toys like the "Fisher-Price Learn and Laugh Song and Story Learning Activity Chair" — a musical seat for infants— to any number of robotic "pets," candy-colored tablets and video game console controllers, there aren't many items that don't require batteries.
Interestingly, there are now a lot of gross-out titles that weren't around when I was a kid and hadn't yet gained popularity when my sons were little.
There's something called "Gas Out," which is described like this: "Guster the Gas Cloud is full of intestinal discomfort and he's ready to rip! ... Guster's blasts are not silent and they're definitely deadly. If Guster farts, you're out!"
"Guster" requires two double-A batteries to make the non-silent blasts that are sure to delight even the most strait-laced players
If that's not enough, there's a game called "Toilet Trouble," which features an illustration of a young boy leaning over a toilet with a wave of toilet water approaching his face (I couldn't possibly have made up something that repulsive. Here's the product description: "Which flush will cause the gush? Share some hilarious and suspense-filled moments as players take turns spinning the toilet paper roll, flushing the toilet handle, and hoping they don't get sprayed with water!"
If toilets are too much for you, perhaps you have a tolerance for flying dentures. In which case, you can play "Greedy Granny" in which "Granny has fallen asleep again with a whole tray of goodies on her lap. Players take turns attempting to remove the pieces from Granny's tray as carefully as they can without waking Granny. But Granny is a light sleeper — someone may disturb Granny and send her teeth flying!"
How about "The Fly in the Soup"? In this game, "players use spoons to remove flies that have fallen into the Soup bowl. ... (The) Player who 'catches' the most flies when time expires is the Winner!"
Probably the weirdest of the bunch is something called "Watch Ya Mouth," a "competitive card-based game" in which players insert plastic cheek retractors into their mouths and then attempt to read off silly phrases such as "Puppies fart perfume" and "A biblical velociraptor."
These games sound crass and vulgar ... but actually seem totally delightful. It is highly likely, dear readers, that I will find several of these games under the Christmas tree this year, purchased by me — for me — so I can torture my family with the ridiculousness of actually playing them.
This is the lifelong curse of the only child: After so many years of owning multiplayer games that were impossible to play alone (imagine, if you can, an 8-year-old Esther Cepeda playing "Hungry Hungry Hippos" all by herself on the day after Christmas), you spend your adult years chasing the wholesome family fun advertised on TV.
As corny as it sounds, the memories that are made around a game board with family are some of the most cherished you can ever have.
It took me growing up and having my own kids and extended family to finally, really, play "Connect Four," "Monopoly," "Balderdash," "Scrabble," and "Yahtzee." Last year I bought myself the absurd, jump-scaring "Crocodile Dentist," which savagely chomps your finger if you push down the wrong tooth during your turn. We save this one for occasions when everyone's mood can endure my anguished screams.
Even if you can't tolerate rattling dice games like "Yahtzee" or "Farkle" — or nerve-jangling ones like "Operation" or a new one I spied in a catalog called "Five Nights at Freddie's" ("Steal his pizza if you dare") — classic games like chess, checkers or standard card games are fun and just plain good-to-know as life skills.
Whatever your style, if you want to buy a kid in your life a memorable present for Christmas — or any other holiday — make sure it's something not designed to keep them busy by themselves. Get something that requires your presence — the gift of time is most precious of all.