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The ever-shrinking ‘Wishbook”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

This is it? This paltry little thing? After months of waiting and anticipating, I get this in the mail.

A travesty!

I am talking about the new Sears Wishbook I just found hiding in my mailbox. Hiding in my mailbox. That about says it all.

When I was a kid checking the mailbox every day for the Sears Wishbook, there was no way it could hide. It was larger than the phone book and had hundreds of pages full of stuff I could only dream about.

After all, it was the Wishbook — the kids’ toy Bible. It had everything you could possibly want. This anorexic version doesn’t even deserve to be called the Wishbook. It’s only a little over a hundred pages long. Where are the toys? It’s all video games and tech stuff.

When I was 10 years old, late October meant two things – Halloween and the Wishbook. Forget raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens – Halloween and the Wishbook were my two favorite things.

They were neck and neck in importance. Halloween meant making costumes and free candy. The Wishbook was all about dreaming.

When it arrived, my sister and I fought over who got it first. If she hadn’t beaten me to it I would sprawl on the floor. Whatever was on television or on the radio was long forgotten, replaced by dreamland.

In the Wishbook, which was split neatly in half between the world of big people and little people, you could find the stuff dreams are made of. Lionel trains and Lincoln Logs and toy planes with machine guns that lit up red like they were really firing.

I pretty much ignored the big people section with clothes and watches and televisions and went straight to the toys.

I skipped all the little kid stuff and stuck my tongue out at Barbie and Ken and Midge or Madge or whatever her name was as I passed them by in all their pink and purple glory. For me it was all about steam shovels and toy soldiers and dinosaurs and rocket ships.

“Make a list,” my mother said as she walked by.

She didn’t have to ask twice. I was already making a mental list. Category one was the toys I might actually get – ones my parents could afford. Category two were the ones I could only dream about, like race car sets and bikes. Category three toys fell into that hazy area between category one and two – these were toys that maybe my parents wouldn’t get me but perhaps – just perhaps, my Grandma would chip in on.

I still remember some of toys from the Wishbook of old.

There was the full NASA space port with launching pad, rockets, trucks and bunkers. Way over there in category two.

G.I. Joe sat in a desert landscape, hunched behind plastic palm trees and sandbags. He was in full WW II Marine garb  and firing a .50 caliber machine gun. Christmas day he arrived in my stocking with his machine gun but minus all the other stuff. I didn’t care a lick. I had a back yard to hide him in.

I recall one particular category two present that, although I coveted it (sorry Moses), I knew I’d never receive — the 1965 James Bond race car set. You can still see it if you Google it. It had Bond’s Aston Martin roadster and cool stuff like an oil slick and chasms to jump. There’s even a tribute video on YouTube. Alas. No James Bond.

But I was shocked and amazed one Christmas morning to discover a Lionel train set under the tree. My parents must have saved for months. I still have it, complete with a working milk car that dispensed milk containers, a log car and coal car that dumped their contents and a locomotive that blew smoke and had a whistle. It was as if the Sears Wishbook had come to life under the tree.

To this day looking through the Wishbook is a treasured part of my childhood. So many hours spent dreaming. But like so many things today I shake my head in anguish at what it’s become.

Something to glance at once and throw in the trash.

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