This is an important week my friends! Not only is Thursday my favorite day of the year, Thanksgiving, but Friday is none other than the Late, Late Toy Show. For those of you who don’t live in Ireland or are not Irish, it is not only the most highly anticipated show every year, but it’s 2014 installment was the most watched television show of the century! It is basically a mash up of The Late, Late Show (like the U.S version of The Tonight Show) and Oprah’s My Favorite Things episode. It is what really gets the country talking about the Yuletide season, and gets the kids fine tuning their Christmas list.
Since Ryan Tubridy, the show’s host since 2009, was a customer of mine in the shop, of course I am a fan! Tubs (as he is affectionately known) is really a great guy, a wonderful father and happens to be a massive America aficionado. In fact, last year he read out my email about Thanksgiving on his popular daily radio program. While I never actually voiced to him my opinion of the Toy Show, I felt now that I am openly sharing on this blog I would touch on a couple important points.
Though on the surface, the Toy Show looks to be an ad for materialism in all its glory, there is actually another element to it: Fantasy. A great article by Irish Times writer Shane Hegarty, which you can read here, touched on the fine line the show walks in terms of consumerism. But at the end of the day, his coining of the show as a National Treasure is accurate. It does bring people from around the country together to celebrate the season that’s in it. And looking back on my own childhood I wish I had been whisked away into a winter wonderland such as the Toy Show. For some kids in difficult circumstances it is one of the coping mechanisms they use. Fantasizing about what they could have or experience keeps them going.
As an adult watching the Toy Show, as I did when I lived in Dublin for the past seven years, I feasted on all the amazing toys and wondered if there were kids watching that had little or nothing as my child self. Growing up I literally had two toys. One was a doll called “Little Miss No Name” that had a plastic tear stuck to her cheek. Quite sad and tragic looking for a toy. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t scrape it off her face. And I had a weird looking stuffed owl made out of naugahyde. His nick name was Naugie and he wasn’t warm and cuddly at all, which you kinda want in a stuffed animal.
They lacked the shiny bells and whistles of today’s toys. They weren’t even considered nice back in the day. But then I acted in a super popular Mattel Barbie Doll commercial and things got a little better. Though I found out years later about my mom spending all the money I made on it, I did get to take home a Barbie Doll after the day of filming on set was complete. And that’s all I cared about. I finally had a nice toy to take to school on share day, and something to play with that represented the possibility of a happy life.
You see, most poor children know they are in fact poor. While donations and handouts are important and helpful, poor kids still feel a bit of stigma. Even in my situation, once my Barbie doll commercial was a success, kids confronted me about going through the free lunch line in the school cafeteria. They questioned why I should be getting handouts if I carried around a new Barbie. So rather than explain that my parents were divorced, my mom had a drug habit, and we were on welfare, I just quit eating lunch at school. I would rather feel the grumbling in my tummy than the shame of the situation.
While not every needy kid would go so far as to turn down a free lunch, kids are aware of their circumstances. And if some people criticize the Toy Show for excess in light of the needs around us, I say, let the show go on! Because whether or not impoverished kids watch the show with longing, there can also be an element of hope. It is hope that someday, they might get a shiny new toy. Or in my case, be able to provide for their kids’ super incredible Christmases. My daughter and son still say those December 25th mornings were unforgettable lifetime experiences. And I quietly think to myself, yep they were for me too!
HO-HO-HOpe and love,
P.S. I’ll be posting some great recipes for Thanksgiving later, but here are a few posts that I’ve already shared with delicious ideas for you!