Weekend Assignment #194: Think back to when you were eight years old. What did you really really really want for Christmas/Hanukkah/Other seasonal celebration? We're taking the thing you wanted so much that you would just die if you didn't get it. If you can't remember what that was when you eight specifically, then pick an age close to it. But if you can remember what thing was when you were eight: Share it!
Extra Credit: Did you get it?
As it happens, I was just thinking about that Christmas a day or two ago. That was definitely the year I got Tutti. I'm not quite sure, but I think it was the year of the Thingmaker as well. In a sense they were both near-misses as presents, but one went over a million times better than the other.
The situation was this. The only doll I had with which to play Barbies was a knockoff, a slightly oversized, hollow-legged, cheap plastic doll called Peggy. I wanted a real Mattel doll, badly. To be honest, I can't remember now whether I had in mind a particular doll in the Barbie line, or just wanted "a Barbie." I probably was not gunning for a Midge or a Ken, but that still leaves three dolls that were sure to please me: Barbie, her sister Skipper, or her brand new little sister, Tutti. It's very possible I saw Tutti on tv and asked for one, but I'm guessing not. I think what I had in mind was Barbie, per se.
Child of the depression that she was, my mom had a tendency to economize on presents, especially considering that - let's be honest - I generally got a large number of them at Christmas. I strongly suspect that Tutti cost less than Barbie. She also didn't have breasts, which might have occasioned questions my mom would not have wanted to encourage in her eight-year-old. So on Christmas morning, the little box under the tree contained an oddly-named character who was the littlest doll in the Barbie line.
And I was thrilled.
Mind you, I remember doing a fair amount of rationalizing about this. I liked that Tutti was meant to be about my age, and I loved that she was bendable and posable in ways that Barbie and Skipper weren't. Heck, the bend-leg Barbies had only come out the year before, and here was Tutti, bending legs and arms and even torso (a little) into interesting, almost lifelike shapes. Cool! And most important of all, Tutti was what I had, so she became my favorite. I remember the booklet that came with the doll promoted a "Barbie Fan Club," and I seriously considered writing to Mattel that I wanted to join a Tutti Fan Club instead.
Sometime that winter or the next, I lost Tutti in the pile of plowed snow at the end of the driveway, and didn't find the doll until spring. The bendability didn't hold up well to repeated posing, and eventually the internal wires started sticking out of the hands and arms and legs. But I don't care. It was still a glorious present, albeit eclipsed years later by two larger dolls in the Barbie line: Francie's friend Casey with her dangle earring and belted gold lame swimsuit, and Talking Stacey, Barbie's friend with a real English accent.
The other big gift of 1965, possibly 1966, was something I wanted at least as much as a Barbie or Tutti, probably more. Creepy, spooky (not to mention mysterious and ooky) stuff was big that year, with The Munsters and The Addams Family on tv. Mattel had a new toy that was somewhat in that vein, sort of a craft toy for boys. The toy itself was a metal mold and oven set called a Thingmaker. The plastic toys it produced were called Creepy Crawlers. They were mostly bugs of various sorts, the ickier the better. They were heavily advertised on tv, but that wasn't my main inspiration for wanting them. One of my classmates, possibly Paula but I don't really remember, did a brisk business making and selling Creepy Crawlers to the rest of us. And my favorite mold wasn't a bug at all, but a human skeleton. How cool was that? I could choreograph my own little Dance Macabre with some of those! Even better, it could be made with glow-in-the-dark Plastigoop for extra creepiness!
That's what I wanted, and I made sure my parents knew it. Then Christmas came. Now, you must understand, my dad is one of the most organized gift givers in the world. He would wrap and number each gift, and kept a list of what everything was, the better to give everything out in order of increasing interest and excitement, but also mixing in the clothing and such for variety. But somehow, my parents screwed up momentarily that morning. It was probably my mom who handed me this one little present, in a shape I instantly recognized - or thought I did.
"It's Elmer's Glue," I said. And I was thinking, why would they give me glue for Christmas?
"Come on, dear," Dad said. "She can open the 'glue' later. How about opening this instead?" And he took away the little wrapped plastic bottle, and handed me something else.
And that's when I knew. It wasn't glue at all. It was Plastigoop! I was getting my Thingmaker! I didn't blurt my deduction, but happily opened whatever it was my dad had just handed me.
I was right, and I was wrong. It was Plastigoop, and I did get my Thingmaker.
Only it wasn't Creepy Crawlers.
No plastic spiders and centipedes. No skeletons that glowed in the dark. What I got instead was a variety of Thingmaker my mom probably considered more suitable for a little girl. It made troll-faced pencil-toppers. That is to say, the molds made something that looked like a cross between troll heads and Alfred E Newman. They had a little hole at the bottom so you could stick them on the ends of pencils. There were probably other molds and accessories to turn them into pins and such.
Now, I loved trolls, but these weren't quite trolls. They didn't have the long hair, for one thing, at least in my memory they didn't. And I wanted my glow-in-the-dark skeletons! I eventually managed to buy one insect mold from someone, but I never did get the skeletons - except for the one I bought from Paula for a dollar.