Ron's Blog

When I was young, I got some great toys on Christmas and for my birthdays. For instance, one year, I asked for a Johnny Lightning race car set. This was a cool toy where you used a manual accelerator to shove race cars around an oval track. And I did get that particular toy for Christmas. However, even though I always wanted the cool gifts I asked for, I still fantasized about other gifts that I might get. And truthfully, these fantasies were usually way out of proportion.

Before that Christmas when I got the Johnny Lightning race car set, I had secretly hoped that my parents would buy me a motorcycle. I’m not sure how my elementary-school mind came up with the idea that a motorcycle was even a possibility but I imagined it to the point that I was sure it could happen. And then, the Johnny Lightning gift became a disappointment because I didn’t get the outrageous motorcycle I had created in my young delusional mind.

But there were a few other “rational” gifts that I requested but never got. I referred to one of these in my last blog. It was Silly String. In case you’re not familiar with this product, it has firmly established its place in the annals of canned innovations somewhere between Fix-A-Flat and Cheez Whiz. Silly String is not really that functional but it is a blast to spray, so to speak.

This plastic string in a can was a party favor at several birthday parties I attended as a kid. Without fail, at some point during the party, several of us would hold a can next to our noses and shoot the string out like one long continuous stream of nasal projectiles. We would cover one of the other party goers and say, “Isn’t this fun?”

They always responded, “It snot.”

And essentially, that was what Silly String was good for—to annoy other kids.

I suspect that my mother saw this as a monumental waste of money and as an adult, I can see her point. But for a young kid who was not inclined to get into much trouble, I saw Silly String as a doorway to a bit of misbehaving fun. But alas, I never got it.

Until last week.

You see, I told a shorter version of this story in my last blog and declared my grand disappointment about not getting my Silly String. As a blogger, I never know how many people really read these things except for the handful of people who make comments or correct my typos. But clearly, a couple of people were paying attention. I came home one day last week and found two boxes on my porch containing a total of fifteen cans of Silly String. Yes, you read that right. Fifteen!

One box came from my good friend Bill Stainton who has a great sense of humor and wanted to end the years of trauma I suffered by not getting my canned string. The other sender was anonymous. That both delighted me and creeped me out just a bit. My fantastical mind kicked in again and I wondered what this person might have sent me if I had written a blog about trying to overcome my fear of snakes. That thought kept me awake for several nights and now, I no longer reach my hand into our mailbox at night.

Sometimes in my writing and particularly in my humor, I will exaggerate just a bit in order to entertain the reader or to make a point. Oh yes, I wanted Silly String as a child and I never got it. But the overall impact on my life was probably less than I implied. I mean, I got hit by a car when I was eleven and had two motorcycle accidents as an adult. Those incidents had a tad more impact on me, both figuratively and literally. However, in the process of sharing these holiday gift experiences, I began to see the chink in my childhood armor.

For several of my childhood birthdays, I asked for a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots game. This was an ingenious plastic device on which two robots boxed each other. The robots were controlled by hand mechanisms through which you could move each robot around a boxing ring and then push a right or left button to punch one of the robots’ arms forward. If you made a direct hit on the chin of your opponent’s robot, his head would come off—the plastic robot’s head that is, not your opponent’s.

Well, once again, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots was not the most practical toy and some might say it was a bit violent. But it was advertised constantly on TV and I wanted it. Alas again, I did not get it.

But, then…

In 2001 when I was 41 years old, I received a large box in the mail. It contained the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot game I always wanted.

Attached to the game was this note from my mother:

There was a little boy who wanted a little toy.
In fact that was all he could speak of.

But his mother wasn’t sure that the toy would long endure.
So she chose another, wrapping it with love.

The little boy was sad, thought his mother’s choice was bad.
And he often brought it up in conversations.

Now again the shelves are full of the toy that was so cool.
So his mother without any reservations bought the big boy his toy.

To share with his own little boy; and create some special memories galore.

Now, hopefully, with Joy! They can both enjoy the toy.
And it’s true better late than nevermore.

[Cue emotional turn-of-events music]

This generous gift touched my heart. Not because it was such a great toy nor because it was a toy I always wanted. The gift was special because my mom seemed to finally understand my perspective and now I understood hers.

Sometimes we fly through our lives making one assumption after another. We jump to conclusions and hold grudges. We want things that are not good for us. Yet, if we take a minute to understand the process, we often see a new perspective.

As children, we often misunderstand the actions of our parents. As parents, we assume we know what’s best for our children. And as spouses or parters, we routinely think we can read our loved ones’ minds.

Perhaps, we should break this silly string of assumptions and take time to better understand one another. If we do, it might just be the best gift we ever receive.

24 Comments

  1. Thanks for the hilarious photo. It’s nice to know I’m not the only senior who acts like a kid sometimes.

  2. Gale Hankins

    When I read your last post about not receiving Silly String, I thought it would be really cool if you received it this Christmas. Glad someone acted on that thought for you. It will be a memory that will provide smiles for years to come. I gave my husband a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots game a few years ago for the same reason – he never received that coveted game as a boy.

    Enjoy the thrill of ‘late’ gifts in life! Remember in ‘The Santa Claus’ movie when the adults received toys/games they wanted as children? Even as adults, we still get excited about receiving what we wanted years before.

    Have fun with your Silly String and robots!

  3. Great story and great message! I think we all have a toy or two we wanted as a kid but never got. And yes, I take things personally, make assumptions and feel hurt too much. I try not to hold grudges, life’s too short to be mad all of the time, I just remind myself that there’s usually a reason for other people’s actions. Happy New Year!

  4. Mary Ann Dickhoff

    I always enjoy your blog. You’re very wise, and you share your stories with humor and compassion. Thank you Ron.

  5. Bobby Lane

    I always enjoy your blogs, Ron. Heard you speak a few years ago at the TAF&E Convention and have been reading it since then. I love the humor AND the wisdom. Thanks. I never got any silly string as a child either. Maybe I’ll go buy some tomorrow, to surprise my grandkids!

  6. Yes, perspective and perception IS everything. Thank you for this post. Teresa (Culberson) Schrader

  7. Hamelmal Shiferaw

    Thank you! What a hilarious picture and the memories you indulge.
    Happy New Year!

  8. Rachael Swann

    I love your newsletter. I have a complete file that I reference for different situations. I appreciate your humor and your dedication to making your work fun. Keep up the great work and I hope you silly string and robots generate more laughter than you planned on.

  9. Every Halloween since my kids were little we let them & their friends “silly string” the tree in front of our house. It would look pretty creepy in the dark! Now that they’re off to college a lot of our trick-or-treaters say how much they miss it. Yes it’s a mess to clean up (especially if it rains!) but Silly String is so much fun!!
    I hope everyone lets their inner child out from time to time, to play & experience the joy it can bring!
    Happy New Year everyone!

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