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When toys were magical without being pricey

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  • Writer: Meaningful presents for children don't require lots of cash
  • In her childhood, presents that required imagination and creativity were favorites
  • She says joy "came from playing with people who loved me," not the toy itself
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By Christy Oglesby
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(CNN) -- Athleticism goes a long way in picking a spouse when you're just a child. While playing a jumping-rope game, I missed when my friends called out "Marcus." Now I was destined to marry the snottiest boy in second grade and probably in the whole wide world.

Gifts like jump-ropes and crayons may be inexpensive, but they bring joy to childhood, a writer says.

Gifts like jump-ropes and crayons may be inexpensive, but they bring joy to childhood, a writer says.

I was hellbent on not having a lousy reception. So I was leaping my little 7-year-old heart out.

As my playmates chanted menu options, I focused on my footwork. I needed to guarantee that my wedding guests ate well.

"TUR-key! CHICK-en! Ol' DEAD dog! TUR-key! CHICK-en! Ol' DEAD dog! Turkeychickenoldeaddog-turkeychickenoldeaddog!" They turned the rope faster, but my cadence was perfect. I would not miss on canine carcass.

Thirty-four years have passed, but I remember planning my future in the driveway of my childhood home. That unforgettable memory came from a rope that my mother might have paid $2 for at the corner T.G.&Y. More likely, it was a construction castoff from my grandpa the carpenter.

But what's certain is that meaningful presents for children don't require lots of cash. Give it in love, make sure it requires creativity or imagination, and you're golden. (Oh, and these days, you have to check it for lead.)

Look, I'm the mom of a 9-year-old testosterone-drenched boy. I get the blinky-light-deafening-surround-sound-battery-powered-gotta-have-the-latest-hottest-gizmo-cuz-everyone-else-has-one craze. But for the next 450 words, you 40-somethings indulge me.

Was your childhood any less fun without a remote-controlled Dinoraptor? Was your 10th year of life horrible because you didn't stand in front of a flat screen and pretend to bowl?

Stop contemplating pricey Wiis, or the hand-held electronics that feed Junior's myopia, or the cranberry-colored Nano, and go back with me.

Do you remember the first time you got the 64-pack of Crayolas? You'd gotten a box of two dozen crayons before. But this one had cornflower, goldenrod and sienna! There were five shades of yellow, and what's that in the back? A sharpener! See what kids want for Christmas this year

My hefty, creaky grandmother crawled under the kitchen table to draw with me. Then she taped my masterpieces to the front of her avocado-green refrigerator.

The year my older sister got Monopoly was fabulous! My divorced mom, who always had to juggle at least three jobs, found time to sit at the Formica kitchen table and build an empire starting with Connecticut Avenue and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Did you Hula Hoop? Or did you pick up your cat's eye and take a break from "keepsies" to watch someone move the hoop from her hips to her neck to her fingertips?

Be it a board game, marbles, a jump-rope or a pack of crayons, none of them cost more than $10. But if you think about it, I bet you remember the names of the kids with whom you played. I bet you remember a particularly intense game of Scrabble.

I remember that the joy wasn't from the toy. It came from playing with people who loved me, like my mom, sister and grandma.

I'm not putting down the blinking, electronic $450 gizmos. I'm not saying your child won't remember their hefty, creaky grandma playing Wii tennis with them three decades from now.

But try this. Go on and get Junior that pricey thing he just has to have. Then think about a great game from your childhood that didn't cost as much as a monthly car payment. Throw in a jump-rope too, or a paddle ball.

Put the BlackBerry down, refuse to let the PlayStation baby-sit the kids. And see if you can out-Hula Hoop your daughter. Show her what fun was like back in the day. She'll remember it for a long time to come, and you'll have cash to spare.

And by the way, I'm a helluva jumper. The bad luck ended with Marcus. My fake future turned out pretty nicely. The wedding would be in June. I'd arrive at the altar in a pink gown. Guests would be feted with chicken. And we'd have 27 children -- all of whom would need Mucinex.

All About Toys

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