Now that the holiday season is officially upon us, it’s a relief to hear from Dr. Anthony Fauci that Santa Claus, because he is the quintessential good guy, has innate immunity to the coronavirus.
After all, this is no year for kids to wonder whether he’ll make his annual rounds – especially because he’s older and a tad overweight, which would otherwise increase his risk. But Doctor Fauci recently asserted that there’s no worry about Santa catching and spreading the virus – unlike a certain other well-known figure on the world stage.
So, this leaves the path open for the usual spate of requests to the North Pole for toys – and if ever there was a year for retreat into fantasy, 2020 is it.
What might kids be asking for? Electronics, no doubt, but there are traditional classics of simpler and lasting quality, like Rhode Island’s own hall-of-famer, Mr. Potato Head. Yes, Hasbro’s perennial favorite is a member in good standing of the National Toy Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2000. Hasbro’s G.I. Joe was chosen in 2004. But it’s a good thing you didn’t bet the farm on Hasbro’s 2020 nominee, the popular “My Little Pony.” It was among 12 finalists, but lost by a nose earlier this month when the three inductees were selected. It’ll have to wait for recognition in another year, along with other no-cigar finalists including bingo, Risk, Sorry! and Yahtzee.
The Toy Hall of Fame, part of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y., has been a Santa’s sack of nostalgia ever since it began choosing members in 1998. The first entrants were Barbie, Crayola crayons, the Erector Set, Etch-A-Sketch, the Frisbee, LEGOs, marbles, Monopoly, Tinkertoys, the Teddy Bear, and Hasbro’s Play-Doh.
According to the museum, anyone can nominate a toy, with final selections made on the advice of educators, historians, and others involved in learning and creativity.
This year’s inductees include Jenga, a game challenging players to remove one block at a time from a tower without knocking it down; Crayola’s Sidewalk Chalk, oversized chalk pieces designed for drawing on pavement; and, in our race-conscious era, Baby Nancy, a dark-skinned doll born in tumultuous 1968. Baby Nancy was chosen because she “exposed a long-standing demand for ethnically correct black dolls that the mainstream market had failed to deliver previously.” Although the company making the dolls folded in 1983, the induction announcement noted that Baby Nancy “still stands as a landmark doll that made commercial and cultural breakthroughs.”
Among other memory-inducing inductees over the years are the Duncan yo-yo, the Hula Hoop, roller skates, the Radio Flyer wagon, the Slinky, Jacks, the bicycle, Raggedy Ann, the rocking horse, Lionel trains, Big Wheels, rubber ducks, puppets, Matchbox cars, coloring books, and Hasbro’s Star Wars Action Figures and Lincoln Logs.
Toy hall-of-famers needn’t be fancy and expensive: The Hall in 2005 inducted a particularly humble nominee: the simple cardboard box. An explanation noted that “With nothing more than a little imagination, those boxes can be transformed into forts or houses, spaceships or submarines, castles or caves. Inside a big cardboard box, a child is transported to a world of his or her own, one where anything is possible.”
I no longer fit into your standard cardboard box, but since imagination can make anything possible, I’m ready to create my own version of “A Christmas Story.” I’m taking Doctor Fauci at his word and telling our ever-healthy Santa: I promise not to shoot my eye out, so please wrap up my “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, Range Model BB gun.”
Gerry Goldstein (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.