How do you know what “it” is?

By Kelly Hagen

Sometimes life events come along and teach you lessons you forgot long ago.

For me, that life event in­volved a smaller-than-I-would-have-liked hospital room, a whole lot of screaming and crying (in my defense, I had a headache) and a tiny person emerging through a process that I don’t like to describe in great detail.

Which brings us to Christmas.

Because of that one life event last year, I am now, once again, required to know exactly what toys are in vogue this Christmas sea­son. Which is something I used to know each and every year, from 1984 through 1999 or so. And then I was allowed to not pay atten­tion, but now that there’s a whole new person in this world, currently un­der the care of myself and my sweet An­nette, it means I have to know what the “it” toy of 2011 is.

The “it” toy of every Christmas sea­son is the one that every kid wants, and any parent would gladly beat the “it” out of any other grown adult to remove it from their possession and take it home to their kid for Christmas. As a parent, you do whatever you can for your kids, even a little felonious assault, which is both sad and beautiful, all at once.

As a kid, it’s easy to know what the “it” toy is, because you are a kid, and kids just instinctually know what’s awe­some. It’s beamed directly into their brains by advertisers and voodoo magic. You just wake up one morning and know you desperately need a Cabbage Patch doll. You don’t know why you need it, but you need it all the same.

So, I always knew, every year that I was a kid. I knew about the Nintendo Entertainment Systems, the Mr. Potato Heads, the Game Boys, the Masters of the Universe action figures, the latest G.I. Joes, etc. I knew because I had to know.

I would grow out of childhood and into the dreaded teenage years, and still knew pretty well what was going on in toy circles, because I’m someone who likes to stay informed. And this institu­tional knowledge would eventually lead to me working in the toy department of Walmart.

I survived Christmas ’99, the year when both Poke­mon trading cards and the Fur­bys were in full swing. Explains a lot about why I am the way I am, though, don’t it?

So I gave up toys, after the trauma of being smashed over the head by a six-year-old with a plastic lightsaber because a green Furby told him to, and lived a decade of relative bliss, not knowing the ticklish spots on the latest Elmo dolls, or what makes a Tigger doll bounce. It was good; freed up enough brain cells that I could memorize dialogue from entire ep­isodes of the “Simpsons.” Life was good.

And then we had a kid.

So, yeah, I’m back on the bandwagon. I know all about the Let’s Rock Elmo, and I’ve got one at my house, just waiting to be unwrapped on Christmas morn by a one-year-old girl not fully aware of what a Christmas or an Elmo is.

What do you suppose the chances are that the Simpsons will get to be the “it” toy sometime soon? That’d make things easier for me.

(Columnist Kelly Hagen misses Tinker Toys. He can be contacted at kelly.ha­, or read up on his col­lected lunacy at



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