Once upon a time, I was a child and played with toys. I had dolls and teddy bears that were great when my sister and I had tea parties. I also had cap guns and bows and arrows, which were great when we were out having adventures with our cousins.
Over the years, I haven't given up playing with toys, but my favorites have changed. Dominoes is my game of choice. I can play with family of all ages. When adults are here, we play Canadian Train — our own twist on Mexican Train where we are able to play off both ends of the extra tile train.
When small grandchildren are around, Dominoes are more for building. We wind them around the table until there are enough to knock down. Sometimes we stack them to see how high we can get them before our tower topples over.
There are dolls and stuffed animals here, but when we are inside, the children prefer playing with cars, trucks and tractors. They even like things with wheels when playing outside.
Two weeks ago, I bought a couple toys for myself. Both were Caterpillar brand — one a tractor with trailer and the other a digger. Bob loved them; he would have loved them even more if they were full size. These children's toys were made in Germany, which surprised me because the instructions seemed Greek to me.
Assembly was required. I opened the Digger box and glanced at the instructions, and then I folded them and put the paper back in the box. This was a two-person project. Bob was drafted.
Even though my husband knows a lot about machinery, he knows little about toy machinery. He stared at the instructions, too.
We sorted through the parts together, trying to match each piece to the drawings. Everything seemed to be there, so we began.
There were no words describing what to do, only pictures. That might seem easy — well it wasn't. While Bob held two sections to the digging arm together, I matched them to the base. This projected needed four hands for sure. No way could either of us have done it alone.
'Does this look like the picture?' we wondered.
I slipped a bolt to hold the gizmo in place but didn't tighten it too tight, just in case we had to disassemble some of the project, which we did a few times to get it right.
After a tense hour of matching bolts and pieces together, we had a toy digger. Time for a beer. We didn't even attempt the tractor.
Our son, Russell, the engineer, was due to visit. His son would benefit from the toys, so we drafted him to work on the tractor.
One engineer, with the help of his toddler son, one toddler nephew and Bob (father and grandfather) kibitzing put the tractor with loader together.
Russell had some frustrating moments with the assembly, too. When he complained about the crazy directions, it made us feel less incompetent with the frustrating work we had done. If a mechanical engineer was having trouble, it would have taken us a month to figure out the tractor.
Eventually, both toys were finished. The two toddlers were in heaven. They hopped on in the living room. Older siblings and cousins would vey for time riding and digging the following day, but this evening was made just for the little guys.
I purchased these toys for myself so I could play with them vicariously through our grandchildren. It made me feel good to watch everyone in the stone pile the next day. There was a third vehicle to add to their fun. A black truck purchased at a neighbor's rummage sale gave just as much fun to the gathering, and it didn't need any wrenches to make it work.
Assembly was required, but after that, there was joy. Our daughter, Rachel, said her three went home dirty, tired and happy. Now that's what I call a successful day of fun, and there will be many more to come.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.SusanManzke.net