[Preface: In previous posts I have alluded to an incident involving a set of Magnetic Batman and Robin figures. At times I come across as bitter, and in truth, I am to a certain extent. This incident is a painful childhood memory, and to this day I still carry some of the hurt. I don't speak of it often, and I have been putting this one story off for a while to the point that I have updated less often than I would like to. Today, I have decided it's now time to let go.]
It was the Christmas season of 1980. Ronald Reagan had just been elected president of the United States, and my father was overjoyed. In January he would take office, and President Carter and the lean times of the 1970's would finally be over. I would turn 5 that first week of January, and we would celebrate it Uruguay, with our extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that we were only able to see every 2 to 3 years.
As the 1980's had promised, this new decade was already looking good for my family. My parents had saved up and were now home owners of a 2 family walk-up in Ozone Park, Queens. This Christmas was to be celebrated like no other. As such, the first week of December included a shopping trip to Alexanders to purchase a full sized tree, decorations, more lights than should be allowed, and a few odds and ends for family.
Normally shopping trips involved my mother and I on a bus or the subway, as we were a 1 car family, with that 1 car being my father's mode of transportation for work. This Christmas, though was special. My father wanted to come along, as he felt that it was his responsibility to make the outside of the house glow like the sun. If it involved ladders, nails and hammers... it was man's work. We piled into our 1972 mustard yellow Ford Maverick (with the brown vinyl roof) and went off for a Saturday of shopping.
I don't recall much from that shopping trip, other than it was cold outside, hot inside, and boring. Relief came over me as we approached the checkout lanes. That meant it was time to go home.
That's when I saw it.
The one image that would burn into my mind for decades to come. I still dream of it.
Over each checkout lane hung white chains from the ceiling. Usually they attached teddy bears, dolls, balloons, anything that would bring a young child to a high pitched scream, and thereby force the parent to buy it to shut them up.
But I did not see teddy bears or dolls. I saw aisle after aisle, checkout lane after checkout lane, from ceiling to right above the counter... Mego magnetic Batmans and Robins. They had been taken out of the boxes and were hanging from their hands and feet. Some were posed as though they were climbing. Others held hands and made a Batman/Robin chain from over one counter to the next. It was beautiful.
And I wanted them so badly I could taste it. And it would indeed taste good. Like candy flavored candy topped with candy and sprinkled with even more candy.
I went to my father, the weak link in the "asking for stuff" chain of command. I asked him, "If I'm really good, do you think Santa will bring me a Batman and Robin like those?" as I pointed above our heads. It was too close to Christmas to even consider asking for anything outright. I was never a stupid child. I was just a little naive.
My father's response was a parental cliche', "You'll have to remember to ask Santa."
Fine. Now I just needed to find Santa, or one of his many emissaries.
[note: my parents once explained to me that Santa is a rather busy man, and as such he cannot be everywhere. To that end he employs emissaries around the world to stand at street corners and at shopping centers to "take orders" from the children of the world, and that these emissaries reported to the big man himself daily. I was a rather inquisitive child, and my parents were rather creative in answering my logistical questions with answers that had a little real world logic for backing.]
I wrote a letter to Santa with the help of my mother. I placed the letter in a mailbox and went on to dream of Christmas morning.
Christmas came and went. No Batman or Robin.
Evidently, the man can fly around the world in the span of one night delivering toys to every boy and girl, but he cannot read Spanish.
Immediately after Christmas, my mother needed to make another trip to Alexander's to buy some odds and ends for our month long trip to South America, and exchange some clothes which were too small for me already. Since my birthday was coming up soon, my mom said I could pick out something as a gift. I knew exactly what I wanted and made a beeline to it.
When I arrived... all those wonderful chains above the checkout lanes were bare. I asked my mother if she remembered the toys that were there a month previously, and she did not.
As I went to the toy section, I remember walking by a dump full of boxes. I know now that it was full of Mego 8 inch Batgirls, Catwomans, and Supergirls. What I knew then was, it was NOT the Batmans or Robins I wanted, so I didn't really care.
Disappointed, I grabbed an 8 Inch Mego Batgirl.
I have never hated a toy so much in my whole life. It really wasn't her fault though. She was just a victim of circumstance. Just was a substitute for what I really wanted, and never received. I just couldn't look at her and NOT see that image of Magnetic Batmans and Robins.
And I could never look at Santa the same either.