Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trees, Reindeer, Lincoln Logs, and Little Boys

Around here, whenever you take your kids in for any sort of appointment — doctor checkups, WIC, etc. — you get BABE coupons. These are good for all sorts of things; you can get a dozen diapers for one coupon, or children's snow boots for two. This year, we also got a letter with free tickets to the Festival of Trees, which is an annual fundraiser where people sponsor and decorate about a hundred trees for charity. You voted with your cash (a penny per vote) for the best trees; I presume there was some sort of prize for the contestants. You could also sign up to win one of the trees. So, a few weeks ago, we walked over — it was scarcely off our block — and took in the displays. The variety and creativity were wonderful. They had other things for the kids, too, like rides on a miniature train, crafts, and a live reindeer.

Aiden was particularly entranced by the reindeer, although he required some encouragement to go touch it. The foam ornaments impaled on the antlers cleverly provided both festivity and protection.

A week later, we got a call saying that we'd won one of the trees! No one knew which one yet, but they asked some questions about the kids' age and interests, and said they'd pick one out.

We got the Little House on the Prairie themed tree, complete with Lincoln Log cabins, and covered with farm animals and plastic period-piece people planting, hitching up wagons, hunting, etc. There were also gifts to go with it: Little House on the Prairie picture books, boots in the correct size for each kid, some drag-racing trucks for Aiden, and a hopping-frog setup for Fiona.

There were, also, the leftover Lincoln Logs in a big Ziploc bag. The cabins under the tree had been strung together with fishing line to keep them together until their decorative usefulness was over, but the rest of the logs were available for playing. Incidentally, these weren't the American Lincoln Logs, but a Chinese copy, which are still made of real wood and, in the case of the little chimneys, decorated by hand. Someone in China has the job of drawing a stone pattern on little wooden chimneys.

Paul, in typical fashion, set to figuring out what was the tallest possible structure that could be made with the available logs:

Aiden, also in typical fashion, knew exactly what to do with that.

Can I knock it down yet? Can I knock it down?
Just look at that mischievious smile...

OK, you can knock it down now.


Jonadab said...

The look on that face is classic. Even I can read his mind in that photo, and I'm _terrible_ at reading non-verbal cues.

I'm trying to imagine Lincoln Logs made of something _other_ than wood, and I'm totally coming up blank. What _else_ would they be made out of? Metal? Plastic? Super-heavy cardboard?

The phrase "snow boots" always amuses me. I understand now where it comes from, but the first time I encountered it, I was highly weirded out. ("Snow boots?", I asked, "You mean as opposed to summer sunshine boots? Do they make leaf boots for in the fall?")

It's a strange cultural artifact, created when people who used to live where there isn't much snow move to a place where there is. Having lived my entire life in the midwestern US, I must have been in high school before I was aware that the word "boots", without specific qualification, could even potentially mean anything else. I knew about cowboy boots, of course, but those are "cowboy boots"; nobody just calls them boots. And the things men wear to go fishing may technically be a type of boots, but they're normally called "hip waders". I think I saw galoshes once or twice as a kid, but I never thought of calling them "boots", and they were sufficiently uncommon that my mind associates them strongly with Paddington Bear. Most of us didn't have boots for rain; we either wore our regular boots (yes, boots intended for snow work in the rain too) or more often we just wore our shoes, which we were probably going to grow out of before they wore out anyway, or sometimes the adults kept us inside if it was too rainy.

Andy said...

I believe that modern Lincoln Logs are plastic — or, at least, the roof pieces are. Scrabble tiles and Tinkertoys have gone plastic, too, so I wouldn't be surprised if the logs weren't wood now, either.

Snow boots, as opposed to work books, hiking boots, motorcycle boots, water booties (lakers rave about these when it's time to take the docks out), dress boots...

I'd like to see some summer sunshine boots, though. Fiona would love them, I'm sure.

Andy said...

Having recently been to Toys 'R' Us, I must retract an earlier statement: Lincoln Logs (at least the logs) are still wood.