by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger | bio

Sometime last summer, one of my granddaughters called me Grambo — and I decided I like it. At Halloween, I went trick or treating, dressed as Grambo, with two princesses, Diego the adventurer and Someone from Star Wars (forgive me, Ben, I can’t remember who). 

A regular method actor, I’m growing into the role, inhabiting the character, developing a real attitude. So, all I’m saying is, watch out.

It’s holiday time, a time to reinforce faith for children — they’ve been good, at least for the most part they’ve done the best they could. And though I’m not much of a believer, it’s appropriate for the elders to take this opportunity to put the bellows to the flames of faith. Santa Claus, eight nights of candles on a single drop of oil, redemption, reaffirmation, rising up — whatever floats your boat is just fine with me.   

So, what do I do? Well, you’ve heard this one before: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. That would be me. Forced march.

I head out with a folder full of shards of magazines, shreds of newspapers and purse-made origami foldings of printouts. Some items I order on line. Most I want to see — to feel and compare. Sometimes my daughter and I do this together; my daughter-in-law and I consult.

When my children were young, I bought and wrapped all the gifts that came from their grandparents, just to ensure that the children received exactly what I thought they should. That’s me, a "Type A Gifter." Some would call this a problem, but I know I’m shouldering the GNP.

Retailers grind by for 11 months and make their profits in the weeks before the holidays. Who does most of the shopping? In case you hadn’t noticed, ladies, we are the ones floating the economy.

So I buy the sweaters and ties and accessories and iPods and cuff links for the grown children, and I collect more toys than imaginable, more joy and its anticipation than can ever replenish the voids in my own childhood.

I spread them on the floor — well, that’s an understatement. I spread them out in a big room, up to my eyeballs while I’m standing, and I set up a table and unroll miles of wrapping paper and I —

Wait. Lead paint … tainted toys? Could I have? If so, then which ones?

To the internet! Google it. Yes! I wasn’t born yesterday — and I can even fill it in and click "I feel lucky." Lots of clicking. Clicking. Nope. Nope. Ah, yes, of course.

The government will take care of us. Hmmm … Here’s what I found: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s list of product recalls and alerts.

This is a long list in teensy type. Who has time for this? Or the eyesight? The damned list goes back to 1974 — the year my daughter, who has a full-time job, a full-time marriage, and two full-time children, was born. 

What the hell do I care about toys I might have given her when she was a toddler? I’m just glad she didn’t swallow loose magnets from some toy made by children in a third world country. As I recently learned, these magnets can attract each other and crimp the intestines of a child.

Do you have any idea how hard it was to read the font in which that information was embedded? Couldn’t they make this easier for us? Couldn’t they just try?

"Bah, humbug!" I say, to everyone who is trying to scare us — about all sort of things.

On the other hand, maybe there is a danger lurking here …

OK, if you find a simple list of toys that have been recalled, PLEASE let me know. In the meantime, so that my grandchildren and the children of people I love and depend upon will continue to believe in benevolence, I’ve got a whole lot of wrapping to do.

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