Tonya Bina: And a virtual Merry Christmas to all |

Tonya Bina: And a virtual Merry Christmas to all

Tonya Bina/ Off Beat
Grand County, CO Colorado

A scene struck me as I walked the wonderland of Toys-R-Us, accompanying a companion on a last-minute shopping errand.

A woman pushed a stroller, in which sat her 3- to 4-year-old daughter. The daughter was engrossed in fiddling with an iPad as she rolled through aisles stacked high with noisy, imaginative and very tangible toys.

It struck me that toys you roll, bounce, dress up or make a mess from may be becoming less alluring, less desirable to today’s kids.

A product of the generation that first experienced video wonders, I’m from the generation when cable was introduced, when MTV emerged.

I’m even old enough to faintly remember the primitive Atari “Pong” – it was a novelty, but I never chose it over riding my shiny red Schwinn with red and white handlebar streamers and a checkered basket.

When my family moved from the Chicago suburbs to own a lake resort in Minnesota, my youthful attentions became split between outside play on fair days, inside in the game room on not-so-fair days. I’d spend long hours and many quarters seeking the fourth “Act” of Ms. Pac-Man and flailing at Donkey Kong.

Fast forward to this month: My husband and I witnessed a 5-year-old boy deftly handling the controls of the modern-day game version of Donkey Kong, cheered on by his father in a Best Buy store.

Seeing all this new animation, and how operating it appears pre-wired in grade-schoolers, I understand this games craze, this mass appeal.

It’s hard to tear away from the screen, from that readily packaged fun.

Today’s young people have never experienced having to wait a week to see developed pics, or feel what it’s like not knowing if photos would be properly exposed, or the fear memories might be forgotten in a dusty photo book, never posted and tagged anywhere for the world to see.

In these times of texting, motion gaming, instant imaging and the Web’s on-the-spot answers, perhaps what will sprout someday is a niche trend of “retro,” a call back to a time when sticking your finger in a rotary dial was one’s only true connection to the outside world, or when a single-function timepiece was considered a necessity.

Like (my husband’s idea as a joke) a digital camera with a throwback feature in which photo takers would actually have to wait a few days for the camera to release its images for viewing, re-gifting to the world an element of surprise and anticipation.

For me, the warm-fuzzy gift-giving and receiving during the holidays is all the more treasured when so much in our lives is downloaded in the space of seconds.

The gift-giving season provides days of anticipation, happy secrets between family members and friends, and those bursts of surprise in moments when long patience pays off.

Ah, Christmas morning – finally. That traditional kind of excitement; all the shreds of colorful wrapping on the living room floor.

For many, that reveal will be lit-up in the form of terabytes and simulation, as referenced in many of this year’s Letters to Santa printed in this newspaper.

Yet for some, Santa’s main reveal will be in the form of bicycles supplied by bicycle lover VJ Valente, as talked about on the front page.

And here’s to hoping toys like these – ones shiny, wheeled and real, signifying all their freedom from the magnetization of digital games – never-ever fade from the wish lists of anyone.

Happy Christmas Day, to the kid in all of us.

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