I Hate Waiting my Turn to Play with the Presents I Bought for my Nieces and Nephews

My family and I celebrated Chanukah (and Hanukkah) at my dad’s last weekend. The last remaining elder of my immediate family, he and his wife worked tirelessly to keep our traditions and unity alive by making a beautiful brunch decorated with the entire dreidel section from HomeSense. My dad also makes the best latkes from grated sweet potatoes, rendering them not only edible-unlike most other latkes-but totally delicious. I’m hoping he’ll tackle gefilte fish next.

Given my love of all things vintage, I was really into retro presents this year, like slinkies and snoopy sno-cone machines. I was most excited, though, about the Magic-8-Ball I got for my nieces, who are seven and five. The toy hasn’t changed one bit: its screen is still as hazy as ever, it still only shows an answer one out of every five times you use it, and the answers still seem to have been written by someone for whom English is a second language.

Not knowing what it was, the two girls weren’t so excited about it at first but when I explained to them that the Ball can answer any question with total, 100% accuracy, they were intrigued. I showed them how to use it.

“You hold the Ball and ask it a question,” I explained, “For instance, is Auntie Wendy the funnest Aunt ever? Then you turn it over for the answer.”

I flipped over the Ball so they could read the blue triangle: “It is certain.”

“See!?” I told them, “The Ball is all knowing.”

“How does it work?” they asked.

“It’s magic.”

They nodded reverentially.

The older one was ready to test it out. Holding the ball in between her two little hands she closed her eyes and asked: “Does my daddy love my mommy?”

She turned it over excitedly: “My sources say no.”

She looked up at me in horror.

“Well don’t ask something like that!” I recovered, “You’re supposed to ask it  important questions, like, did Auntie Wendy eat too many cookies? Or..” I grabbed the ball. “Does my niece have a booooyfriend!?” I teased in a sing-songy voice.

“Yes, I do,” said my niece, matter-of-factly. “His name’s Noah. He’s really nice.”

The younger one nodded in confirmation. I could feel my funnest aunt status quickly slipping away.

“Who wants more cookies!?” I asked.

Status reinstated.

Eating between them, I felt an uneasiness. It was an icky feeling that felt different from the one I felt from eating all of my dad’s wife’s amazing Christmas cookies. The Magic-8-Ball obviously isn’t right, right? I mean, maybe it was when I was seven, but it’s not accurate any more. It doesn’t really have magical powers of prediction. It doesn’t, does it?

I leaned over to my brother. “Everything’s good with you and your wife, right? You guys still love each other and everything?”

“Yes,” he said, amused, “We still love each other. And everything.”

Obviously. I felt so silly. How old was I? Did I honestly think that this oversized Ball, made up of plastic, liquid and dye, operated on something other than mechanics and chance? That it really was clairvoyant? Come on! What’s wrong with me!? That’s so ridiculous. It’s not like it’s a ouija board.

What were some of your favourite childhood toys?