Traverse City Record-Eagle


December 22, 2013

Nathan Payne: A 'batteries not included' Christmas


Despite my efforts, my search came up empty and landed me on a second search mission the next morning.

Surrounded by walls of brightly-colored boxes, filled with toys covered with flashing lights and speakers, I had flashbacks of my mom glancing at me during a recent Thanksgiving gathering. She uttered a very important message while I tried to convince my sons it isn’t a good idea to push trucks down a staircase toward unsuspecting bystanders.

“You deserve them,” she said with a somewhat sinister grin.

Unfortunately, I think it was as much a warning as it was a statement.

I have no doubt our foray to two grandparents’ homes next week will include plenty of the most obnoxious noisemakers to hit shelves this century.

And they’ll probably be followed by a chorus electronic chirps and whirs while James, 2, realizes he can conduct the screeches like a maestro by poking buttons continuously.

It struck me that toy manufacturers must be raking in the dough if they can afford to throw in the pack of a dozen lithium batteries it takes to power a “Matchbox Smoky” or a “Chompin Mike the Mower.”

Standing in an aisle stacked high with button-covered Tonka trucks, I began to lose my composure. The wall of electronic, no-imagination-needed monstrosities was nearly enough to land me curled in the fetal position on the floor of the store.

Then I found them two of the oldest of old-fashioned metal tractors. They come complete with realistic articulating axles and moving scoop buckets. They’re my Christmas present to myself.

And no batteries needed.

Reach Record-Eagle features editor Nathan Payne at

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