I was barely awake Friday morning, sitting at my breakfast table, slurping coffee, skimming the newspaper and taking a bit of nourishment, with one eye on the television news. I almost choked on my Wheaties over one particular story.
Folks were camping out in front of a toy store - or maybe it was a Wal-Mart or Target - but the point is, they were camping out in front of a store to buy the new Sony PlayStation3 for $600 a pop.
There are a lot of things in my life that I have said I would never do - and I have wound up doing most of them - but I would never, ever, ever camp out all night to pay $600 for a toy that will be available in unlimited supply for two-thirds the price in a few short months.
Or would I?
Seeing the PlayStation-mania set me to thinking - always a dangerous proposition for me - about other Christmases and other must-have toys. I never camped out to buy one, mind you, but I have taken rather extreme measures to make sure that Santa wouldn't disappoint on Christmas morning.
Remember when Xavier Roberts first gave birth to the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon. A delightful idea! Hand-sewn dolls that were not sold, but "adopted," right out of Babyland General Hospital up in Cleveland. Georgia, not Ohio.
The Cabbage Patch craze coincided with the infancy of our first child, Jamie Leigh, and one Christmas I decided that she just had to have an original model Cabbage Patch Kid, complete with Xavier Roberts' autograph on his or her round pink bottom.
Adopting a real child might have been easier. We finally found a Cabbage Patch mother who was willing to allow us to adopt her doll, on the black market, for a rather stiff fee.
I wish I could tell you that the doll brought love and joy to our home and that it was worth every penny we paid for it. However, the video evidence shows that on that particular Christmas morning, our darling little daughter paid much more attention to the wrapping paper and boxes scattered about our little living room than she did the toys under the tree.
You'd think that we would have learned a lesson from that experience, but we didn't. Not even close, y'all.
I have scoured the metro markets for toys as diverse as Beanie Babies, My Little Pony accessories and something called Pokemon cards. Teddy Ruxpin sent me into a tizzy one year, and I almost wore out a set of tires driving all over north Georgia searching for a Tickle Me Elmo during another not-so-merry Christmas shopping season.
One of the biggest challenges I ever faced was finding a Power Ranger doll for my son, Jackson. I just hadn't been paying attention that year and didn't find out until a few days before Christmas that the Power Ranger action figure was the must-have toy of the year.
The only ones available were the girls, and I wasn't about to warp my 7-year-old son's development by putting a pink Power Ranger under our Christmas tree. Did you ever see that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie "Jingle All the Way?" It was really about my efforts to find a suitable doll - er, action figure, for my son.
He got a red one, by the way, and don't ask what I had to do to get it.
Don't even get me started on the stupid Furby my kids just had to have one year. Our cousin, Kris, who was a grown woman and old enough to know better, saved the day on that one by getting into an online bidding war with an Alabama grandmother. Kris won but has never revealed the winning bid.
Were the kids appreciative? For about 10 minutes they were, and then they found out that Furby was as annoying as he was expensive. He was last seen collecting dust in a corner of our attic.
But the PlayStation 3, I am sure, is different. It is the game console for the ages. Let's face it. This isn't "Pong" we are talking about here, and what price is too high for a child's happiness?
Well, if you want the answer to that question, go to eBay. Most of the people interviewed in line weren't there to make a child's eyes light up on Dec. 25. They were taking part in the great American free enterprise system and intended to sell their game systems for triple the retail price - or maybe more. One young woman was hoping to finance a trip to Italy for herself and her fiance.
That's capitalism at its very best!
And if you wanted to buy one of the new systems but couldn't camp out all night because you had to do something else - like go to work Friday morning - well, I can't help you at all. But I can let go of a Furby, a Tickle Me Elmo, or a red Power Ranger for a reasonable price.
Forget the Cabbage Patch Kid doll, though. There are some things money won't buy.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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