This post was originally featured on the Retroist, but has been lost to the annals of time.
Growing up, nothing excited me more than the prospect of flipping through the annual Christmas toy catalogs, circling all the cool stuff I wanted. Pages and pages of glossy, glorious pictures of Power Wheels and the Crystal Castle, Barbie’s pink Corvette, Lady Lovely Locks dolls, and Rainbow Brite and her adorable Sprites. (I’d like to add my opinion that the toys of the 80s were some of the best toys on the market…but I could be a bit biased.)
Christmas of 1986 not only was I making my wish list for Christmas, but I was preparing for my 5th birthday coming up the following week. This added extra anticipation when searching through the catalogs (back then the major department stores would mail huge catalogs to you – Sears, JC Penny, etc. – these would come on top of the regular sale flyers for the holidays). Each of us (grandkids/cousins – I am an only child, which may make better sense of my toy selections) would grab a crayon of choice (the only thing that seemed to work on those glossy pages) and we’d circle the items we wanted, then fold the corner of the page to make it easier to find. Once our items were marked, we’d anxiously await the day when we tore into the colorful paper and bows to see just what we got! Popular toys of that year included Masters of the Universe, Cabbage Patch Kids, Teddy Ruxpin, and M.A.S.K, just to name a few…you can see where a kid would really be drooling over these catalogs!
I am sure it was very stressful for gift-buying adults back then – there was a lot riding on those toy catalogs! I had it down to a science (some may say it was more of a con) – I’d select a small number of items that just happened to be bigger things – Barbie Dream House, Crystal Castle, Power Wheels. But 1986…oh boy…that was the year I asked for Cricket the Talking Doll.
Cricket was a combination of hard plastic, soft cloth, and technological goodness all combined into one adorable two-foot-tall girl. She had silky blond locks swept up into pigtails with bouncing curls and bright blue eyes. Much like Teddy Ruxpin, Cricket’s claim to fame was a hidden compartment in her back which was a cassette player – you slipped the cassette into the compartment (and after adding several “C” and 9-volt batteries) Cricket came to life, talking and telling you stories. Out of the box, she came with a pink striped sweater, yellow undergarments, pleated mint green skirt, yellow socks, and little high-top sneakers with monogrammed laces.
Imagine my delight when I unwrapped the huge box for Christmas – I was beside myself!! I was so excited that I received this for Christmas – Santa (or my mom…how I came upon that discovery is another blog post all together) came through for me! We loaded her up with batteries, and I was good to go – we were inseparable friends. (See, only child = friends with talking toys.)
Things went swimmingly with Cricket – we were BFFs (she even said so herself!) and I know I took her as many places as I was allowed – bedtime included. This lasted all of a few weeks. EVERYONE wanted to play with Cricket…and eventually I grew extremely jealous. Jealous. Of a talking doll. It got so bad that I stopped playing with her all together. I abandoned my little friend, leaving her behind whenever I’d leave the house. I stopped brushing her hair, and left her little shoes untied. I don’t remember the fate of Cricket – I am sure she was donated to a loving family or sold off in a garage sale. At the time I didn’t much care – I just wanted my audience back.