When my daughter was very young, and deep in the bowels of autism (the screaming sixteen hours a day kind of autism), there was only one thing that brought her peace: Disney’s Aladdin. Over and over again, Robin Williams to the rescue, and the screaming stopped or at least went on pause for a while. She would even occasionally smile. It was the only thing that worked. She didn’t want to be touched, couldn’t be comforted by us and, while it was heartbreaking, Aladdin it was. We would rewind it (back in the good old VHS days) to her favorite starting spot and then wait to hear when it was close to the end so we could grab quickly, stick it in the VHS rewinder (because that was quicker than the VCR), and repeat the process all over again. We were held prisoner to this amazing film. We could repeat every line, sing every song, and would pay good money to put on anything, anything other than Aladdin. But when it’s your child who can no longer speak, can’t communicate, and is constant turmoil . . . you do anything to help them. And this anything was Aladdin. Again and again. Anything for a glimpse of that child we had before.
And then it happened.
I learned about the damn Disney vault. In case you aren’t familiar with this process (clearly designed by the devil), it goes something like this: Every so many years Disney puts out a movie. Then, because they are cruel to parents like myself, they stop selling x movie and it goes back into “the vault” — the vault being this imaginary place where film is held just long enough to make us crazy hunting every thriftshop, pawnshop, and garage sale. Then poof — it’s back! Long after we need it. It’s a form of torture in some countries. Of course you can imagine that the way I learned about this horrid system is by having a child whose one and only Aladdin died on us. Yes, the VCR ate it. And panic ensued. The screaming inconsolable child needed her Aladdin, and it was stuck in the damn vault. (Dear Disney, there needs to be a special-case scenario to unlock said vault in case of special-needs children who desperately need their Aladdin.)
So this started us on the Great Gift Scramble. The quest to find the impossible. And we scoured the country looking for the quickest way to make this happen. Thankfully in desperation after hunting everywhere, I discovered that my best friend had a copy and was kind enough to understand that I might kill anyone who wouldn’t hand it over. (Thanks, Stan!) And my child soon found her happy ever after, or at least found something that made her smile. All was right in the world. Or so I thought.
As my child got older, and we started down the recovery path, we found a new version of the game. It was the Birthday/Christmas Scramble. In this version it is the “create a gift” something that doesn’t exist: the dinosaur that talks and is pink polka dotted; the rocket ship that shoots hearts when it blasts off; the doll that isn’t really a doll but kind of looks like a doll but wears a cowboy hat and drives a motorcycle and has a pet chipmunk. (Clearly we were gaining imagination.)
At first it was confusing. I wasn’t sure if she was just screwing with me, or I wasn’t quite understanding, or I was really just old and out of the commercial-advertising-directed-at-our-children loop. I worried this was a “lost in translation” thing as we were gaining speech. Whatever the case, I hunted. I searched high and low for these items that didn’t exist. And then I gave up, frustrated, exhausted, and feeling like a crazy parent asking about wacky toys that only exist in her head . . . I eventually figured out that I could buy a talking dinosaur and paint it pink polka dotted. So this uncreative Momma, who is a disaster at crafting, became one heck of an inventive parent. And we survived. She got her most bizzare wishes, and I began to fear the words “So what would you like for . . . ?”
But wait, those of you with kids who have very specific interests (so common in this autism world), there is a third, newer version of the scramble. It’s geared to those who have children who find an interest in the old, or unique, or the sold-out. My daughter is definitely now in the “unique” category. She is obsessed with classic Hollywood, which is a fairly wide range, and that’s great, but she adds a twist (just to mess with me I’m sure). Her request last year wasn’t just something classic Hollywood, it was a famous-movie-star nutcracker. Because nutcrackers can’t be just toy-soldier-looking ones, she wanted a Humphrey Bogart or Charlie Chaplin nutcracker . . . you know all the stores on every corner that sell this right? (Just a hint if anyone else finds this oddity on their list: Elvis nutcrackers do exist, and that worked. Thanks, Karen!)
I will say, though, that it may be easier than those who are on the hunt for something like Blue’s Clues or Little Einsteins (sorry, Lisa!) or that stupid Pie Face! game (this one I could get inventive with). Those vanished to the world of older interests are bound to do the eBay, Amazon “not quite new,” beg friends, and hunt anywhere for what remains of the much-coveted, one-and only thing that will make little Jimmy happy. I know, I get it, see Aladdin. You will pay $67 plus shipping for the item that once was found in every home and purchased for a mere $5.99. It’s a horrible feeling to know you are spending absurd amounts of time or money on a gift, and yet everyone else who has a child like yours totally gets it. I repeat: you will do anything for them. Besides they deserve this tiny bit of happy. And while these items may be the Loch Ness Monster of gifts, we will find them.
So this year, as we lace up our boots and head out to the famous-movie-star-nutcracker stores and hand over our life savings all in hopes of that one special thing, just remember in the words of Genie . . .
I’m free. I’m free. Quick. Quick. Wish for something outrageous. Say, ‘I, I want the Nile.’ Wish for the Nile. Try that!
P.S. Santa, I could use some help finding toe socks that aren’t knee high, the Beaker plush doll from the Muppets, the Lego Palace Cinema that isn’t $150, and the Nile.
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Try ebay for the socks and Beaker. I’ve seen both there. (My daughter’s nickname is Beaker, always hunting for more Beaker stuff here too!)