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Holiday Guide Feature

The Gifts That Count

The presents that have stayed in our writers' thoughts

By Raymond Cummings, Lauren Bender, Charles Cohen, Alex Epstein and John Barry | Posted 11/18/2009

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By Lauren Bender

Deanna Staffo

The Crayola Caddy™: a spinning, shiny, expertly-organized kit in that recognizable branded shade of sunflower yellow; delighting perfectionist 80s kids everywhere with the clean lines of its tempera paint cubbies and watercolor tray; entertaining them for hours in club basements and church preschools as any rogue crayons begged to be straightened out into appropriate ROY G BIV spectrum order.

I received one for Christmas--I was probably five or six--and have a single memory of it: I am sitting alone at the kiddie table in our rancher basement, slowly turning the Caddy on its swivel base, salivating at the infallible construction. The only noise other than the tiny click click click of the spin is my munching guinea pig, Softie, in the corner. (God rest her soul.) I never remove a thing from its right place; no supply is ever even opened, dulled, or mixed. The built-in pencil sharpener remains as bright and sharp as the day it left the factory in Bethlehem, Pa., or Mexico City. My mother calls to me for dinner and I stand, hands out in a just wait there motion toward my beloved Caddy; I walk quietly across the shag orange carpet to the stairs; I check on the Caddy, I step up; I check again.

That I never used my Crayola Caddy in any outward way must have baffled my parents. Here I was, their crafty daughter, essentially twirling her creative thumbs instead of employing what was possibly the most awesome kit ever created. But my admiration for the Caddy's inherent organization--and envy for my own internal version of the same--to this day make it one of the most important gifts I've ever received. As an adult, I can't keep a calendar, I lock my keys in my car at least once a month, and I don't even like to match my socks, yet I surround myself with bins and drawers of every art supply known to mankind.

Part of my job is teaching an arts-and-crafts social-skills group to kids with special needs, and they love rifling through boxes of markers and stickers and glitter glue as much as I do. The product is secondary--there is a world inside a googly eye to be appreciated. I'd be lying if I said I didn't derive a certain joy from the smell of vinyl packaging being opened, and the sight of tiny responsible hands returning pom-poms to their respective compartments. I need it all around me, all in its right place, to remind me of who I am--somebody who likes kits, and kid stuff, and some semblance of control to go click click click.

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Holiday Guide Feature archives

More Stories

Stuffed (11/18/2009)
The 2009 City Paper Holiday Guide

The Wish List (11/18/2009)
Gifts we wish we could afford

Present Tense (11/19/2008)
City Paper's 2008 Holiday Guide

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