Happy Meal Toys

Before the holidays began, I spoke with my 5-year-old grandson on the telephone.  He and his two little brothers live in Knoxville, Tenn.  I told him we would meet him in Washington, D.C. at his aunt house for the Thanksgiving holidays. He was so excited about being able to see us.  He said, “Oh, Nana, will you be bringing me “happy meal” toys?” It seems that I have become the grandparent who gives him the little things in life.

Before the holidays began, I spoke with my 5-year-old grandson on the telephone.  He and his two little brothers live in Knoxville, Tenn.  I told him we would meet him in Washington, D.C. at his aunt house for the Thanksgiving holidays. He was so excited about being able to see us.  He said, "Oh, Nana, will you be bringing me...When our youngest son was little, his favorite toys were happy meal toys.  We would collect them when we ate at the different fast food restaurants. He lined his bookshelves and windowsills with them. Often I would remove them out of his hands at night when he fell asleep. As he got older he was embarrassed to ask for the children’s meal so I would order the happy meal and give him the toys for his collection. Even though he eventually abandoned the idea of collecting happy meal toys, I continued to pass them on to his children. 

When I visit them, I put the toys in different parts of my suitcase so that each day that I am there, they are allowed to search for one toy to play with. These little toys seem to be a bigger treat than any other big or expensive gift that I could bring them. Without really trying, I guess I have created a little tradition between us.  They know they can always find a happy meal toy stuck somewhere in their Nana’s luggage.

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Whether it is a happy meal toy, the smell of warm cookies or giving a favorite book to a child, children need connection with their extended families. Many children grow up around the corner from grandparents or other extended family such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. They enjoy regular visits, like Sunday dinners, special outings, or even after school care. I really envy that. These relationships are important and special in the life of a child; however, not all children have such intimate contact with loved ones on a regular basis. 

In today’s society, families, like ours, are often spread across the country or even the globe. Maintaining long distance family ties requires some effort, but is well worth it.  The good thing is, never in the history of humankind has it been easier for us to keep in touch with one another. We are fortunate to live in a time that offers many means of communication and allows us to travel great distances quickly. 

Because I did not have grandparents and was not able to give my children the gift of two people who were a gentler version of their parents, I work at creating memories and building strong bonds with our grandchildren. With letters, email, cheaper cell phone rates, faxes, and computers we are able to communicate with our children and grandchildren almost daily. 

When I occasionally feel sorry for myself, my daughter will remind me that she doesn’t feel far away from us or her brothers because we continue to share our everyday lives together. I always thought that I would be close enough for our children to just drop by or visit them whenever I wanted, but it didn’t turn out that way. That’s OK though.  As I sit on the floor playing with my grandchildren, I am thankful that our family can make memories with something as small as happy meal toys.

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Deana Landers
Author for Morningcoffeebeans.com

Deana Landers has had many roles in life — Pastor’s Wife , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer and Motivational Speaker ... more