At this time of year most children have a favorite toy that they want Santa to bring on Christmas Eve. Some of those toys will only be played with for a day or even just and hour or two and never see the light of day until being sold at mom and dad’s next garage sale. Other toys will become a cherished favorite to provide hours of pleasure and memories for years to come. As each child grows up one toy above all others will become their favorite. For some it may be a certain doll, a toy six gun and holster, or that first two-wheel bicycle. The memory of that favorite toy will stay with a person well into adulthood and provide many fond memories.

My favorite toy of all time wasn’t actually a toy at all. It was a humongous cardboard box that a neighbor’s new refrigerator came in. As a boy of seven growing up with few toys I was left to improvise for my own entertainment. That meant using my imagination and when I saw that gigantic box sitting outside my neighbor’s house I immediately saw many possibilities for it and knew I just had to have it and was delighted when my neighbor gave it to me.

That box was quite a lot bigger than me and as I struggled to drag it home I started forming plans for my great find. The fist thing I did was to turn it into a fort. A fort that I would defend against marauding pirates. Using my pocket knife I cut a flap in one side where I could fire salvos from my imaginary canon at those pesky pirates; no way they were going to conquer Ft. Ken. When the other kids in the neighborhood saw how much fun I was having in my fort it quickly became a clubhouse for all the neighbor kids. For awhile I was the most popular kid in the neighborhood. I was the club president naturally since it was my clubhouse. I would pass judgment on prospective members, no one was admitted without my say-so. I was also the keeper of the secret password which each member had to say before being admitted to the clubhouse.

But most of all this spacious brown mansion was my refuge and my sanctuary where I could get away from what at that time was not a pleasant world for me. When alone in the confines of my treasured abode I was at peace. Nothing in the outside world could bother me. Even though my sanctuary was made of compressed paper I was safe inside.

The power of a child’s imagination can turn the most ordinary things into things of pleasure. A simple stick becomes a sword to banish evil knights. A piece of clothes line becomes a lariat to herd little doggies. Sometimes less really does become more when our imaginations are set free to explore possibilities. Today’s toys with few exceptions offer children a much of a chance to use their imagination. They stare blankly into video screens oblivious to the world around them. Not using their imaginations to take them to wondrous places to explore or take them on exciting adventures.

I believe that the key to happiness and personal fulfillment comes from within and not from material objects. That is why I always tried to provide puzzles, books, arts and crafts for first my daughter and then my grandchildren. If I could I would give my grandchildren a similar box this Christmas but I am sure my family would have me committed. But, if my grandchildren would ever have a toy that wasn’t really a toy which gave them the chance to explore and expand their imaginations like I did; maybe, just maybe they too might look back some sixty years later and fondly remember their favorite toy that wasn’t really a toy at all.