From the age of 6 to the age of 9, it was all I could think about every Christmas. The Marx Navarone Playset was a replica of the mountain fortress from the movie The Guns Of Navarone, scaled to fit your standard green Army Men. As a kid, I had a full brigade of army men; sure, I also had a huge crate of Legos that I used to build towns and forts for them to battle over, I lived in houses with big backyards perfect for large-scale reenactments of the battles of Kursk, Iwo Jima, and Normandy, but it wasn’t the same. The Marx Navarone Playset had CANNONS. It had A WORKING ELEVATOR. IT HAD TANKS. AND IT HAD MORE ARMY MEN. Every year I asked Santa for it. Every year I was disappointed. As a kid, I never understood why Santa — and later, of course, my parents — refused to buy it for me.
Of course, now that I’m a parent, I totally get it. First, the thing had like 175 pieces — 6-year-old me would’ve lost 170 of those within a week, with the other five ending up cracked and broken. Second, the day after every one of those disappointing Christmases, I was back with my plastic troops, using my surroundings, my other toys, and above all my imagination to create my own Navarone mountain fortresses. And although no one gave much thought to such things back in the 70’s, I do worry about all those plastic toys taking up space in the local landfill.
The Marx Navarone Playset has weighed heavily on my mind over the past few weeks, thanks to my daughter’s own toy obsession. This year she wants nothing more than to find a Dora The Explorer Kitchen Playset under the tree on Christmas morning. She talks about it constantly, and flies into a mad frenzy every time she sees Dora on TV: “THE KITCHEN, DAD! THE KITCHEN!” We’re not quite sure how she latched on to this particular toy; she’s never been a huge fan of the Dora cartoon, and she’d actually had a hand-me-down wooden kitchen that she inherited from her older brother when he outgrew it — a kitchen that sat in a corner, collecting dust. I chalk it up to timing; at four, she’s all of a sudden become very interested in helping me when I cook dinner, and that Dora Kitchen Playset was probably the first one she’d seen in a store.
Regardless, I wrestled with the thought of buying her another piece of crap plastic toy that she’d probably be bored of in a month’s time. But kids don’t and can’t think like we do. She doesn’t understand carbon footprints and non-biodegradable materials, but she does understand disappointment. I figure she’s got 364 days to learn how to accept not getting everything she wants; after searching high and low for it (it’s one of the hot items this season, it seems) we picked one up for her. Besides, given that the Marx Navarone Playset is going for $229 on eBay, buying that Dora Kitchen Playset may turn out to be a good investment.