Off the Press

December 11, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Elusive Christmas wish ignites holiday meltdown

Warren Kagarise
Press reporter

Christmastime means basic cable is awash in the holiday staples I remember from childhood — animated Whos in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” a stop-motion Santa Claus in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and, above all else, BB-gun-seeking Ralphie Parker in “A Christmas Story.”

In 1990, at age 6, I followed Ralphie’s lead and trimmed my Christmas list down to a single wish.

That November, I dutifully wrote Santa Claus a letter outlining my desire for a Patch Up Pet, nowadays a long-forgotten toy. I knew if I wanted to score such a hot item, I needed to bypass my parents and appeal directly to the big man.

Santa wrote back. In hindsight, that should have been a big indicator of trouble.

Despite much searching by the elves, he wrote, there were no Patch Up Pets to be had, not at the North Pole, and especially not in Lorain, Ohio, where my parents and I then lived.

Though intrigued, I dismissed the Kris Kringle communiqué. Surely, Santa could craft a solution by the morning of Dec. 25.

Patch Up Pets have since been swallowed by obscurity. Google and eBay searches turn up spotty results — when they generate results at all.

To this day, my parents claim the toy was a product of my overactive imagination, but interviews with my contemporaries have allowed me to put together a fuzzy picture. A Patch Up Pet was essentially a Pound Puppy (another Christmas staple of my childhood), but this stuffed animal arrived with a medical bag filled with bandages, a thermometer and instructions to mend the ailing toy.

Finally, Christmas morning arrived, and I tore open my gifts — Legos, a globe, all serviceable but uninspiring.

My aunt hovered over the scene, 10 pounds of camcorder perched on her shoulder. What she recorded next was a meltdown embarrassing enough to make Honey Boo Boo blush.

The last gift was low and oblong. I eyed it suspiciously, and then moved in to strip away the paper.

It was Crossfire, The Rapid Fire Shoot Out Game, nowadays another long-forgotten toy.

“This is Crossfire!” I fumed. “I didn’t want Crossfire! I wanted a Patch Up Pet!”

“Get the letter!” my father demanded, and my mother rushed to retrieve Santa’s missive, which had been preserved just in case such a meltdown occurred.

“Santa brought this to the wrong house!” I continued, in a display of avarice to rival Michael Douglas’ performance in “Wall Street.” “He brought it to the wrong house!”

The recording stops shortly thereafter. I cannot remember how my parents defused the situation, though I imagine it involved a candy bribe.

Remarkably, I did not stop believing in Santa until after I turned 9. Somebody so susceptible to the fickle supply and demand of holiday gifting, I reasoned, had to be real.

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