It wasn’t much, but it’s all we had.

Sarah Simpson Column: When picks are slim, almost any toy will do

Remember a while back I was telling you about visiting my grandfather’s house with my mom and sister and about my grandpa’s pet robin? Truth be told, the best part of going to his house was when he let us pick a carrot from the little garden that ran alongside the garage of his bungalow. Like my mom, he had a green thumb. (It must skip a generation every couple generations.)

That was my Grandpa Murray. He married my grandmother and then after she died, he married her sister.

I’m not one to judge. It seemed to work out.

Anyway, after she died too, we visited his house quite frequently. It was a time in life when children were to be seen and not heard and when grownups expected them to, by and large, sit quietly and play with whatever they were told to play within while the adults visited.

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In this case, we had two items with which to entertain ourselves. The first was a tennis ball. It was an indoor ball though so we couldn’t really throw it or anything lest we break any of the grandparent knickknacks.

Also, tucked away in the same kitchen closet that held his hot water tank, there was a large Ziploc-like bag with plastic white handles that snapped together to seal in its contents. Inside the bag were some type of felts and some themed colouring pages that I can’t recollect. I might date myself here — but they likely featured the Smurfs or Care Bears or Transformers or something to that effect. Who knows what else was in the bag. I can’t remember. It was all we had and, man, we were excited when it was offered. It didn’t matter that every single page was ripped or already half coloured on — it gave us something to do and we were grateful.

I was reminded of those colouring kits when I was at the doctor’s office with my kids last Friday. Our eldest had become ill overnight and we wanted to have him checked out before the weekend began in case things got worse.

Given I was working that day and it was my husband’s day off, I told them I’d meet them there if I could get away from work. I could and so I did.

When I arrived in the otherwise empty waiting room, I came upon them doing what all parents dread at the doctor’s office — playing with the “doctor’s office toys.” In this case it was one of those move-the-wooden-blocks-around-the-wire things that are likely meant for younger kids but alas, any port in a storm when you’re a bored kid expected to behave.

“Keep your hands out of your mouth… and nose,” I said to the kid that wasn’t sick. OK, and then to the one that was sick too. It’s bad enough kids have to touch stuff that every other sick child has come in and played with, but why must they always suck their thumb or pick their nose immediately after?

We got into the examination room and it was a whole new adventure with a new basket of old, incomplete, broken but glorious toys to explore and explore it they did. You’d never guess that a basket of well used random bits of somebody’s old collection would be such a hit.

“Don’t put your hands in your sister’s mouth, please,” I found myself having to say.

Now I don’t think for a second that the lovely staff at the office don’t wash those toys on occasion but given the very nature of a good number of the trips kids take to that office, my guess is it’s hard to keep those things germ-free. It’s just the nature of the beast.

My son will be fine. He’ll get over the malady that brought us in. Only time will tell, though, if he — or his sister — becomes plagued by the illness of the dreaded “doctor’s office toys”.

But was it worth the moment of peace? Absolutely.

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