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Dawson is the 4-year-old daughter of a co-worker of mine. From time to time, she comes by the office for a little visit.
If there is a perfect age for a child, I think it would be 4. The magical innocence of a child is at its peak. They laugh hysterically at adult attempts at silliness and are easily content with a cookie and a glass of milk.
The other day, Dawson was thumbing through a Christmas toy catalog from one of the big box retailers. She was spellbound as she flipped from page to page.
In my mind, I turned back the clock about 40 years.
Long before the Internet and myriad cable channels aimed at kids, there was "The Wish Book."
It was the annual Christmas catalog of Sears, Roebuck & Co. I grew up calling it by the full name of Sears-Roebuck. Some folks placed an "and" between the two names.
There would be an ad in the paper telling us that The Wish Book was now available. They were stacked high and folks were grabbing them left and right.
We didn't fight over the book, because we knew Santa was watching. We didn't want the big fellow looking down through his big screen, or however he does it, and see us fighting over the very book that had the stuff we wanted him to bring us in just a few short weeks.
Like many little brothers, I am told that I tried to look on with my big brother and if he indicated he wanted something, I echoed that I wanted it, too.
Eventually, he would let out a mournful sounding "Ma-ma," seeking relief from his annoying younger sibling.
The book had all the toys — big ones, little ones and all points in between. The newest cars, trucks, BB guns and building sets were on its pages.
My mother was a big fan of the space program and was convinced that her boys should know more about it, so she saw to it that Santa brought us a space helmet one year. The next year, my brother got a chemistry set. There is a picture somewhere of my brother wearing his space helmet and riding a rocking horse. It's a combo that stands out in your mind.
Within a few days, the book was dog-eared and marked with a pencil, not a pen. If we got everything that we had circled, Santa would have been stopped at the state line for having an overweight sleigh.
We didn't become astronauts or chemists or cowboys, but that great old book sure made us dream and think and laugh.
If you're reading this online, you may think the printed word is old, outdated and passé. While you can mark favorite pages on a computer, you can't make them dog-eared and spill milk on them. Well, you can, but they won't work for long.
My little friend, Dawson, took me back for a moment to a much simpler time and rekindled a little bit of Christmas magic that I thought was long gone.
Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column runs every week in Sunday Life.