Seamus missed Cabbage Patch Kids.
He remembered how he must have helped make millions of them in the eighties, back when every kid would get up at the crack of dawn to look under the tree for the newest deliveries from Xavier Robert’s mythical cabbage patch. Or was it Babyland General Hospital? Seamus could never recall all the wondrous aspects of the Cabbage Patch mythos, although he remembered being quite fond of it. Those were the days when toys were made that opened a child’s imagination, toys that unlocked a certain something in a little boy’s eyes or a little girl’s heart that couldn’t truly be touched upon by anything else.
Those were the days indeed. Nowadays…Skylanders. Nothing but Skylanders.
Seamus grimaced as he picked up the small, unfinished figurine on the conveyor belt that slowly puttered past him. Even though he had followed the schematics perfectly so far, he still wasn't sure exactly what the Blitzen it was supposed to be. Some kind of blue…fuzzball. Holding a fish, or a bottle, or something? Seamus scoffed as he took a thin brush and began to paint what he tentatively assumed were its ears.
Ever since these plastic hellions went on the market, they'd been a pain in Seamus's jingly boots. Not only did he have to mold and paint the little buggers with ridiculous detail, he had to configure the base so that it would read right on that stupid light portal thing. One little bit out of place, and he'd wind up with a pay cut faster than you can say Wenceslas. And their construction wasn't even half of what was cheesing Seamus off. It was the entire point of Skylanders in the first place. Video games were bad enough as it is, but any game that you had to buy more toys in order to play the whole thing felt contrived to him. No one made toys and games for the kids anymore, all they cared about was-
Seamus's train of thought and workflow halted as he heard a familiar 'k-thunk'. He looked down from the figurine and saw an envelope sitting in his mail tray below the conveyor belt. Finally, an excuse to put the damn thing away, thought Seamus as he casually tossed the toy on his workbench, hit the safety turn-off switch on the belt, and picked up the freshly-mailed missive. He peeled off the warm, waxy seal, emblazoned with the familiar initials that signified it being from Big, Red, and Jolly himself. How he found the time to write every piece of mail that went in and out of the workshop was beyond Seamus. Well, it was probably the same way he managed to stop at a gazillion chimneys in one night with nothing but a wooden sled and eight flying…oh no.
No no no. It couldn't be. It…they must have changed the color coding. Maybe scarlet-colored paper now meant that Rudolph was hosting a talent show, instead of…what it usually meant. Seamus's hands trembled as he slowly unfolded and read the letter, wishing with all of his might that it wasn't going to be what he thought it was. Please, please, please…
Dear Mr. Wintertoes,
It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that young Daniel Greene (Child 34506 on your notice board) will not be receiving a toy from Santa's Workshop for Christmas this year. As of 7:32 this past evening, Master Greene has ceased being of the mindset that a fat man wearing a robe travels down his narrow chimney once a year to give him presents and spread holiday cheer. Can't say I blame him.
I'm aware this is the first time you've received a Belief Termination Notice, but I'm certain you've heard of them from your fellow elves. I am so, so sorry that you had to receive your first this close to Christmastime. This, of course, means that you have to take the next steps with all due haste. A letter will have to be sent to Mr. and Mrs. Greene, explaining to them that they will have to purchase Daniel's presents on their own from now on. I can only hope a toy will still be in store under the poor boy's tree this year. Following that, all that remains is removing his card from your notice board, and ceasing work on any toys that were to be delivered to him.
Again, I am deeply sorry to have to break this news to you. It seems I have to write more of these with every passing holiday season. But you cannot let this dampen your spirit in excess, Mr. Wintertoes. Think of the words of our good friend Francis Church, and take heart: "Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world."
Our work is lonely up here in the north, Seamus. But our magic spreads far beyond this snowy island, and will continue to make glad the heart of childhood for many a year.
Be good (for goodness's sake),
The words on the paper almost seemed to shake as Seamus tried to will them to change into something other than what they already were. But no matter how fervently his eyes darted across the letter, the message refused to say anything else. He watched himself slowly fold it in half and slip it back into the envelope, his hands slow and heavy. His eyes closed, as hollow feelings tumbled around in his head and stomach with dull, somber thuds, failing to sort themselves into coherent thoughts.
After what seemed like an eternity, Seamus opened his eyes again, and saw the workshop in all its impossible glory.
Given the amount of work that had be done each day leading up to December, he hardly ever looked up from the toys that flew past his converyor belt to be assembled. On the rare occasion that he did, it would only be to wipe his brow and fix his pointy hat, and not to truly look at the magical, immeasurable place in which he worked. Tall, strong walls of frosted gingerbread were covered in red-and-white striped machinery like peppermint ivy. Similarly-colored scaffolding stretched along below the ceiling, along which elves were walking along with large plastic parts and riding carts carrying brightly wrapped presents. Sloped windows let in an otherwordly blue light, and a view of light snow falling outdoors. Truly, a more magical place had never existed.
Seamus gave an overwhelmed sigh. If only the kids could really see. If only they didn't have to just believe. Why did this most wondrous of places have to remain 'unseen and unseeable'? Sure, it would mean a lot more work for him and the other elves, but think of the enchantment in a child's eyes-no, ANYONE's eyes-upon being met with such a miracle?
Finding no answers, Seamus's eyes drifted to the erstwhile Skylander on his workbench. All of a sudden, its half-toothed smile seemed warmer, cheerier. It almost carried that same joy as a piece of string stitched onto the face of a Cabbage Patch Kid from the glory days. Too late, its new destiny had bestowed upon on it some of that magic that Seamus saw in the legendary toys that made kids smile year after year.
Seamus straightened his suspenders and turned on his conveyor belt again. Surely, anything made in this astounding workshop had to carry some of that magic in it, however small. Not only that, but the magic of a new toy was ageless. If the workshop was ever discovered, he supposed, its magic would be analyzed and dissected until it wasn't really magic at all. But he had never stopped to think about what it was that made toys worth playing with, over and over again.
Just because he didn't know, though, doesn't mean he needed to. The magic was still there, real and abiding. It was always there.