I was greeted by a surprise in my mailbox this morning. A tiny rush of adrenaline flowed through my veins as I spotted this unexpected little parcel. Who wouldn’t be pleased to discover something other than bills and junk mail crammed in the post box? Unfortunately, my smile vaporized with disappointment as I tore open the bundle. In my mad rush to uncover my treasure, I had failed to notice that the gift giver was RC2 Corporation – the makers of Thomas & Friends wooden train sets. I looked down in disgust at “Salty” the diesel engine smiling blankly back at me.
Our family was affected by the Thomas & Friends June recall relating to lead paint. Within ten minutes of hearing the news, I had gathered the contaminated toys and tightly packaged them up for return to the manufacturer. I resisted an intense urge to hurl our entire set out the window. My rational side suppressed this desire. Thankfully we only own a twenty five-piece figure eight set. Despite my disgust and outrage over the matter, I’ve allowed Chi-Chi to continue playing with his track. I’ll admit that it promotes quiet, independent and imaginative play that I certainly welcome. My conscience, however, vowed to no longer support “Thomas” and his friends. The promised replacement parts would not be welcome in our home.
With smoke fuming from my ears, I began my search for substitute railcars that would live up to my safety and ethical standards. I stumbled upon a wonderful little company that impressed me with its philosophies and business practices. The Whittle Shortline Railroad is a small, family-owned business that handcrafts beautiful wooden train sets (www.woodentrain.com). All of their toys are handmade from reforested birch hardwood and finished in child-safe paints and sealers. Although Whittle Shortline Railroad is a US company, they do ship to Canada at reasonable rates. Since the toys are crafted in North America, they are free of duty charges. I was delighted to discover they carry adorable railcar lines that appeal to their friendly neighbors up North! Chi-Chi and Muffy will be thrilled to discover a few charming “Canadian National” and “Canadian Pacific” railcars under the Christmas tree this year.
As for my friend “Thomas”, I suppose I should only be polite and send a note of appreciation for my gift. The card will likely read, “Thanks, but no thanks!”