DAY THREE of my search for Mighty Morphin Power Ranger toys, and I grow weary. Sneering clerks in three stores behave as though I've asked for gold bullion when I inquire whether they have these items in stock.
Driving home, I wonder whom to blame: retailers, manufacturers or the child who waited until November to articulate a need more profound than the need for food or water.
Every Christmas there is one plaything everyone desires and no one can get. Sort of like the Hope Diamond. I will persevere.
Day five: Missed by minutes the unpacking of a box of Mighty Morphin Power Ranger toys at the mall. Drat these column deadlines! All were swiftly purchased by parents and (I am convinced) scalpers. My quest is complicated by the fact that I have no idea what these toys look like, since I have not yet set eyes on one. I will buy first, look later.
Day seven: "If I don't get Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, I'll know there's no Santa Claus," says the 8-year-old as he plays with his spaghetti. Back to the mall tomorrow.
Day eight: I have a vivid dream in which the Princess of Wales and I are fighting over a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger in the aisles of (I think) Harrods. "He doesn't need this," I scream, "he'll be King someday."
Using her obsessively worked pectoral muscles to shove me backward, she replies, "It's not for Wills, it's for Harry." I am arrested by her security detail and taken to the Tower of London, where my son is waiting. "You didn't get them," he wails. I awaken in a cold sweat.
Day 11: I join a group of women chatting about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the aisle of a Toys "R" Us. Several liken this to the Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtle mania several years ago.
One woman recalls driving to Delaware to buy a Donatello.
The delivery truck arrives with Mighty Maxes, X-Men, Snaliens and Street Fighters, but no Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. One woman calls the driver a vulgar name. I buy an economy-size bag of Butterfingers and return home, disconsolate.
Day 12: At a cocktail party I meet a woman who personally participated in the Cabbage Patch riots of 1983, sustaining a black eye while unsuccessfully fighting for a pig-faced doll with brown braids.
She says her daughter is now 17 years old and wrote a senior English essay called "Shattered Dreams" on how she felt when she did not get a Cabbage Patch doll that Christmas. "She says that's how she knew there was no Santa Claus," the woman says. My husband asks in the cab why I am so sad. I say it's the holiday spirit.
Day 15: I briefly consider using my influence as a member of the media to acquire Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I muse aloud about requesting Power Rangers from the manufacturer to illustrate a story on the season's toys. My husband mentions that I have consistently refused to get tickets for opening day at Yankee Stadium under somewhat similar circumstances. Men.
Day 17: Preparations for the Christmas season continue apace. I am excoriated for not having a cookie cutter in the shape of Bart Simpson. Our oldest child pretends to believe in Santa Claus. His brother asks whether Santa ever runs out of toys.
"Hardly ever," he replies. "What about Mighty Morphin Power Rangers?" the younger asks. "If you want Power Rangers, he'll bring Power Rangers," his brother says. I send him upstairs to study for a spelling test.
Day 19: "It's a Wonderful Life" is on, and I imagine my life without Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It's better.
Day 20: The 8-year-old talks to me while I am taking a shower. "Do you know what I am going to do on Christmas morning?" he says. "What?" I shout from the shower. "I'm going to sit all day and play with my Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," he says. "What?" I shout. When I turn off the water I see that I have forgotten to rinse shampoo from my hair.
"Do you know what?" he says as soon as I have turned the water back on. "What?" I scream. "You are the best mom in the whole wide world."
Day 21: There is a shipment of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers arriving at the mall at 10 a.m., or at least that is what one of the sneering salesman was overheard to say. I will be there but I cannot stay long. Drat these column deadlines! How long does it take to drive to Delaware? I will persevere.
Anna Quindlen is a columnist for the New York Times.