I’ve always had a lot of toys. My mom said "sorry" with presents. I understood this at an early age and accepted it graciously. She said "I Love You" with presents. Presents stacked to the ceiling on birthdays. A town of boxes to maneuver through on Christmas. They were awesome, they were fun, they were love.
To this day, I collect toys. Some are games, some actually work the brain but lots of them just sit around, looking sweet. I keep these things in the bedroom, on shelves and in boxes. You don’t know how crazy I am when you walk into my house – until you see the bedroom.
(Okay, there’s a Hello Kitty toaster in the kitchen. But that’s your only hint.) Pink chandelier, pink Legos, pink Scrabble, Furbys, Tamagotchis, ceramic cupcakes, over-sized jewels and stuffed toys…
Sometimes I just sit in there and hug all of my things. GOD I LOVE STUFF. And there are probably over a dozen reasons why, from emotional attachments materialistically to symbolic explanations. Retail therapy is good for the soul – especially when you get it in the kids’ aisle.
Tonight I was Ebaying nostalgic toys (along with more modern versions – thankfully, we still have My Little Ponies and Ninja Turtles) and one item in particular triggered a powerful memory. The present was from 1985. I was four years old.
Lady Jane, my parents’ border collie named after the Stones song, was moping in usual form on her floor mattress. Mom was explaining that it was Time for me to say Goodbye. I addressed her, though I never bonded to her like I would to animals once I grew older, and I listened to Mom explain how she was going to be taken to a place where they would humanely cause her to not be alive anymore.
Just four years old and my mental camera was rolling. Dad would be staying home with me and I made out the reason that it was because he simply could not "do it". My mother would do the very hard part alone. The dynamics – my father’s love for Lady Jane, his weakness and my mother’s drive and responsibility – I felt it. I said goodbye. And I quickly became very sad.
Before she left, Mom pulled out a big present for me. The distraction was not a bad idea, as I ripped into the thing and immersed myself with Baby Bonnet’s School Of Dance. A large, plastic bonnet came up like a stage background and there were little rotating gears for your pony to sit on and twirl around. That quiet hour, alone with my thoughts, my dad quiet on the couch, I placed my energy into the pony stadium as if I were standing inside it, but I did not disappear – I was processing everything that had happened and was happening. I contemplated death.
Baby Bonnet’s School Of Death.
Happy and sad, I played away with tears in my eyes. My little pony had eyelashes and leg warmers. This pony was not from the movies I liked to watch over and over, but it was still pretty good. Definitely interesting. So was having to say goodbye to someone. I even understood that the toy was given to me to help me feel better. It definitely helped.
The toy would be abused and discarded a year or so later because I would not fully understand how important it was until much later. But the memory is there – and, thanks to Ebay, the toy is still out there, helping me to place a date on the event. It is not lost, nor is it only a memory. The toy is not far away.
And that’s comforting, to me.
When I had that toy, my parents were most like a team in my eyes. I had yet to peel apart the layers. Perhaps my parents, as well, had yet to develop so many. That was back before school, in those years with just my family, in a sea of bliss. Free time. Fancy, long night gowns. So much dreaming. And singing.
My sweet lady Jane,
when I see you again
Your servant am I,
and will humbly remain
Just heed this plea, my love.
On bended knees,
I pledge myself to Lady Jane.