A Girl and Her Toys

For years, I have avoided giving away my favorite childhood toys. I allowed them to gather dust in my mothers backroom, stowed away and yet accessible for her friends who visited with children, or for her grandchildren, when they visited. It is true that these toys were put to good use whenever young persons belonging to me or to others were guests in our house. But this is not the reason they remain in our possession.

As long as my mother lived in that big old house where it was really no bother to store them, I could avoid the inevitable: the task that all my peers must have executed years ago, the disbursement of their personal childhood belongings, including their favorite toys. Letting go of these toys is letting go of my childhood.

I collected Fisher Price toys. Even in junior high school. I owned the house, the school, the airport, the A-frame, the houseboat, the camper, the playground set, the village and the castle. The boys across the street owned the barn and the garage, and the village, which coupled with mine, made for a metropolis on those occasions when we held what we called a Fisher Price reunion, when we set up every toy we owned in my living room, creating a veritable city of Fisher Price life.

For years after I knew there was no Santa Claus, I pretended to believe so that each year I could request the latest Fisher Price model. I amassed the larger and more complex toys during those years, playing with them in private, without informing my school friends. I wasn’t playing. I was collecting. Fuzzy line, that.

These toys came in handy. My brother’s children enjoyed them, and my own girls certainly put them to good use. We’d barely arrive at my mother’s house before the girls would beg me to bring out the Fisher Price toys. Buddy-roo especially could recall the details of each one, and would speak about them long after we’d returned from our visit. She still asks for them. She misses Grammy; she says so carefully, knowing that my grief is still close the surface. It doesn’t inhibit her from asking: What’s happening to all those toys? They were yours weren’t they? Why don’t you bring them here?

I know I ought to donate them to a children’s toy-drive or to a daycare center or a needy family. Or give them to the recycling: they are toys that no longer pass the safety test, though aesthetically and functionally they are far superior to what Fisher Price is compelled to manufacture today with all the safety constraints. I should do something, I should let them go.

Except giving them away feels too harsh. I have lost enough this year. Losing your mother is surprising – you think okay I can handle this, I’m prepared, but you cannot because you had no idea how integrated she was into everything in your life; you had no idea how it would floor you and how lost you would be without that person to tether you, even if by now, in your forties, it was a quiet, grown-up kind of tethering.

Here’s what I am avoiding: the inevitable distribution, donation or destruction of my most treasured childhood toys. I’m avoiding everything that this stands for. You fill in the blanks. Or, consider this: maybe I’m avoiding the voice of the rational adult who wants me to let them go. Sell them on eBay, she says, without sympathy. They are originals, antiques, worth some real cash. Or give them away, to someone who needs them. Let go of them.

I don’t want to give them away. They sit in my mother’s basement – I removed them from the backroom – gathering moisture and dust while I wait for the house to sell. Once it does, I’ll have to make a decision. Sell them? Move them to storage? Box them up and ship them?

Buddy-roo wants me to ship them to France. We don’t have room for the whole lot here in Paris, but I contacted a few shipping companies, anyway, just out of curiosity, to determine the cost. It’s not unreasonable.

Give me my bonus points, if not for wisdom or courage, at least for honesty: I’m not ready to give away these toys. But do I dare to keep them, as unreasonable as that might be?

Maybe I should, maybe I will ship them. And when they get here, I’ll get on my hands and knees and set them up, just like the old days. Short-pants and Buddy-roo and I, we’ll will make a whole world of Fisher Price, moving the little wooden people around in their little plastic cars, playing out all their imagined stories. We’ll have a ball with all my old toys. Tell me, why would I avoid that?

I’m participating in Reverb10, and this post is in response to a prompt from author Jake Nickell: Prompt: Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

8 Responses to “A Girl and Her Toys”

  • Ruth Says:

    I suggest you ship them go Paris for the girls. I would leave some in Paris and take some down to your summer home. This is something your girls can share with their kids. Happy holidays

  • Julie Olson Says:

    Absolutely…have them shipped to France. Right now I have toys from both my and my husband’s childhood under our tree. For years they sat in boxes in our ‘back room’. I do remember our daughter playing with them while we were still protecting them a bit…so they were in pretty good shape when our grandkids came along. We’ve relinquished our tight grasp on them and let them go…to them. Just like you and your mother, I saved way too much stuff. But I do get a kick out of going through those boxes now and then when I’m in the mood to clean the basement. Problem is…they always end up back in the boxes, and remain in the basement. I hope some generation, some day can do the right thing with all of that ‘stuff’…whatever that is. I think about your mother often, and miss her much. I can tell that you miss her terribly. She was a special friend.

  • Łeba noclegi Says:

    Nice read. Thank you for that.

  • Andi Says:

    Im having similar dilemma with my children’s toys. Drowning in this moving process, scaling down from our 4000 sf house to basically one bedroom. The “best” toys of theirs I saved for MY grandchildren and now there are boxes and boxes of them with no place to store them. What to do? However, this is MY issue, not theirs…

  • Kunyi Says:

    I add my voice to those who say “keep them, keep them” – I think some stuff is important. Think of the pleasure that Christmas decorations have for us when we take them out – the delight of remembering who gave it to us, which child made it, how old it is, and the remembering of the delight. Some stuff doesn’t hold so much memory, get rid of that instead, and keep the stuff that is the repository of joy.

    And if joy is not enough, then there is always the practical – your girls want them and they would be a treat for all of you to have. I suppose that means they will create new joy and happiness.

  • Elizabeth Marie Says:

    Another exquisite post. I have to confess that I still have many of my childhood toys. The trouble with letting go of them now is that my daughter doesn’t want me to. She likes to touch them, look at them, used to play with them. She displays some of my “collectibles” on her night stand, especially the little crystal elephants. She even started her own collection. She likes to see the furniture and clothes I made for my troll dolls, likes to think about what a WEIRD kid I was, compares who she imagines I was to who I am now and seems to feel glad.

    I also have bunches of things that belonged to both my parents, some things, most not worth much. I don’t think about letting them go. They’ll leave me when it’s time. (laughing at myself for that statement)

    Gosh. Your post seems to have triggered too many thoughts. I’m going to share them anyway. So there.

  • Virginia Gowen Says:

    Oh please, please do not let them go just yet! It is still such a tender world for you. So what if the shipping costs something and that they take up space you don’t have. Five years from now you can deal with all that You will have a wonderful time sharing them with your girls and experiencing the love of what once was….Do it for all of us whose mother’s threw everything away Lucky Girl!

  • Anne-Marie Says:

    Maybe you could ask Santa Claus if he knows any kids who would like to borrow them for a while. What?… You say there’s no Santa Claus?

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