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?)