May Hooray 3

I’ve been reading through actress Ellie Kemper’s book My Squirrel Days this week. Considering the heroine in my novel Grace…fully living is a perky redhead and the network show that appeals to me most among the new crop features carrot-topped Zoey, .I think I might have a bit of a “thing” for redheads. Or books about squirrels.

Anyway, one story The Office actress relates is of Waldo, a plush walrus toy who “wears a small white sailor’s cap that suggests he is not opposed to a good time!” While other bits of her childhood fell away, Waldo stayed with her until one fateful weekend in Vegas, when she was in her 30s, that he disappeared. (Spoiler alert: the hotel found him and returned him to Ellie! Yay!)

I understand. I live in a household of two things. People who are allergic to, well pretty much everything, and a house of plush critters.

I never had a pet as a child; my allergies wouldn’t allow for a dog or cat, and I was probably the only one in the house who saw appeal in reptiles. (“Hi Fido”, I’d dream of saying to someone with their pet schnauzer, “this is my Timmy. He’s a timber rattlesnake. Aren’t those golden and brown scales beautiful…”) . When I was on my own and in my late 20s, I got a hamster named Henley. I got him a nice terrarium with a wheel and a ladder thingy for him to climb, and changed the wood chips regularly. Unfortunately, Henley taught me two things. One, that hamsters slept all the livelong day and then got up to run on squeaky wheels all night long. And two, that when freed from the confines of their home terrarium, they’d enjoy biting me, and disappearing into the ductwork in about equal parts. I was sad when one day after I’d shared my apartment with him for about two years that I noticed Henley hadn’t been up for a night or two and wasn’t eating the food I gave him… but not sad enough to think of bringing in a Henley Jr. Henley was a good little dude though, and I think made a wonderful Christmas card insert one year, posing in front of some yule lights.

I always liked cats, but not sneezing, let alone having trouble breathing. As luck would have it, the first lady I ended up close enough to to actually live with for a year had three cats. Remarkably, the one which had a reputation for hating people took to me. After a few months, Daphne would wait for me by the door like a puppy and seem to be as happy as a pup when I came in. More remarkably, I sneezed very little in that year. Unfortunately, her owner didn’t respond as eagerly to me when I got in, after awhile.  Go figure. As soon as Daphne was dragged off with her owner and I returned to my homeland, pretty much every cat I’ve met leaves me wheezy and short of breath within minutes. Which is better than the reaction my sweetie has to them. Dogs? Pretty much the same. We had to dog-sit a black lab called Allie for over a year, and Allie was a good dog! Good doggie!! My walk with her was a daily highlight for both of us. But Allie was largely an outside dog, and when indoors, she usually bedded down in the little pseudo-home we made for her in the garage. When it got real cold, she was invited into the living room, to lie on a sheet which would be washed every day afterwards… while we all sneezed, sniffled and wheezed.

But we do have some “furry” friends to keep us company, like Ellie does. No walruses but some classy “friends” nevertheless. My sweetie has her big bear, Diva, who wears a leopard-print jacket. And her doting bear boyfriend Cocoa, who inexplicably is a white bear. But he has panache as we see in this photo:

cmas bear

Her daughter, the Kiddo loves sheep. So she has a collection of stuffed lambs. Prominent among those are Fluffers and Luke. Fluffers, the fluffiest of sheep, originated in Canada, where “someone” found him one Easter and sent him down to Texas to be with her about eight or nine years back, when Kiddo was much smaller. He’s sweet and quiet, like a Canadian, and fluffy like a …well, something! Then there’s little rambunctious Luke the ram, always getting into things, and tipping over due to the size of his nose. We see him riding Fluffers here:

fluffer

For years, I didn’t have such accompaniment,but this year, going through a local department store I came across this little fellow.

EB bear

It was just after Valentine’s Day and no one had taken him home, and I feared his future was to end up on the Island of Misfit Toys. So I adopted “EB”. Which stands for Edward Bear. The name of a fine Canadian band, and the real name of Winnie the Pooh, the gold standard of friendly bears. Or possibly it stands for “Evidently Brown.” Or perhaps “Everybody’s Buddy.”  Or even “Exceedingly Bugged (by a lack of pizza.)” EB likes pizza. He obviously has style,, since he wears a snazzy bow tie. And likes pizza. He’s happy now that he has a home, watching TV with sweetie and me…and Diva and Coco Bear too!

You Can Toy With This Museum

Disney likes to say that Disneyland is the “happiest place on Earth.” If indeed the happiest place is in Anaheim, the runner-up may be in Rochester, NY… The National Museum of Play, which includes the Toy Hall of Fame.

Many of us probably had no idea there was a Toy Hall of Fame, but hey…if everything from bowling to darts to aviation having their own, why not something that “play” such an important part of most of our childhoods?

The Toy Hall of Fame is a part of the Museum of Play, which began in the 1960s as “The Strong” – the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Fascination. The 156 000 square foot building has added exhibits and wings since and in 1998, someone had the idea for the Toy Hall. They aim to recognize toys which are icons, being widely recognized and remembered; exhibit longevity and promote learning or discovery. They give bonus points for those which are seen as “innovative.”

The first year, they inducted 11 toys which are about as classic as they come: baby dolls, Barbie dolls, Crayola crayons, erector sets, Etch-a-sketch, Frisbees, Lego, marbles, Monopoly, Playdoh and teddy bears. Since then they’ve added in some 57 more including Atari game systems, Big Wheels, checkers, Dungeons and Dragons, GI Joe dolls, Gameboys, rubber ducks, and View Master. A handful of more “out of the box thinking” toys have made it in too, like blankets and sticks!

The newest additions last year were the Magic 8-ball (it could’ve told you it’d be in if you asked it!), Uno and pinball machines. This year they’ll add two or three more from a list of nominees including Jenga, Care Bears, coloring books, Risk, Matchbox cars (which you might recall, if of a certain age, actually were sold in “matchboxes” at one time), the Fisher Price corn popper, and most controversially, Smart phones. I’d never heard of the corn popper, but recognized it as soon as I saw it, the little push-along on wheels developed in 1957, which the Hall says was not only fun but promoted motor skills and curiosity.

I’ll be pulling for the coloring books and Matchboxes (the racier Hot Wheels already made it in), parts of my childhood memories to be sure. I think back to my childhood and the toys I remember mostly, that I spent the most time with and got the most out of were toy cars like Hot Wheels and Matchboxes and Lego. Sometimes they’d go together, with me building buildings and driving the little cars between them. I loved the futuristic designs and bright metallic paints on the Hot Wheels , which could be raced on their trademark orange tracks as well, but also loved the realism and attention to detail of the Matchboxes. Although it bothered me immensely that they weren’t all to scale. A giant dumptruck or Greyhound bus Matchbox were the same length as a Volkswagen or Ford Capri. I rationalized that the Greyhound should have been about three times as long, because… well that’s the type of four year old I was!

I particularly liked Lego. Lego back in the ’70s was a bit different than most of it today. I mean, sure the bricks snapped together and came in bright colors as they still do but back then, they just came in big assorted boxes. I loved using my imagination to put together houses of my dreams, with the windows and doors where I wanted, the architecture my choice. Many a cold winter afternoon was spent building up houses, towers or cities of the future on the living room floor.

There weren’t any Batman or other cartoon character Lego people and there were basically no blueprints. No rules or limits. When I pass by the kdis sections of stores these days, the Lego kits are all very detailed and specific. build this car or this spaceship or that home with the bricks in this box. Not one brick too many or too few, just follow the instructions. It bothers me that today’s kids, if they actually step away from the electronic screens long enough to pick up a Lego set, will have so little incentive to use their imagination.

Now, learning to follow instructions is important, no doubt. But so too is thinking independently and creatively. Using one’s imagination. Flights of fancy. I learned to follow rules and instructions just fine through school, family life, even toys which required careful attention to detail, like plastic models of trucks. Would be silly to have had the transmission on the cab roof or headlights on the back of the frame, after all. But I’m convinced toys like Lego helped me imagine things and create, tear down what didn’t work and feel proud of what did. those skills have made me a part of the person I am, the writer part, the photographer part. Probably the “interesting” part actually!

What about you, dear readers? What toys were important to you when you were a kid? How did they help you become who you are today.

I can only wonder if today’s youth will look back as fondly on Fortnite or Vine videos four decades from now.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started