This past year, my husband gifted me with a program that sends me a question every week. As those questions direct, I get to write out my memories or dreams.
What was my favorite childhood toy? That was the recent inquiry into my life. Here is my reply.
I had no toys.
Ha! That’s a fib. Did it get your attention?
We didn’t have a lot, my stuff didn’t fill a toy box, but I never felt deprived. I played outside mostly.
So, toys…Let me think.
We usually received one toy, plus a couple books for Christmas, then something small for our birthdays.
I remember a big doll, kind of like the American Girl dolls. It was probably a Christmas present, since it was a sizable gift. While I don’t recall playing with her a lot, I liked her enough to remember exactly what she looked like. Dark, curly brown hair and blue eyes that closed when you laid her down. She wasn’t soft and snuggly, but she was oh, so pretty. I remember Mom sitting on the floor with me as we designed and stitched outfits for this new treasure–a modified version of this memory made it into my fiction story, Anna’s Song.
One Christmas, while still living in New York, my sister and I were given the joint gift of our very own turntable record player, complete with two 45 discs containing stories. Our very first audio books. One disc was “Packy, the Elephant” and the other was about some mischievous monkey named Sally. Sally must have been the inspiration behind the Curious George stories, because while I can’t recall the tale we listened to so often, I remember Sally got into all kinds of trouble. We played those albums until the grooves wore out and the player stopped working.
When I got a bit older, paper dolls and Barbies became the toys of choice. Both could have an entire new wardrobe designed and drawn, or cut and sewn. Each doll then became living characters, reenacting some made up drama.
Outdoors was where the best play happened.
During New York’s winters, the snowplows would pile the soot blackened snow along one side of the street and this became our sledding slopes. With spoons and shovels, we carved tunnels through their icy centers and climbed about inside imagining some arctic landscape.
Summers meant pogo sticks and bicycle rides up and down the block. On a clear day we could see the Verrazzano Bridge from the end of our street.
Moving to Puerto Rico was the peak of childhood fun, and with it came my favorite toy of all time. Actually, it was my Dad’s, but oh, how I loved it.
This little fiberglass-hulled, outboard-engined beauty could glide with the speed of a flying angel across smooth ocean water, or slam it’s way, not unlike a bucking bronco, across rough waves—flying high and landing with a smack that sent it high again. My place on this little ship was riding on the very front; legs slipped under the little guard rail and feet hanging out over the water where I could feel the full impact of the salt spray and hear the wind whistle past me. I remember grinning so long and so hard my cheeks would ache by the end of the day.
This little boat was the beginning of adventure, the sensation of wild and free. On it we traveled from known Terra Firma, to tiny islands and mangrove forests. Often we took off with no firm destination in mind and were never disappointed. After all, it wasn’t the destination that mattered. It was the journey in between.
I can’t begin to describe how it felt to ride those waves; the blue-blue of the sky above, the sun shimmering off white capped waves, soaking the dark of my hair with warmth, and keeping my shoulders bronzed. Gazing into the deep blue green of the unknown depth below, I was awed by the mystery hidden beneath. It was ever changing, the water below and ahead, never the same view twice in my life. There was the need to watch for unknown obstacles like reefs, and rocks, or random logs floating in our path. Scanning for curious creatures, be it flying fish, porpoise, or whale, there was a sense of oneness, rightness, and peace mixed with the exhilaration of being transported with such rapidity across our span of space.
The faster you travel, the more time slows. I believe that’s a proven theory. And there, with me straddling the hull of our boat, time stopped.
For as long as the fuel would last, the boat was alive, and I with it.
To this day, my favorite toy is a boat, be it tiny or large. A boat, flying across the water. With the sunshine beating down on me, the wind blowing through my hair, and a grin plastered across my face. That is where life meets perfection.
What memory of a childhood toy still brings a smile to your face? I’d love to hear about it.