Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 30: Play with toys

L-R: Angelica (holding Uni), Huckleberry, Blackjack, unnamed monkey with fez.
How did I get to thirty? It took me more than a month, anyway. Still, I'm reasonably impressed.
Today's prompt was to play with toys. I still have a box of the most important treasures of my childhood, although I don't look at it much anymore, and I still have a few of my most important stuffed animals. You know the kind, the ones that you took everywhere and cuddled with at night. The ones that could ward off nightmares or monsters in the closet. They've done a long hard duty keeping me comforted through my early years, and now enjoy retirement upstairs in our storage room, neglected and dusty.
My definition of toys has changed, although I've still got some neat action figures collected over the past ten years. The guitar shown here is my newest toy. I just got it a few days ago, from my girlfriend's father. It's been sitting in an attic for years, and I just tonight got it re-strung backwards (with only minor injury), because I'm left-handed. I don't know how to play, but I'm hoping to teach myself through Youtube videos.
Huck understands this book...
I'm really excited about the guitar, and about learning to play it, but it will never mean to me what the consoling symbols of my childhood did.
I don't remember when I first read 'The Velveteen Rabbit', but I do remember it was with these illustrations. This is another book I tracked down again in adulthood because of how it resonated with me. Certain toys do attain a realness, an intensity of presence that sticks. Somewhere in the more innocent parts of my being, I hope that they someday get their blessing to some happy forever fate, but in the meantime I'm so attached I still keep them.

The largest of these stuffed animals is the panda, Angelica. She was sitting on the piano bench one Christmas morning, and she was the biggest stuffed toy I had ever owned. She was the size of my own entire torso and head, limbs perfectly positioned for a hug. Her nose was plastic, but came out so many times my mother finally gave up on glue and sewed a black felt one over the hole. Initially her gender and name were undecided. She was Andy, except when wearing the apron stolen off my Raggedy Ann doll, and then she was Angelica. Eventually the latter stuck, aproned or not.
She's holding the uncreatively named Uni, a little unicorn the tip of whose horn shows evidence of having been chewed on. His eyes are plastic but almond-shaped with curving eyelids, sweet and realistic looking. I saw him in a store, but I have no idea where or when, and his eyes caught my heart. I begged my mother for him, because of his soulful eyes, and although I was almost never randomly indulged (spoiled) that way, she gave in that time.
Next to Angelica is Huckleberry, who I often just called Huck. He was also a Christmas gift, a year or two after Angelica. I had determined that on that Christmas morning I was going to get a best friend for Angelica. I think that's even how I wrote it on my wishlist. To this day I think of them as a pair. He's a fairly unremarkable jointed teddy bear in design, but has a distinct place in my childhood. If I had to give up all other remnants of my childhood but two, it would be Angelica and Huck.
The black horse is plastic but covered in flocking, and he has rabbit fur for mane and tail. He was a Christmas gift from the Schultzes, a family my family was friends with since before either had kids. I got the idea into my head immediately that he was very expensive, probably because of the rabbit fur, and I always took great care with him. His red bridle is permanently attached, but his saddle is long gone. The name that stuck on him ultimately was Blackjack, and one of my favorite games was to make a labyrinth on the floor with books (preferably Little Golden Books, spine-up so there was a gleaming gold edge to the maze), and pretend he was a pooka who lived at the center of it. He ventured forth by night to scare and attack people who abused horses.
Yeah, I was a strange child.
The monkey with the fez doesn't have a name, and is only a year or two old. My girlfriend made him, and when I fell in love with him she gave him to me for my birthday. To see more of her dolls, check out our Etsy shop or our shop FaceBook page. Blatant plug? Why yes, yes it is. But isn't he an awesome monkey?
Does this count as playing?
I'm not sure setting all these guys up for tea in the back garden (well, what passes for a garden at our apartment) counts as playing with them. I didn't even technically play for them, despite the picture here, because I hadn't got the guitar re-strung when the photo was taken. I felt strangely guilty putting them away again in the spare bedroom.
In 'The Velveteen Rabbit' the toy of the title is made into a real rabbit only after being cast away, fated to be destroyed. When I read this book as a child I really did have visions of Angelica someday becoming a real panda, munching away on bamboo somewhere in China (although a zoo is a lot more likely these days). Huckleberry as a brown bear would live across the globe, though, and I hate to think of them separated. I'm not sure the kind of real that comes at the end of this story is the ultimate destiny a toy would hope for. I'm in my thirties and I still have them. When I take them out, or even go into the room for something, I sometimes give them a passing greeting or a pat on the head.
Maybe that's not such a bad fate, after all?

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