Dust covered boxes in the attic daunted my search for a box of dishes to send to a granddaughter. If the dust wasn't enough, the hand scrawled labels on the boxes greatly impeded my search – “Pictures, 1943,” “1932 Olympics,” “winter clothes, 1965.” “Ice Skates.” But the box labeled “Toys” had me on my knees for a tumble of memories.
Fingering the old, crackled leather, I remembered my younger sister, as she often wore her “chowboy” boots, vest and chaps. Silver colored “six shooters” hung from her tiny frame.
Rusted trucks and tractors morphed into rows of toy trucks (usually red) and tractors, graders, earth movers (usually yellow) that entertained by the hour my younger brothers. And coonskin caps atop their unruly mops while they hunkered over the chess board.
From my children, a gaggle of dolls some now hairless, armless, their blue eyes vacant with loss, danced across my mind in their former splendor; a battered “Stoney Burke” hat tossed over boxes of paints, brushes, and tattered art work mind ; model cars and airplanes tucked in amongst books on the moon, space travel and posters of Apollo missions reflected the scientific bent of the youngest
Grandchildren's treasures, now a jumble of Ninja turtles, chemistry sets, boxes of beads, soccer balls, baseballs, basketballs; trucks, cars and model airplanes vie for space; homemade “flat dolls” and their flat paper-doll-like wardrobes; a doll houses, hand-crafted, complete with miniature dolls and furniture; old, dried out bottles of finger paints cradled in a red wooden easel, still festooned with torn sheets of newsprint.
But no favorite toys come to my mind as favorites from my childhood. For sure, I had the line up of dolls and their accouterments and also a set of “six shooters.” As a family, we had games, Scrabble, Monopoly, Checkers, and Chess, but those – rather a bore to me.
What I remembered of my childhood reached into that world of my mind. My old roan horse nuzzling me across the fence, sometimes she carried this princess to far off lands, sometimes into battle, or helped save the village from some unseen enemy. She was indeed a magical roan.
Then, the old war surplus raft plied the canal in front of our house. Slunk low under the willow branches to escape marauding “Injuns”; or my foot on the bow, leaning forward in search of new lands; or laying on the cool rubber bottom watching cloud figures overhead.
“My” tree along side the canal provided a special retreat, a harbor from hurt, a castle above the ground and listened to my child's heart and soul but cast no judgment.
Perhaps most special of all, the car that my father built for me. A washing machine motor turned belts and pulleys as I traversed the ranch compound. A race car sometimes. Transporting me to far away places on a sunny day. The absolute embodiment of a father's love.
A tree, a horse, a rubber raft or a washing machine motor encased in a metal body – not what one would usually consider a favorite toy, but these are the memories of my childhood at play. The toys of my mind.