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The Day I Put My Toys Away
To Be a Kid
When I was little I had a mish-mosh of random figurines. As far as I was concerned they were alive. They would talk or fight or kiss or whatever. I honestly never felt that I was in control of them. They would just do stuff and I would watch. It was so absorbing, an experience with no self-consciousness whatsoever.
It’s difficult, looking back as an adult to relate to such an experience. I can become absorbed in a movie, but that element of interaction is missing. I can paint a painting, but I always know I’m painting a painting. When you’re a kid, it’s all so Zen. You’re so completed enveloped in the play world.
I don’t remember all of my toys, but there are some that were too weird to forget. I know that I had a hard-plastic football player with the face of a pig. His arms and legs did not bend, but he made up for his lack of flexibility with an intimidating scowl, thick eyebrows and a nose ring. I also had "Krang" from the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," complete with his gigantic robot body. It was especially cool because I could take Krang (who was really just a talking brain with little arms and face) out of the robot body at my discretion. Another favorite was my army of Food Fighter guys. What kid wouldn’t want a hamburger with legs and a hat?
I remember the day I put the toys away for good. I held a ceremony. Sort of a mix between a graduation and a funeral. I was in fifth grade, I think. One by one they said goodbye to me and each other, as I gently placed them in the big wooden drawer under my bed. I never put my toys away before that day. They had always hung out on the floor. Why would I put them away if I was just going to take them out again? Besides, what if they wanted to play without me?
That ceremony sticks with me strongly to this day. I have few vivid memories from childhood, but this one stands out. I knew I was entering a new phase. I would go on to ask a girl out for the first time that year. I would also be rejected for the first time that year, by that very same girl. My action figures didn't really date, but they did make out with April O'Neil from time to time. It's fair to say that age eleven, I was not prepared for the complexities of the dating world.
Growing Up is Hard to Do
Innocence is a big topic for me. I think it’s big for a lot of people. Growing up can be painful. But it’s also necessary. And maybe it’s not so bad. Change is what makes life dynamic. If I was still playing with my G.I. Joes at age 26, I would have missed out on a lot of great experiences. And being a grown up can be awesome. You have so much more power over your circumstances. I think that’s part of why kids like playing so much in the first place: it’s the only arena where they have any control. They decide who gets rewarded and gets punished. They decide when things will be done and where they will happen. And now that I’m an adult, I don’t have to pretend to do stuff, because I can go and actually do stuff.
Of course, I still try to nourish that kid-side of me as much as possible. Goofy-dancing, off-key singing, finger-painting. It’s so important to find the fun in life. But responsibilities aren’t so bad either. It feels good to accomplish a task, and participate in society. It feels good to earn my own money. The trick is to find a proper balance. I hope to have a family and be a good dad one day. I hope to be successful in my field. But I also hope that I never forget that I was once that kid who played with a talking brain.
- Every single Calvin and Hobbes comic on one wesbite.
- "The Catcher in the Rye" on Half.com
J. D. Salinger's famous and enduring chronicle of Holden Caulfield's journey from innocence to experience is the quintessential coming-of-age novel--though it's an unusual one, in which the hero tries to cling to the simplicity of childhood.
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