June 2, 2006

From Grandma's Toy Closet


Last weekend before getting laid out by the flu, the kid and I stopped by my grandmother's house in smalltown, Utah. It was the first time the kid had actually spent more than a few minutes there [we were always seeing great-grandma somewhere else], and it caught me off guard how different it was to go back there with a child, to the place I'd played as a child.

Obviously, I've been going to my grandparents' house my whole life, and all my accreted memories and experiences have always been sitting there, but they were inert, and in a way, irrelevant to my present. Suddenly, though, I found myself wanting to show the kid--who gets it, most of the time--all these little discoveries and treasures and odd things that I remembered as a city/suburban kid visiting this incredible, alien, rural, old place: the horse in the field, the combine in the barn, a gas pump of your very own, these willow trees that make little banana-like seed things.

And then there was the toy closet--which used to be the coal room--in the basement. A couple of toys had been added in the 30+ years since I'd last opened that door, but for the most part, it was the same. There were trucks and robots and dolls and guns [which I quickly hid out of reach, sorry, NRA fans, although somehow the kid figured out the rubber pistols that pop out ping pong balls--NO idea where she'd seen one of those before] I vaguely remembered play with, which lit up the kid's eyes.

She played with a few things for a few minutes, but when she wanted to break out the boxes of doll house furniture [the original boxes, that is] that were a Christmas present to my grandmother in the 1920's, the antique freak in me got a little nervous. All I could think of is what stuff in that kind of condition must bring on ebay. [Not that I'm angling to sell or anything, far from it. In fact, it's the distance that does it; my grandmother and my daughter both see these things as "just" toys or basement clutter. Meanwhile, I end up seeing them as some kind of historical artifact.]

But more than the vintage 50's era trucks and trains, what really caught my eye were the handmade/homemade toys, things like this doll cradle, which was my great-grandmother's from the late 19th century [which we think my grandmother painted red as a little girl.]


This painted chair with a woven rawhide seat came back with an aunt--great aunt to me--from Mexico about 50-55 years ago. I remember having a similar one with a woven rush seat when I was growing up. The kid took to this thing like white on rice; I couldn't take a shot of the chair alone because she kept wanting to sit on it or carry it around.

I don't know that I have any profound insights into anything, or that I really think old toys are inherently superior--I think I could shave my beard with some of the edges on those old Tonka trucks, for example; they're deadly--just that I suddenly felt a kind of continuity with the past, and with the different generations of my own family, who'd been through very similar experiences to my own as a parent. And that was definitely not something I'd ever felt so acutely before.


Makes me wish I (or, more accurately, my parents) had kept more of my toys from when I was young (now where IS that wind-up Evil Knievel stunt motorcycle of mine?!?)

Ahh, yes, here it is

[Hey, I had that, too. Kaz, you may wake up some day to find out I'm just your blogging Tyler Durden. -ed.]

Oh my god, your daughter's huge now!

The first time I visited my grandparents with my son, he was about two or three weeks old at the time. While I was walking out, my grandfather shook my hand and said, "welcome to the club". I think that's when it was really clear to me I was on the other side of the fence now.

[36" or so, so yeah, she's tall. -ed.]

that was lovely. you should edge towards philosophical more often greg.

[thank you, o sensei of the sippy cup sublime. but as they say, 'baby steps.' -ed.]

Echoing dutch here. You can tell when we're getting one of the more introspective posts about 3 words in, and it's a nice feeling to settle in and know I'm about to get blown away. I know the clickthrough's to Amazon and the like are paying for the kid's college tuition, but it'd kick ass if you mixed in this sort of thing more often. :)

This is a lovely story, I ran across it by accident looking for something on a grandma's toy closet because I am starting a local program to get toys for kids for Christmas who's parents are going through hard times this year, as so many are. I am going to call the program "Grandma's Toy Closet". But,I have a daughter who has a closet of toys for her grandkids, as I do.
Have a blessed day.

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