Saturday, July 2, 2011

Malibu Barbie and the A-Frame Little People House

If clothes make the man, then toys make the child. I have spent lots of hours sorting through old boxes of toys and books at my parents house this week, trying to help them pair down what they have amassed over a lifetime of nine children. I'm not the first sibling to have done this and I suspect I won't be the last. But in the mean time it was fun showing my kids the toys I played with when I was growing up.

In several big brown moving boxes I found things like an old magic kit with most of the pieces missing. There was the stuffed smurf, the drum full of maracas and a yellow tambourine, the rainbow colored xylophone with the long yellow chord that you could use to pull the little thing around on its red wheels while it make little tinkling noises. We also had a box of my old My Little Ponies in all their pastel glory. I have vivid memories of the year I got the show stable for Christmas. And there was the stuffed Idaho Potato with his embroidered face and gangely arms and legs. And then came two big boxes of Little People and Dolls.

My parents have a vintage collection of Little People. They don't even make these little people any more because of "choking hazard," though the nine of us made it though just fine. My two favorite pieces are the A-frame house with the absolutely perfect miniture kitchen and a balcony on the second floor and a Main Street USA town. When my boys discovered the main street, they were in heaven. It has a jail (their favorite), a dentist office, a movie theater, a barber shop, a police station, a garage, a restaurant, and an apartment. There is also a stop light on a bridge that connects the two sides of the store and office fronts. At one point while I was sorting other toys, my almost three year old had set up the two sides of the buildings and the stop light and arranged four or five cars driving down the street with little people inside. Classic toys are generationless.

Among the toys I found a big box of toys filled with Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls. There were five blond hair, blue-eyed Barbies, all of whom would have easily passed for Malibu Barbie (one of them was Peaches 'n Cream Barbie; her dress used to smell like peaches). I found the Barbie who's hair I cut and the Hawaiian Barbie with the super long black hair that got all frizzy after I undid the braids my mom told me not to undo. I found a dress made of Kleenex and cream colored lace tied on to Barbie with a ribbon. I found the Ken doll with the missing leg and the Barbie-sized GI Jo with the battle scare on his cheek. Oh the hours we would play Barbies. It was never "play with Barbies." It was always, "play Barbies."

While I know that the number of toys is so completely unimportant, I hope my children enjoy their toys and look forward to playing with grandma and grandpa's toys, too. I know that for me they represent countless hours of imagination and happiness and life skill building and just good old fun. Sometimes I worry I'm pushing my kids to grow up too quickly. Weeks like this one remind me that toys really do make the child. They have their whole lives to be grown ups. Toys give them a place that is all their own where they can think and do and be anything. I don't have many specific memories of specific moments. But I remember being happy and full of a little kid's big dreams. I hope I can give my children that same gift.

So, what are your favorite childhood toys and what do they mean to you?