And it Came Back

Today’s toys are loaded with technology. They simulate real settings in game modes, they move the puzzle pieces with a click of button, I can even feel like I’m out on the course playing golf. I am far from complaining either for what you have or for what I didn’t. Toys have always been meant to amuse and to inspire imagination. As technology advanced so did the toys and their effect and affect.

But what did I play with when I was young? The truth is there were countless toys and I had my share, but the question is which ones left the biggest impression on my memory? I have decided that the best way to do this is to think of it by types. I have chosen five categories and a toy for each category that I remember better than others.

My first category is Creativity and the toy is my mechanics bay and gas station garage.  Besides the fact that it had to be completely assembled metal tab by metal tab, it provided hours of imagination as my miniature cars would enter and exit the gas station and its upper level reached by the cool car elevator. This toy inspired me to learn how to assemble things, to fix things, and I guess, to travel. Unfortunately, it never taught me to stop at a gas station and ask for directions. I do feel obligated to give honorable mention to Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and my Erector Set. Each provided hours of creativity in design, but that darn metal fabricated play gas station just had so many special memories tied to it.

My next category is Finance and the obvious choice here is Monopoly. We would play monopoly and the game would go on for long spells as anyone who has played the game will attest to. The game really was the beginning of my interest in finances. Though I never bought a rental property and certainly never built a hotel, it gave me an appreciation for banking. I would very often agree to be the banker in the game and later in my teaching career I made that banking part of my math curriculum. Honorable mention should be given here to the games of Life and Risk, but I think monopoly is my fondest memory.

For my third category, I am going with Curiosity and the toy, a weather balloon. In high school, my best friend and I decided to follow the invitation on the back of a cereal box and send away for a genuine, US Weather Balloon. I might add, we also sent some hard earned cash because we were pretty sure no parent was intending to finance us. The day the balloon arrived we were raring to go. For some unknown reason, we decided we should inflate it right there in my bedroom. As we filled it and watched the envelope expand, we failed to notice the vast number of sharp furniture corners in the room. Nearing four feet in diameter, the inevitable happened. Who knew the explosion could be that loud and more importantly, that the balloon was lined with talcum powder. Upon the arrival of my worried mother, the sight that greeted her appeared as a small blizzard throughout the room and two young lads who appeared to have spent a day in a bakery. We never did get another weather balloon and thus never sampled the weather above our farm, but certain aspects of our curiosity had certainly been satisfied.

My next category is one of Utility and the toy / weapon was my very own slingshot. Now this was not a store bought slingshot but rather a home grown version. With my dad’s guidance and his keen eye for just the right ash tree branch, my slingshot was crafted and honed to perfection. First target, tin cans. From there I stepped up to moving targets such as gophers, who conveniently carried a ten cent bounty on their tails. Unfortunately, my last target, which I intended only to show how close I could get, was the tail light of my sister’s car and eventual incarceration of my slingshot. As short lived as my slingshot days were, I still value the collaboration with my dad on the project.

My final category and the inspiration for this question will be titled Travel and the toy, my first and until today only, boomerang. Not just any boomerang, but an honest to goodness Australian Outback beauty. I grew up a National Geographic junkie. I would look at the far away lands and dream of one day being a traveling explorer. When I saw Australia and read about the Aborigines and their hunting weapon, the boomerang, I just had to have one. There in the magazine was my chance to own one. I don’t remember how much of my allowance went into the purchase, but it was worth every dime. Hours of throw and fetch eventually gave way to throw and duck and with dedicated practice, one day it not only threw, it returned and I caught it. Success was as sweet as you are imagining. The irony of this last choice of toys, is that life has come full circle. Over the weekend, my wife had bought our grandson, Jackson, a plastic sort of replica boomerang. With little success, compounded by his left handedness, Jackson and my wife were giving up. Insert a little known fact here, who knew a boomerang could be left handed but isn’t generally. This next weekend, Jackson will receive a genuine, signed Australian left handed throwing boomerang. Let the throw and fetch begin but I have faith that with practice, there will come success.

I started off with a comparison of my toys versus the current generation’s toys. What is important to understand is that I am not any worse off for not having the high tech toys nor is Jackson’s ability to enjoy all five categories any less decreased by having them. Toys are toys. They create their own aura and should almost all, one day find their way to their own Hall of Fame. My boomerang is there.

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