A True Toy Story

Going through phases and bouncing from one interest to another has never really been part of my repertoire. Where most people generally have an archive of past hobbies or trends that they once found interesting, I slightly differ. When something truly draws my attention, like my love for football & baseball, my passion for punk rock & photography, or even my joy for writing, I would embrace it and make it part of me. I would carry it with me, wearing it as proudly as the “S” displayed on Superman’s chest, not just for a short period, but for a lifetime. It would be my passion. I remember the very day, over thirty years ago, when I began to mold myself into the type of person that I am today……

I stood in my bedroom doorway one afternoon, motionless and completely at a loss for words. As I gazed across my room, something seemed different. I started to feel confused and slightly out of place. Something had changed. A section of my bedroom had dead bodies strewn out all over the floor. Caved in and crumbled to the ground, once powerful military bases now lay amongst the fallen. There were loose weapons scattered about, along with other pieces of depleted military equipment. The remnants of tanks, ships and other weapons of mass destruction were also visible. I could count the number of surviving Allies on one hand. To the ordinary eye it looked like one hell of a battle had just taken place. On this day, however, the only thing that stood out to my ten year old eyes was the large amount of dust building up on all of my toys. The battlefield that laid before me had come to a cease-fire at least six to twelve months earlier.

Every so often I would notice the lifeless toys laying around my room. As I’d motion towards them, with the idea of getting involved in another adventure, I would always somehow become distracted. On the other side of my room there were numerous boxes and albums, each filled with baseball cards neatly organized year by year, team by team, and position by position. The walls on that side of my room were covered with baseball team posters and pennants. Tacked up on the corkboard above my dresser were baseball stickers and patches along with newspaper and magazine articles. Matching baseball bed sheets and curtains highlighted the rest of the room. The well broken in baseball equipment sitting in the corner also often drew my attention. I had just played my first season of baseball, and before I knew it, day in and day out, I was eating, drinking and sleeping baseball.

Walking into my bedroom had begun to feel like a game of tug of war. The toys were always pulling for my imagination and for me to stay as young as I could for as long as I could. Meanwhile, baseball was pulling for me to mature, grow socially and learn to play and win as a team. My conscience would often whisper into my ear, instructing me to go outside with my dented up old bat and see how many rocks I could blast over top of the old barn behind my house. On other occasions, the guilt hanging over my head from not playing with my toys for so long, would often leave me feeling disappointed and confused . Despite feeling that guilt, playing baseball seemed to make more sense as time went on.

As I stared at all of the toys lying across my bedroom floor on that particular day, weighing my options and running many different scenarios through my ten year old mind, I finally came to a conclusion. I was ready to move on. Even thought I still had a small place in my heart for each and every one of my toys, I knew that today was the day. Without giving it a second thought, I rolled up my sleeves and made an all day project out of boxing up every toy in my room.

After everything was completely boxed up, I began making dozens of trips into our attic, packing away all of the toys that had driven my imagination for so many years. Once everything was stored into the deep dark depths of our creepy old cobweb covered attic, I still wasn’t 100% sure of what I had just done. Knowing that I had just made a drastic decision in giving up toys forever still left me a little unsettled. After I broke this news to my mother, she helped me gain a quick sense of relief by reminding me that my toys would always be in the attic for a rainy day. The toys and imagination that had once motivated me day in and day out, were immediately replaced with sports, friendships and social involvement. The foundation for my upcoming preadolescent years was quickly structured, so life went on.

Today, as a forty-one year old father of three, I often reminisce about my own personal experiences as a child, especially after witnessing similar moments take place in my son’s lives. My nine year old son Evan recently approached me after doing his homework one evening. He appeared somewhat confused, like he was having trouble gathering his thoughts. As he rolled up his sleeves, he looked deep into my eyes and said, “Dad, I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and I’ve finally made a decision. I’m giving up Pokémon cards, in fact, I’m actually giving up everything but football cards.”

It was clear that this was something that he had been considering for some time. He was struggling with the exact same feelings that I had once struggled with. Before I had a chance to reply, Evan had gone straight up to his bedroom and without giving it a second thought, he handed down every single Pokémon card he owned to his little brothers. I often feel like Evan is growing up too fast, however, on that particular day, I was very proud of him. As a nine years old, making this kind of a decision is actually a pretty big deal.

Maybe it was the growing number of neatly stacked football cards sitting on his bookshelf. Maybe it was all of the NFL magazines, team logo drawings, and team t-shirts floating around his room. Or, maybe it was all of the well-worn football and baseball equipment sitting over in the corner. The signs were all too familiar. Just as I once was, Evan too, was clearly ready to move on.

In our early youth, toys and games have always helped educate and develop our imagination. As we mature, there are many different things that help guide and shape us into the person we are today. I look forward to seeing my boys discover each piece of their puzzle as they go through life. I hope they can have a passion for the things that truly interest them, and happiness from the choices they make. I hope they can carry these things with them, and wear them as proudly as the “S” displayed on Superman’s chest. Not just for a short period, but for a lifetime.

Regardless of what my boys have a passion for as they mature and grow older, if it gives them lifelong happiness, then it will most definitely give this father lifelong happiness…

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