Upon waking a few mornings ago, my wife asked, "Do you ever miss having toys? Just lying around?"
Of course I do. Part of that response is based squarely on the reckoning I do nearly every day on they way I miss my son hanging around the house. Even though I have completely visceral memories of stepping on Legos in the middle of the night in my bare feet as I made my way through his darkened room, the joy that came from those little pieces of plastic monumentally outweigh the pain. The same could be said for any number of toy cars that also found their way underfoot.
Speaking of cars, I can't remember a ride in our family car that didn't require at least one "guy" brought along for our son's amusement. It wasn't until he began driving himself that this obsession began to ebb. Action figures, train cars, something with moving parts that could be manipulated while strapped securely in his seat. We were a travelling play place, and most stops on road trips required a Happy Meal, not for the empty calories, but the toy inside.
This was the way we made our way in the world.
The truth is, we were that way before the kid came along.
When asked, on the eve of turning sixteen, what I wanted for my birthday I replied, "Toys. Plastic toys." After an initial discussion with my mother about how birthdays are not for necessities but for fun, she got the message. No pajamas. Unless they are covered with pictures of Spider Man or Darth Vader. No appliances. Unless they can be used to make toys. Power tools fall into a special category that it took me years to accept, but now that cordless jigsaw fills the void that would once have been a nice fit for a remote control helicopter.
Having a son gave me all kinds of room to wander the aisles of Toys R Us This past Christmas, my son and I returned to those crowded passages to stare in wonder at all the choices and permutations of little pieces of plastic. We both pined for different things, and agreed on others. Some items we recognized from our collective youth and wondered how we could ever afford to live without them, or how we could save up our allowance to bring them home. Where they would eventually find their way into a box, full of memories and fun wrung from hours spent playing on the floor. Where they would eventually be stepped on and cursed, rather than lighting a single candle.