Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Every Tuesday, Sandiegomomma hosts PROMPTuesday, where she issues a creative writing prompt and hope that people take it and run. This week's prompt is:

What was your favorite toy as a child? Write a vignette about playing with it. (What did you feel? Who were you with? Where did you live?)

There's a toy I vividly remember from childhood - it was a plastic car, colorful and bright, and unique in two ways. First, it was a car like none I'd ever seen on the street; three-wheeled and squat, the front of the car hinged to open like a door, with a windshield and two pop-eyed headlights. I've since learned it was a replica of an Italian car called Isetta. The other reason it was unique was that it was larger than the usual toy car - it was about six inches long, and three or four inches high. It was a perfect toy car for a girl, because I could put small dolls and figurines inside and let them ride. I have a vivid memory of this car, and a sense of longing as well - probably because I had it only a short time, and that loss has lent it an importance in my mind that it probably doesn't deserve. It played such a fleeting role in my life that I no longer remember where we lived or how old I was when I got it. I don't remember who gave it to me, nor do I remember why it disappeared. It may have been a gift brought home by my father from a business trip. My car was one of a pair of cars - my brother had one, too. They were the same, only different colors. And while I remember clearly that mine was bright primary green with a red interior, I have absolutely no memory what color my brother's car was.

It's odd that these toys disappeared - my family is unusually prone to accumulation. But now I think of it, when we recently went through my mother's house, there weren't many childhood toys. My parents kept scores of useless and obsolete artifacts of their lives - notepads from my Dad's employer in 1962; 60 year old wastebaskets; autograph books belonging to long-dead great uncles - but they really didn't keep many of our toys. For four kids, we had lots of toys, but other than a few iconic examples, they did not survive to be packed and carted from house to house to house along with all the tons of stuff.

I wonder why. Were we so hard on toys that they were destroyed? I certainly remember the time our next-door neighbor, Johnny Masters, ran his father's lawnmower over my Barbie doll. I allowed him to do it - rapt curiosity about the blades' destructive power trumped my attachment to her.

Were our toys co-opted by the first grandchildren, well-loved by them and then discarded? Why were toys the one category among family possessions that Mom chose to purge when we moved house, seven times before I was twenty?

Even now I can almost feel that green plastic Isetta in my hands. It was made from two molded pieces of plastic - the chassis red and the body that fit on top green. Its plastic was soft and flexible, its hinged door snapping shut with a little pop. The black tires spun on a thin metal rod that threaded through the red plastic chassis. Being kids, and curious, we soon figured out how it was held together, with plastic nubs fitting into plastic notches, and it came apart.

Maybe that's what happened to our toys - little wheels came off little axles and rolled away behind furniture; notches wore out until fittings no longer clicked; plastic hinges flexed, twisted, and split. An empty green shell would have been useless without the weight of the red chassis. Bit by bit, the pieces must have scattered, along with other discards - tinker-toys, lincoln logs, legos and doll-arms. Revealed only when rooms were cleared, bed frames unbolted, closets packed and couches removed. The detritus of broken toys remained, strewn over the unvacuumed carpet like flotsam on sand.

There are lots of high-quality HO scale model Isettas offered on EBay, but this cheap plastic toy offered by EBay seller dkolexion is exactly like the toy I remember, only mine had a red interior.

Here's a fun site if you're interested in learning more about real Isettas.


mo.stoneskin said...

That reminded me of the happy childhood hours spent playing on the floor in a pile of toy cars. We used to go to grandparents' place, and take out a huge ice-cream tub of cars, tip it on the floor and happy happy joy joy!

david mcmahon said...

My favourite cars were the little Corgi toys.

Came here from Woman in a Window.

Woman in a Window said...

That green would draw me straight away, especially with a red interior.

One of my favorite things from childhood was a blue ink bottle. I'd collect weeds and think it the best centerpiece in the world.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I have not saved many toys from my 4 children, though I have saved books. I think the reasons are the ones you've described and that I'm not a saver in general. I take photos of the less-precious artwork and toss the real thing. Too much stuff gives me hives.

San Diego Momma said...

Doesn't it make your heart reel a little when you see pictures of these toys we loved so much?

Merisi said...

Dare I mention my favorite toy?
A bow and arrow, made with the help of my brother. I had six of them (brothers), so that explains a lot, doesn't it? ;-)

Congratulations in David's Post of the Day Award! :-)

Cheffie-Mom said...

Congratulations on the Post of the Day Award from authorblog!