Toy Essay

One of my favorite playtime activities as an impressionable young boob was a game called “Flying Turds.” As you might imagine, this game was NOT sold in any store. For the most part, Flying Turds was the result of having too FEW friends and having even LESS vocabulary.

Flying Turds was a simple game. It involved my wooden toy building blocks. These blocks came in all sorts of different sizes and colors. I would carefully stack my blocks into a perfect masterpiece of architectural wonder; something like The Empire Block Building or the Block Majal. [Eye Roll] Of course, these “perfect” architectural wonders were probably only going to be considered “masterpieces” by me and any near sighted surrealists who happened to be in the area.

Regardless, the secret of Flying Turds was to set aside several key blocks that were roughly the same size, shape and color of a unit of human fecal material. These key blocks would serve as make-shift missiles. After completing my latest architectural wonder, I would proceed to run around my house several times before launching these “missiles” at my perfect masterpiece. The hopeful goal of “Flying Turds” was that my latest perfect masterpiece would end up being broken, destroyed, ruined or otherwise sacrificed. As this bombing mission was underway I would be heard continuously yelling out the game’s title phrase: “Flying Turds!”

And there you have it: “Flying Turds.”

I can only assume my dad was responsible for helping me name this game of sorts, but to this day he remains silent on the matter.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but from a very young age I believe my toys may have been trying to teach me some life lessons. Having said that, I think “Flying Turds” may have been trying to teach me about the dangers of having too much time on my hands. [Shoulder Shrug]

One way or the other, “Flying Turds” was AWESOME!

Beyond my toy blocks, I had a modest assortment of other toys as well: The Stick, The Box, The Rock, and, of course, Dirt. These items taught me the value of imagination. When the novelty of those items wore off, I’d play with some more traditional toys: things like Sling Shots, BB Guns and Lawn Darts. Those toys taught me: If there’s not a chance of putting somebody’s eye out, it’s NOT fun.

My limited amount of childhood friends seemed to enjoy playing with action figures. I wasn’t a fan. I don’t know. Plastic dudes who explored space and had Kung-Fu grip never did much for me. As my friends got older they got into comic books and video games. I reluctantly got into those activities because I could enjoy them by myself. I suppose comic books and video games may have inadvertently taught me that imaginary friends are sometimes better than real friends…ESPECIALLY if that imaginary friend was named “Mindy” [Contented Sigh]. Mindy taught me there was no such thing as “too-much-Pam-Dawber.”

My first public speaking engagement was a show-and-tell event in nursery school. I had brought in my “owl-clock-toy.” I was putting the hard sell on my fellow nursery school colleagues by illustrating exactly how much fun you could have with an “owl-clock-toy.” However, my nursery school colleagues were a bit more worldly than I was. They weren’t buying it…..and then, in the middle of my presentation, it dawned on me:

“Hey! Wait a second! This isn’t a REAL toy! This is an EDUCATIONAL toy! I’VE BEEN HAD!”

It’s true. My toys really were trying to teach me something. This one was trying to teach me how to tell time. [GRRR! / Fist Shake]

I guess the “Owl-Clock-Incident” also taught me to put on my big boy pants. This was a good thing because my big-boy-pants went well with my big plastic big-wheel. However, my big plastic big-wheel had some big league problems: low visibility, horrid turning radius and a whole slew of manufacturer safety recalls.¹ Also of note, the big plastic wheel on my big plastic big-wheel offered ZERO traction. After years of frustration I eventually traded in my big plastic big-wheel with the big plastic wheel for a more sensible, economy class, Tricycle….that was made of metal. My metal tricycle had a MEDIUM sized wheel which was made of rubber. That medium sized rubber wheel on my economy class tricycle provided smoother acceleration, better handing in tight curves and more stopping power. Plus, the ABS brakes, rear parking assist and adaptive cruise control²eased my parents mind as I zoomed around the driveway at speeds in excess of 3 M.P.H.

I suppose, if nothing else, my big plastic big-wheel with the big plastic wheel and my economy class tricycle with the medium sized rubber wheel gave me lessons in being a conscientious consumer.

My little elementary school girlfriend, “Darlene” (who was NO Mindy) had a favorite toy too: her Barbie Collection. Darlene had a special relationship with her little plastic friends. This became acutely evident when Darlene would explain to me:

“BARBIE IS NOT A TOY!…and she is NOT MADE OUT OF PLASTIC!”

Evidently Barbie had been made out of a lifelike, breathable, polycarbonate resin. Who knew? I didn’t understand Darlene’s relationship with Barbie. I ALSO didn’t understand why Darlene would get so upset when she found that I had undressed all of her little plastic vixens. I guess Darlene’s Barbie collection taught me that complicated personal relationships will only be made more complicated when you add in naked plastic people.

When the stresses of human relationships got to me I would unwind with my Skateboard and a Pogo-Stick. When I was REALLY stressed out I reach for my Roller Skates. And really, what better way to de-stress than by strapping a bunch of sealed bearing, highly motive, marble like wheels to the bottom of my feet? Incidentally, my pair of roller skates came with a pamphlet on home remedies for the compound fracture. If The Skateboard, The Pogo Stick and The Roller Skate ever had some sort of life lesson for me, it was probably this: What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger…(in the process of causing major bodily injury).

Eventually the age of “toys-that-were-trying-to-kill-me” grew into the “bicycle-age.” That age grew into an “almost-perfect-married-life-age.” When Buffy (my wife) arrived The Bicycle became a Motorcycle and Roller Skates became Rollerblades. Soon after, ANOTHER almost perfect marriage occurred to Buffy:

“Hey, we should unite The Motorcycle and The Rollerblade.”

This gave birth to something we called “Motor-Blading”. I’d motor Buffy up the hills then Buffy would “blade” down them. Those toys taught me the value of maintaining proper insurance coverage. It’s hard for me to deny that those toys ALSO taught me the priceless value of poignant memories.

Eventually marriage morphed into parenthood; with that The Motorcycle morphed back into The Bicycle. I always thought The Motorcycle would be more fun than The Bicycle because I didn’t have to pedal it. I was wrong. Perhaps my bicycle was teaching me that hard work is not something to be avoided; but rather, hard work is rewarding and something to be embraced?

Having said that, there were some toys that I was never ACTUALLY able to embrace. I could never seem to get my hot little hands on one of those spinning gyroscope things. I never had a set of Lincoln Logs either. I always kind of wanted one of those Harry Blackstone Magic Sets too. I guess God (knowing how slippery I could be) figured it was just as well that I never learned how to do any slight-of-hand.

I did have a remote control car at one point. Sort of. The control device and the car were connected by a cord. Aside from the kale smoothie and the state of New Jersey, that “ALMOST-remote-control” car was the biggest disappointment ever.

I suppose these toys that were “so-close-yet-so-far-away” taught me this: Be thankful for what you have.

The Kite, The Slinky, and the Yo-Yo were among several toys that DID NOT provide any fun. They provided frustration. Evidently, The Kite was supposed to fly and The Slinky was supposed to slink. I don’t know what the Yo-Yo was supposed to do. I could never get it to do anything. BUT I’M NOT BITTER! [Fist Shake]. It took me a decade to figure out the Rubik’s Cube. It took me FOUR decades to learn how to throw a Frisbee. Santa once brought me one of those Magic Slider Boxes that would make a coin disappear. Before I learned how to use that infernal little contraption, I lost over $500 in nickels! [Eye Roll]

If that frustrating collection of toys had any words-of-wisdom for me there were probably this: Practice and patience will eventually pay off. I learned that lesson a tad too late in life. In that regard I would like to submit that I believe Play-Doh was the perfect toy. When I got frustrated with it…I could eat it.

As the years came and went, the toys came and went. Some were lost. Some were donated. Some were eaten. In any event, there was a small assortment of toys that did indeed survive the test of time. These toys survived being left at Darlene’s house. They survived being left out in the rain. These toys survived my dad’s reorganization fits. They survived my mom’s cleaning binges. These toys survived trips on vacation and moves from one house to another. They survived the trip from childhood to adulthood. They survived the trip from single-life to married-life.

Ultimately these toys survived my wife’s cleaning binges.

Along with my model trains and a couple of teddy bears, another one of my “toys” that was indeed able to withstand the test of time was my LEGO collection. However, please keep a couple of things:

LEGOS ARE NOT A “TOY!”….and LEGOS ARE NOT MADE OUT OF PLASTIC!

LEGOS are part of a modular, interlocking brick system that are made of a technically advanced, space-age, polycarbonate resin. [Affirming Nod]

[Sigh]

As far as MY “relationship” with toys goes, I do have a rather embarrassing confession to share. I’ve always kind of operated under the delusion that my toys were more that just toys. There was always a small part of me that wanted to believe my toys had some kind of soul. I don’t know. Maybe there was always a small part of me which actually DID believe my toys had some kind of soul. I know, it’s a messed up thought, but I’ve led a messed up life. That messed up life has caused me to be separated from my toys. I don’t know where any of my toys are now. I hope they found a good home.

I suppose the lesson those toys taught me was this: Some things are worth holding on to but other times I will need to know when to let go.

Along with all of those toys that may have been frustrating, cheap, dangerous, reluctantly educational or downright awesome, there was one toy-related incident from my childhood that forever instilled a rather unique lesson into the very core of my being.

Back when I was in elementary school a very dear aunt had given me a toy rifle. There wasn’t anything special about this particular toy rifle. I remember it was gun-colored. I remember it made some sort of gun-noise. I also remember it was made of plastic. ACTUAL PLASTIC!..not some sort of lifelike polycarbonate resin. [Eye Roll] This toy gun was made out of honest-to-God ACTUAL PLASTIC!

Nevertheless, one day I was playing with my plastic gun-colored gun, that made plastic gun-sounding gun-noises. While doing so, I did something to anger my mother. Whatever I did must have been the transgression-to-end-all-transgressions because my mom almost never got angry. Seriously, almost NEVER! I once saw my mom flip out at a home improvement store after receiving bad service. This was akin to seeing Mr. Rogers pull a knife on someone. I wasn’t sure if I should be scared or laugh out loud. Either way, it was EPIC! Regardless, whatever I did to anger my mother probably had something to do with me being an annoying 7 year old with an annoying plastic gun-colored gun that made annoying plastic gun-sounding gun-noises. One way or the other my mom lost it. She took my annoying plastic gun-colored gun that made annoying plastic gun-sounding-gun noises and broke it over her knee.

With one soul-crushing snap (which ironically sounded like a gunshot) the life of my toy rifle came to an end.

Based on my mom’s insanely high tolerance for “things annoying,” I can safely say her actions were a justifiable consequence for my conduct.

So, why is this incident still burned into my memory all of these years later?

Keep in mind, I was just a dumb kid, with a dumb gun who was operating under a dumb suspicion that my dumb toys possessed some kind of soul. I was SO dumb that I even believed my PLASTIC toys might have some kind of soul. On top of that, like most plastic toys (guns and otherwise) I was kind of fragile.

The idea that some type of innocent figure³ would end up being broken, destroyed, ruined or otherwise sacrificed for my transgressions is a concept that has had the power to haunt me for a lifetime.

Foot Notes:
¹Not really
²My Tricycle didn’t actually have any of these features [Eye Roll]
³John 3:16

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Convicted sex offender living in Federal prison finds Jesus; retains sense of humor while under misguided notion that he’s still relevant to society

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Convicted sex offender living in Federal prison finds Jesus; retains sense of humor while under misguided notion that he’s still relevant to society

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