Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Project #3: Your Toy Story

This has happened now at the last three or four Pixar movies. They get to a certain point -- in "Up," it's that sequence about the old couple, and if you've seen it you know what I'm talking about -- and all the adults in the theater start crying. Most of the kids aren't crying -- a few are, because they see their parents doing it -- but it's the adults who are just walloped with emotion.

The same thing happened this year, at the end of "Toy Story 3." We saw the movie months ago and I still think about the last few minutes. It's the reason Pixar is the current heavyweight champion of storytelling -- their movies balance on that pivot point where kids start to learn what it means to be grown up, and grown-ups remember what it was like to be a kid.

The "Toy Story" movies have a perfect vehicle to get the audience to that pivot point. They're about toys. A favorite toy might be the first thing you really took care of as a child. And it's probably one of your fondest childhood memories as an adult.

That's the basis for my new project: Your Toy Story.

I want you to tell me a story about your single favorite toy. (One toy only, please.) Keep it as brief as you can.

You can either post your story in the comments below, or you can e-mail me at ttomlinson@charlotteobserver.com.

We'd love to have photos and video to go with this project. If you have a photo of you with your toy, send it in an e-mail. If you have video, the easiest thing to do is upload it to YouTube and let me know. If those methods don't work for you, e-mail me and we'll figure something out.

If you happen to still have the toy, and you have a photo of you with it now, we'd love that too.

Here's a quick story before you go off to write. I had a G.I. Joe when I was little. My mom tells a story about how my dad took me to J.M. Fields department store one day, I begged him to buy the G.I. Joe, and he just about fell over when he found out how much it cost. We didn't have much money. But he swallowed hard and paid.

At some point the G.I. Joe lost one hand (even though it had the dreaded Kung Fu Grip) and the hair on one side of his head had been shaved off. I have no memory of how either of those things happened. But Joe took me along on hundreds of adventures, into river gorges (ditches) and through jungles (bamboo patches) and across enemy lines (the fence between our house and the neighbors').

At some point, of course, I quit playing with Joe and started watching "Saturday Night Live" and listening to Molly Hatchet records. But for years after, kids who came to our house would find Joe in the back of a closet and have their own adventures.

It makes me wish toys could talk, like the ones in "Toy Story." I would love to hear G.I. Joe tell he how he lost half his hair. But for now we'll have to settle for our stories about our toys. Sit down and tell me yours.


Lynne Stevenson said...

When I was younger my baby sister cut all of the hair off of my Barbie doll. It was one of the original ones to come out in the black and white one pieced bathing suit. My grandmother had given it to me on my first birthday and it was almost nine years old when my sister determined that it needed a military styled flat top!
That is one of the many reasons why I now own a closet full of Holiday Barbies at my age. I don't have to worry about my sister or anyone else destroying any possession of mine deliberately.
Besides they are awaiting the eventual arrival of my first grand daughter one of these days. Unfortunately, it will not be anytime soon. My son and his wife miscarried the twins they were expecting in December and it will be a longer wait than I anticipated.
This gives me the opportunity to add another one to my, er, the grand daughter's collection. I have already told my son that I don't care if he has 5 boys, his sixth child had better be a little girl...

A Fettucini Brother said...

My GI Joe had a very similar "look" to him. However, I remember the incidents that caused the permanent maiming and scarring quite well.
On his Kung Fu grip hand, all that was left were the thumb. The 4 fingers were blown off when I put a Fire cracker in his hand, pretended it was a stick of dynamite, lit it, ran away, and watched it as it blew his fingers off and left powder burns all of what was left of his hand.
His face was hacked and the plastic was divoted out from where I went at him once with a paring knife to try and whittle down his full beard into more of a fu manchu or Van dyke kind of look, to make him look different than some of the others.
The good thing is that now I had this GI Joe that ended up playing the permanent role of being in the "sick bay" of the hospital as an injured soldier. But he could never hold a gun or a rifle the same way again. Sad state of affairs for a soldier to be in, But by this time, they were the GI Joe Adventure Team anyway. Thanks for your great story Tommy. It triggered some good memories (as Toy Story 3 did).
I'll have to think now, to come up with a good one that is not about my GI Joe, since you started off with that one.

leslie richardson said...

My Favorite toy(s) were my "Little People", you know the Barn, Schoolhouse,Etc. My best friend could not come out of the gate when she was younger, so I would be on one side of the gate and she on the other having a good time with those little people.We played with them so long, they got chipped from wear & tear. Back in the 60's 70's they didnt have much to choose from, but when my son got old enough to play with them. i got him every "little people" set i could find. I don't know what happened to my barn & schoolhouse, but I know we gave my son's to a family who had lost everything. I wanted her child to experience as much joy as we did playing with them.To this day, I wish I still had them.

Anonymous said...

The toys I remember the most were my "Shineshine Family" dolls. There was the mom, dad, sister and baby brother. They were the perfect family. Mom with her dress and apron, Dad with his brown curly hair, the toddler sister with her blond pigtails and the litle baby brother with his own curly brown hair to match the dad. I don't remember who bought them for me, but I played with them all of the time. They would interact with the few Barbies I had. They were neighbors.
Over time I lost them all. Probably sometime during the move from Florida to North Carolina when I was eight.
I thought of them often so when I had my daughter I looked for them on Ebay. I found them still in the box, unopened. I remember staying up late to bid on them. I was determined to win. I think I paid around $70. The box still had the original price sticker on it for $7.99. I opened the box just to touch them and look at them. They were just like I remembered. After that purchase I found the grandparents on Ebay, they were sold together. I always wanted them too. They came out a year or so after the original family did. I bought them too.
Now my daughter is 8 so I decided she was old enough to take care of them and enjoy playing with them and she does and I enjoy playing with them with her.

Anonymous said...

Melissa is her name .... a beautiful baby doll that arrived one cold Christmas morning. She shared a doll-size bunk bed with Nancy, my older sister's doll.
We spent many a day "playing dolls" together, caring for them as if they were our own baby girls. Melissa is now carefully packed away, awaiting the birth of a grandchild someday.

Joshua McCorkle said...

He had the best laugh! I haven't heard it in 25 years, but its playing on repeat in my had as I write this. My dad was a Marine, stationed in Okanawa while I was learning to walk and talk. My folks had separated when I was just a few months old, and they weren't much older. Dad shipped off to see the world and mom stayed home to raise a boy. I would get letters from far away lands in envelopes with the exotic blue and red ink trim, t-shirts, and questions about school, friends, and "being a good boy". He sent me a set of samurai swords once.

But the little Japanese laughing man...there was nothing obvious about it that said "5 year old boy". Maybe there were Okinawan commercials with boys he imagined as my size with big smiles. He was a plastic figure, about 6 inches tall, (made in China, no doubt) squatted in the lotus position. Green pants, white shirt, orange vest, and an orange hat that sat upon his ridiculous oversized head which rocked on a metal spring. Push his head down and he would unleash this contagious cackle, universal in any language. I thought he was hilarious! I thought he was unique. I thought he was the kind of toy my dad would like.

I kept him on my bookshelf and knocked his noggin once a day for years, long after my dad had left the Marines and commenced chasing himself all over this country. Sometimes, maybe, he laughed for me.

I don't know where that little guy is now. A hunk of plastic doomed to a thousand years in a landfill, or handed off in a yardsale. I have 2 tiny daughters now who would love to hear that little guy laugh. I can imagine their faces, hear their laughs, playing with him for the first time. I wish I had those kinds of things to pass down. But I suppose new toys that I pick out for them will be pretty good too.

Anonymous said...

I had a beautiful doll when I was younger that I named Audrey. She had a fabric body with plastic head and feet and a dress you take on and off. She had pretty dark chesnut colored hair that you could brush and style. My dad told me that she looked like my twin, because she was so pretty.

One evening, I decided Audrey needed to take a bath with me. Getting out of the tub, I laid her down on the bathroom counter to dry, not paying any particular attention to how her hair was laying as she dried. Well, as any of you out there who had Barbies know, when you get the plastic strands of "hair" wet and you don't comb them out to dry, they end up dried in the shape you left them in. Needless to say, my beautiful Audrey now had hair that stuck straight up on top and was completely matted flat on the back. I was so upset. When I showed her to my dad, he told me not to be upset and that she would always be my twin. He told me to look in the mirror first thing in the morning and I will see that she is still my twin. Being only 6 years old at the time, I didn’t exactly foresee what was coming.

The next morning I woke up and held Audrey on my shoulder and looked in the mirror. Dad was right. She was still my twin. I have naturally wavy/curly hair and I have never been blessed with get-up-and-go hair. From then on my family nickname has been Audrey. Even now at 37, when I hear dad call me Audrey, it melts my heart and I think of that poor doll's hair and how blessed I am, now that flat irons are readily available.

Audrey was packed away in the garage for years, but several Christmases ago, Mom and Dad wrapped up Audrey and gave her to me again as a present. Yes, I cried. And no, years of storage had not improved the hair. I have since given Audrey to my daughter who has the doll on her bookshelf in her room.

Anita said...

Under the Christmas tree one year was a bright red scooter! I was about 5 years old, and couldn't wait to head outside and ride over our farm. I scooted all over the place: across the pasture to my grandparents' house, down the hill to the chicken houses, around the house. I recall rolling down the hill on that scooter, my hair flying in the breeze, feeling free as a bird. I think I nearly rolled its'wheels off!

Over the years, I put many miles on that scooter. After a while, it rusted a bit; my mom painted it green and my younger sister logged some miles on it.
Eventually it wound up in the barn, collecting dust and cobwebs.

Fast forward many years -- recovering from an ugly divorce and feeling quite "displaced," I began spending more time with the man in my life that had never let me down: my dad, Haskell Tarlton. We spent many Saturdays in the barn, working on refinishing some furniture for my small apartment. One day, I spied my old scooter, leaning forlornly in the corner. I rolled it out to take a look. The handle grips had rotted away, but otherwise it was in good shape. The next Saturday, Daddy and I painted it bright red and slid new rubber grips onto the handlebars. I took it home with me, and it has a place of honor in my house.

When I see that scooter today, I think of the freedom I felt riding it as a child -- and the happiness I felt restoring it (and myself) with my dad as an adult.

David Waters said...

Tommy, I had a GI Joe and went on the same missions, what a blast. Though mine has plastic hair that couldn't be shaved off and Kung Fu Grip??? That wasn't invented yet, man the snakes (worms) I coulda' squeezed in two with that!

But I'm writing about a toy I had before that.

It was a little black baby doll. And I cherished it. I don't know where it came from or where it went. But as the youngest of four mistreated boys, I felt I could right some wrongs and treat this right.

I've wondered over the years where that doll came from and where it is. I remember the conversations and how I felt like its protector, especially when I'd hide it if someone was coming.

I grew up and did my GI Joe thing in the Marines for eight years and have become a kinder, gentler man...

and when I'm on a mission in Ghana West Africa, and holding a child in a remote village where we just installed a water purifier to prevent the children from getting sick and dying from the contamination and parasites, I remember that doll and how all I wanted to do was help... the least of these.

Anonymous said...
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sbh1cats said...

i had the barbie camper...which is a hoot because there is no way you will catch me camping...i would set it up and put her lounge chair out and she would camp away...

cefdad said...

I am soon to be forty-one and have lived in North Mecklenburg most of my life. For Christmas when I was fourteen my younger brother and I got Schwinn Travelers. At first sight I remember thinking "Holy cow there really is a Santa Claus because I know my Dad would never pony up for one of those, let alone two." They were beautiful; the splendor of that Christmas morning will live in my memory forever.

I remember it to be the coldest Christmas in years. The banks of Lake Norman were frozen solid from the constant barrage of wind and spray off of the water. The run of bad weather lasted from Christmas to well through the New Year. Neither the weather nor the urging of my poor mother could keep me home. I rode from sun up to sun down. My brother parked his bike pretty quickly, but for me the newness never wore off. Throughout the years before I got my drivers license I racked up the miles from Davidson to well below Long Creek (don't tell my mom, or my wife's mom for that matter) and everywhere in between. It was freedom like I had never experienced.

Once I became old enough to drive a car my bike still followed me everywhere I went. It has been through some modifications as of late and has taken it place as one of my most cherished possessions. I still ride it although not as much as I should and I still get that same sense of freedom when the wheels are rolling.

Anonymous said...

When I was young my most favorite toy was a silver toy pistol, holster, cowgirl vest and cowgirl hat. We had a toy box in the garage that held all our "outdoor" toys and this was where this getup lived (except the hat - it got to lie inside). One night someone forgot to close the lid on the toy box, a squirrel got inside and met his maker. My Mother made my Dad throw away the entire box and contents. I think I was about five and to this day remember just wanting the pistol . . .

Anonymous said...
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Nell said...

I have a tiger. Not just any stuffed animal tiger, but a one of a kind tiger that was made in Alabama by a textile worker in the early 1960's.

My dad worked in the now deceased textile industry and at one point was the operations manager for a plant outside of Monroeville Alabama. Daddy came home one day with a lion, monkey and tiger that one of the seamstresses had made out of polyester fuzzy fabric that "looked" like real lion, monkey and tiger.

The lion was almost life-sized and my younger brother quickly claimed the king of the jungle and would ride on the back of the lion while swinging the monkey around the room knocking into lamps, doors and book shelves.

I claimed Tiger. I never named my tiger something exotic. He was just "Tiger". Tiger is about three feet long therefore is the perfect size to cuddle up with in the bed. Tiger has black and gold tiger stripes, a white mane, a red tongue that has always is sticking out and for some reason only known to his inventor, green plastic eyes.

In the mornings I would make my bed with Tiger in the center and his head on a pillow. Tiger and I developed a relationship in which I would talk, yell or cry and he looks at me with an understanding green eye. Many times that just enough to get me through whatever emotional jubilation or turmoil that I was going through.

Eventually, Tiger was loving wrapped in an old blanket and put in a closet. However, there came a day when I was 19 years old that I needed Tiger and his green eyes of understanding when my father was diagnosed with cancer and died a few horrible months later. Over the past 30 years I have needed Tiger like Linus needs his blanket. I have also shared Tiger when one of my children were sick or had a bad dream. Recently, my teenage daughter was going through the angst that is all "teenager" and I put Tiger in her bed for several nights. She brought Tiger back to me a few days later and simply said "thanks".

Tiger has been out on a bed or a chair more and more over the past ten years or so. Even though I am grown and knocking on the door of 50 with have a great husband and two terrific teenagers, I still need the silent green eyes of understanding to talk to about my day. Sometimes that is just....enough.

Cindy H. said...

My best friend pre-school (and probably later) was Teddy Bear. When I was not quite 3 years old, my older brother had to have his tonsils removed. Dad, being a hard-working coal miner in SW PA, decided he wasn't going to miss a day's work for each of us kids, so one day my brother, sister and I had to go to the hospital for tonsillectomies. I took Teddy along; he was only about 8" tall and fit well in my Barbie overnight bag Mum packed for me.

Back then (1959-60) they used liquid ether dripped on a mask for anesthesia, and reportedly I swallowed quite a bit of that, which made me sick. When I was feeling better, I asked for a glass of milk. That didn't sit well on my stomach and I threw up on Teddy. After we got home a few days later, Mum cleaned up Teddy in our wringer washer, costing him an eye and some stuffing.

When I turned about 13 and Teddy had lost most of his fuzz, I decided to cremate him. I said a few prayers and set him on fire in the back yard, scooping up his ashes into a small tin. I kept the tin with me through many moves, but lost somewhere about 15 years ago.

I've been fortunate to have many toys (more complicated and expensive ones in later life) but when I read your Story Topic, my first thoughts went back to Teddy Bear.

Mooms said...

I was one of the eight children of a sheet metal worker, in the South of the 1940’s and ‘50’s. Our parents couldn’t afford many toys, so each was carefully chosen. An entire category of present for us was a “learning toy,” and our mother encouraged the use of these, so that questioning and examining everything became second nature.

My all time favorite gift was a microscope. For this “toy” I would gather dirt, dismember insects, and, most painfully for my brother Jack, examine human hair.

I can assure you that he was NOT a willing donor for this hair, but should he be pensively resting - anyplace - with relaxed guard - he would feel a sudden SHARP pain as some hair - from somewhere - would be suddenly and violently yanked away for the good of science. At least, that is what I told him, as I smilingly held up for his view the object of my future observations. I really loved getting a batch that still had the root attached.

Javy Gwaltney said...

When I was four years old, I had a Buddy Doll. You remember those, right? Huge dolls with red hair and pleasant smiles. It was my absolute favorite toy as a child...until I saw the film, Chuckie.

In case you're not in the know, Chuckie was a movie about a serial killer doll who murdered people in vicious ways. Unfortunately, for my toy companion, he resembled Chuckie in nearly every way.

I, being the over cautious four year old that I was, immediately disposed of my Buddy Doll mere hours after viewing the film, chucking him headfirst into the rubbish bin in the kitchen.

Around one in the morning, my mother--having finished her shift at the hospital--returned home, utterly perplexed as to why my most beloved companion was in the trash can. She assumed my father tossed him away and sought to rectify the situation by putting the doll back in bed with me...while I was sleeping.

To this day, her face still lights up when she recalls being awoken early in the morning to my terrible shrieks of "He's alive!"

Thanks, Mom.

Alex said...

My favorite toy was a Gilbert Kaster lead casting machine which was my father's childhood toy. It was kept at my grandmother's house and we used to set it up on a metal table on the back porch. My brother, first cousin, and I used it to cast lead WWI toy soldiers about 2.5 inches tall. Since lead melts around 620 degrees, we'd often get minor burns but it was not a big deal. We'd make soldier after soldier to play with (and later watch them melt back into the cauldron).

We finally figured out that we could have a lot more fun abusing the purpose of the machine. We'd pour hot lead into a bucket of water and get really interesting free-form globs and droplets. Or we'd pour molten lead out on the metal table and press coins, nails, screws, and such into the puddle of lead. (This would have been the early sixties.)

Finally was able to buy a Gilbert Kaster on eBay a couple of years ago.

No safety goggles, no protection from handling lead, no adult supervision. Imagine that.

Barbara said...

I was a huge fan of Lite-Brite. Something a little mesmerizing about pushing those little colored pegs into the correct holes through the black paper. My favorite designs were butterflies, flowers or anything psychodelic looking. Then I'd go to bed that night with the Lite-Bright on. It made my room look magical!