In the run-up to my 30th Birthday I started doing a lot of looking back through my life. I’m someone that goes headlong into things and charges through life, barely pausing to stop for breath. My priorities had always been goal achievement: exams, degrees, jobs, marriage, babies…and then I was nearly thirty and there wasn’t a whole lot left on the life tick-box to, well…tick off.
I found myself with a desire to reconnect with my life as lived so far. I bought the music that sound tracked my childhood (Squeeze, Dire Straits and Paul Simon, among others) and rediscovered it. I hunted for my favourite old children’s programmes (the original Postman Pat and Pigeon Street) on YouTube. It felt like I had to look back and reclaim bits of my 29 years in order to move forward again.
Now in my early thirties, I was prompted to think about the toys from my childhood by the final film in the Toy Story trilogy. When exactly had I stopped playing with the toys I adored as a child?
My parents are currently in the process of sorting out their house. My Dad is very much of the ‘If you don’t use it get rid of it’ school. My Mum…isn’t. She’s finding the whole process extremely painful. While I’m eternally grateful to my Dad for persuading my Mum to finally get rid of my potty, I was almost giddy with joy at the prospect of being reunited with some of my most beloved childhood toys.
My parents visited a couple of weeks ago and handed me a box choc-full of memories: Tootsie, (my first and favourite My Little Pony), Rock star Barbie (the clothes for my Barbie dolls immediately pin me as a child of the 1980s – shoulder pads ruled) and my flower fairies. My face was apparently a picture as I lifted each toy out of the box and recalled a series of stories about them – when and how I got them and anecdotes galore. I was very careful with my possessions as a child and, despite the normal wear and tear you would expect from toys that are c.25 years old, they were all in pretty good and perfectly playable condition. I actually got quite emotional about it, sentimental old goat that I am.
The girls were intrigued by the toys and certainly liked the ponies a lot. However, I’m not going to give them to the girls just yet. On a practical level, lots of the accessories are quite small and I don’t want them to get broken or lost. The underlying reason is that I’m not quite ready to let go of my toys at this point. R and G are still relatively young and I want them to appreciate my old toys, not abuse them. There’s time enough for them to discover Mummy’s ponies and dollies when they’re a couple of years older.
I have vivid memories of playing with these toys as a child but no matter how hard I try, I can’t recall the point at which I put away my childish things and consigned my dolls and ponies to the cupboard or ottoman, never to play with them again…until recently. I guess it’s the process that’s illustrated so beautifully in Toy Story 2 – as you get older and develop different interests, the toys from your childhood become much less interesting and get replaced by things more befitting your age. You don’t consciously abandon them, but you have to let go subconsciously to move on.
Having rediscovered my favourite toys again, I’m not ready for them to start the next chapter yet.