As Alvis grows older and prepares to fledge one of the unexpected things that has challenged me is coming to terms with her childhood toys.
Now, as an only child, Alvis has probably received an above average lavishment of toys and gifts and meaningful-things from us and her extended family. That said, while not “minimalists” we have always strived to resist consumerism-overload and been fairly selective of the volume of “things” she has accumulated.
At least once a year either on her own or in a combined attack on her room, Alvis and I either toss out some toys (cheap disposable/broken ones) or fill a bag or two to be offered for the church garage sale or mission project.
Sometimes she even will allow some of the special kids she babysits from time to time in our home to “adopt” one of her toys they take a bonding to (although never the giraffes, which are sacred).
That has generally worked well to keep the Things Of Alvis managed over the past years, but as she has gotten older fewer and few new “toys” find their way into her room while the art-supplies, books and electronica seem to litter her desk and multiply monthly.
The winnowing process has become even more challenging now as most of the remaining items in her closet, under her bed, and on her shelves have survived for so long due to sentimental value to her (or truth be told, us). Does Alvis still really want that bobble-head Kim Possible cheerleader figure? Probably not but then that was her idol at the time of purchase and darn-it we all thought it was so cute..just like her at that period.
One day soon she will move on, taking a selected collection of cherished touchstones, leaving the rest for us to hold onto and/or take responsibility of getting rid of on our own if we have the courage to.
All this comes to mind as today I found a summary of an archaeological site dig in Florida a few years ago. The 7000 year old site and follow-on discoveries made a great read for this anthropology-studies minor but the intro text made my heart melt. Quoting Joseph L. Richardson’s words from that Windover Bog People Archaeological Dig - Titusville Florida web page:
“When the 3-year-old died, her parents placed her favorite toys in her arms, wrapped her in fabric woven from fibers of native plants, and buried her body in the soft, muck bottom of a small pond. Some 7,000 years later, when a young archaeologist uncovered her tiny remains, the toys--a wooden pestle-shaped object and the carapace of a small turtle--were still cradled in her arms.”
This boggles my modern mind and my parental heart. I can see the child’s joy playing with her simple toys and the sadness as her family lays her to rest accompanied by these same cherished objects. And then I consider all the “toys” Alvis still has in her room and the special meanings they also represent.
Lest we think that our technology and modern toy development (and American marketing ingenuity) has left such simple things behind, I submit to you the following “GeekDad” posts by Jonathan Liu for reflection. You may be surprised by what makes the list.
The 5 Best Toys of All Time - GeekDad | Wired.com
Get a Kid the 6th Best Toy of All Time - GeekDad | Wired.com
So as we face yet another season of the Christmas season marketing madness, and the prospect of a grown woman’s silent childhood room in the very near future with the objects that remain, I pause for a moment of the melancholies and “mono no aware”, of what "toys” really are, both in form and function, and what they whisper when they remain after the owner has moved on.
Inspired by the lists above I’m seriously thinking about getting Alvis a custom Transmogrifier shaped in the form of a large rectangular clothing basket with sturdy handles for Christmas; one in Tardis Blue. She had one before as a child and used it with great passion and pleasure often paring it with a magical blanket of great mystery, comfort and invisibility and disappearing in the middle of the living-room for hours on end with nothing but giggles coming from the space they previously occupied.
I think it might just be perfect as when she tires of jetting around both Time and Space for old-time-sake (although she would probably leave the brake on like a certain Time Lord) she could use it to carry her own laundry to the Laundromat.