East Aurora, New York
June 29th, 2012
I looked at the showcase of vintage toys with polite disinterest. They were magnificent, of course, yet unsatisfactory in some vital way. Perhaps it was because I had already judiciously studied them the day before, reveling in the wonder and delight of Fisher-Price toys from as early as the 1930’s. Perhaps I was even slightly overwhelmed, taking in literally hundreds of toys that were once found in the nurseries, living rooms and kitchens of homes around the world. “What is missing?” I wondered. “What am I not seeing?”
Admonishing myself, I tried to generate the appropriate level of enthusiasm. Not everyone is lucky enough to receive a first-hand introduction; visiting the Fisher-Price headquarters was more than a special invitation from a toy company – it was the history of play unveiled before my eyes. And for that, I was both fortunate and grateful.
Still, I was dissatisfied.
Searching through the toys, I heard the audible gasps of fellow Fisher-Price Moms as they recognized a childhood favourite. Peals of laughter and screams of astonishment as they came across toys from the 1980’s; jostling each other gently in an effort to get a better view. And that’s when I knew what was missing: although I recognized toys that I had myself played with as a little girl, I didn’t have a special connection to them. I was like watching a foreign movie without the subtitles; I got the gist, but didn’t appreciate the nuances of the story line.
And just like that, it happened.
My eyes trained on a toy that I hadn’t seen the day before. How had I overlooked this? I stepped in for a closer view and instantly, memories flooded my mind.
Memories of turning the pieces over, studying the patterns, texture and colours. Rolling out the clay and cutting triangles, circles and flowers – being sure to gently ball up the scraps to repeat the process all over again. Putting the pieces back in the caddy so they were just so; tracing the pictures on the outer edge with my finger in admiration for such a fine specimen.
Without doubt, I instantly recognized my very favourite toy from childhood – one that I had long forgotten about. I played with this toy every day, and for far longer than was socially appropriate. Because to me, this was my little craft station – my escape from an annoying older brother, much too much math homework and often dueling parents. I would huddle in my room and roll out piece after piece, methodically perfecting my technique.
Back in the present, I excitedly asked if anyone could identify the toy, yet received a few sympathetic shrugs and guesses, but nothing concrete. I made a mental note to corner a Fisher-Price employee and demand more information, but sadly, the day progressed so quickly that the opportunity never arose.
Later that night, at home, I Googled every description of the toy I could think of – to no avail. Was the toy to remain in my past – and live only in my memories – forever? In desperation, I noticed the numbers “787” under the Fisher-Price logo and instantly, I found it.
Fisher-Price Creative Clay Tool Set.
This toy is a part of my history. It is a part of me. In an integral way, it sparked my imagination, fostered my creative spirit and likely initiated much of my obsessive-compulsive disorder (kidding – but I did work very hard at rolling out the perfect flower). This is the Joy of Learning. This is nostalgia.
I am part of the Fisher-Price Play Panel and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group.
The opinions on this blog are my own.