Thursday, July 1, 2010

i'm a toys-r-us kid.

{the nerdiest children ever}

When my brother and I were younger, we played together all the time. I don’t know if it was a lack of televisions and video games, or our crazy parents’ genes, but we both had some serious imaginations. I remember elaborate games of Civil War and Boxcar Children, games we dragged our cousins into every time we went over to their house (they had a shed that looked exactly like a boxcar).

Although I was often the leader and instigator of the games we played, Chet was the one who would go all out. He’d change his voice to fit the people he was playing, and he’d stay in character long after the games were done. Sometimes, I’d walk into his room, and his action figures would be strewn about, some kind of epic battle taking place.

We had an unspoken agreement, Chet and I. I’d play pirate ship and war and Legos with him, if he’d play Barbies and school and church with me. I’d spend hours designing a Lego home, while he built Star Wars fighters to destroy them. We’d turn over chairs to be houses for Barbie and the gang.

Our toys were a big part of our little lives. I had an entire section of my closet devoted to my favorite American Girl doll. I put up miniature posters and made her bed and had her do all the things I couldn’t: gymnastics, clarinet. But perhaps what mattered wasn’t so much the toys themselves, (though Chet and his action figure collection might beg to differ), but what we did with them. How we used our imaginations to come up with stories and plot and conflict.

I don’t know about Chet, but as I grew older, I honestly was afraid I would hurt my toys’ feelings if I didn’t play with them. (Hey, I’d read The Velveteen Rabbit and The Giving Tree. “Puff the Magic Dragon” sent me into fits. I was not going to be that kid.)

So when I packed away my prized stuffed animals, I hugged them each goodbye. When I put my Barbie dolls in a Rubbermaid box, I carefully folded each of their delicate vintage outfits better than I folded my own clothes. And I was 15 before I finally sat down with my mom and packed away that part of my closet that belonged to Annie Ruth, my most prized toy of all. I cried like a baby. I felt like I was packing childhood away. (Plus I thought Annie Ruth might suffocate in the wooden trunk where we decided to keep her. I’m telling you, my imagination occasionally goes haywire.)

My stuffed animals started to fade and fall apart, and when I went to college, I decided I had to leave some behind. Minnie alone made the cut, and at the risk of being made fun of for the rest of my life, I took her everywhere. She made countless trips to Birmingham (my now in-laws raised their eyebrows, but graciously kept their mouths shut). I strapped her to my suitcase to Italy, brought her home for weekend trips, and slept with her in every dorm room I had.

Fifteen years ago, when Chet and I were six and nine, Toy Story came out, and it rocked our worlds. Those kids on screen? They were us! And those toys? Hey, we had some of those! That creepy kid with the skeleton shirt and the obsession with destruction? He lived across the street!

Now, it’s 2010, and when Jordan surprised me with a date to see Toy Story 3, I wondered how it would be. I didn’t really like Toy Story 2 (that cowgirl annoyed me to death), and everyone knows sequels just aren’t as good as the originals.

I stand corrected.

Toy Story 3 had me laughing hysterically, then crying like a baby. “Hey, I had that toy!” I’d whisper to Jordan every five minutes. And as I looked around the theatre, I realized: There weren’t very many kids in there. Nope. Most of the people sitting around me were in their 20s.

The Toy Story generation.

Those of us who played with action figures and dolls and Beanie Babies and plastic figurines, long before everyone had video games and televisions in their bedrooms.

And it was fun, wasn’t it?

Fun to love a doll as if she were flesh and blood. Fun to create adventures in our heads and come up with crazy voices and get lost for hours on end.

I won’t spoil anything for you, but the final scene of the movie absolutely blew me away. It was so beautiful; I immediately felt myself tearing up.

Because I think sometimes, life boils down to whether or not we’re willing to be kids again.

Are we willing to risk rejection to make friends and meet new people?

Are we willing to play nicely with those who don't always play nicely back?

Are we willing to use our imaginations to better our situations and tell a new story?

Are we willing to give selflessly to others?

Are we willing to love unconditionally and forgive without reproach?

Maybe it’s not about growing up and leaving childhood behind.

Maybe it’s about maturing in the right places and being like a child in the others.

Maybe we’re not meant to grow up just yet.


“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”


Lindsey said...

I loved that movie. I love this post. And I completely agree with you. :)

p.s. We should have a kid night cookie dough, build a fort, play games. I would love it.

mom said...

Oh Annie! I don't need to go to movie to shed a tear; I just read your blog!! I think one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is the opportunity to stretch their imaginations!! If you have a kid night; can I bring my Barbies????
I love my children!!

Betsy said...

Beautiful post! I saw Toy Story 3 and cried like a baby for the last half hour. The story really hit home for me...and in some ways I felt like the end of the 'trilogy' was like saying goodbye to my childhood all over again. I love your reflection, though, about how "it's not about growing up and leaving childhood behind...maybe it's about maturing in the right places and being like a child in the others." Such a true statement, and one that is emulated in the New Testament when Christ talks about those having a childlike faith being the first to enter His kingdom. (and I just now saw the scripture reference you placed at the bottom of your post...great minds must think alike!).