Monday, October 8, 2012

Never Too Old to Play

Thought for the day:  It is utterly false and cruelly arbitrary to put all the play and learning into childhood, all the work into middle age, and all the regrets into old age.  [Margaret Mead]

We can never be young again, but doggone it, that doesn't mean we can't enjoy our second childhood. As many a psychiatrist has said, it's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to us.

Even the ol' pessimist Fredrich Nietzsche said, In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.

And Plato said, Life must be lived as play.

Jeez Louise, who are we to argue with those guys? I mean, they were two seriously smart dudes.

So play we must.

Let's investigate our capacity for fun, shall we? Do you have any toys left from your childhood? I only have a few.

It was pretty much the standard in our extended family to pass toys around. Whatever toys I received from my older cousins, I'd later pass on to the younger ones, so I was really surprised to come across this little china tea cup in my parents' house when we were cleaning it out after my father died. As far as I know, it's the only piece remaining from the tea set I played with as a little girl. I don't exactly play with it anymore, but it makes me smile every time I look at it.

This is the only original toy I've kept in my possession since childhood. My aunt made the pouch in about 1954 or so, and my ball and jacks have resided in it ever since. At one time, some of the jacks were brightly colored, others were shiny, and the ball actually bounced. (Now the ball kinda goes THUD.)

These little China dolls were sent to me in the late '50s by military friends who were stationed in Japan. The dolls sat on display  in my mother's china cabinet for years, and over time, the elastic bands holding the arms and legs gave up the ghost. About twenty-five years ago, my father replaced the bands, and my parents sent the dolls to me as a Christmas surprise.

Okay, second question: Since you've been an adult, have you ever bought a toy for yourself?

I did.

What can I say?

I fell in love with Alf.

Okay, here's another one for you. Have you ever bought a toy for your child or grandchild because you wanted to play with it? Boy, oh, boy, have I ever! I could hardly wait for my kids to be old enough to play Stratego, to build models, and to create magic with an erector set. Reading my favorite children's books to my kids and grandkids is even more enjoyable than it was when I read them for the first time as a child.

Does anybody still buy you toys?

Smarticus and I usually give each other fun little gadgets to play with, because we're both overgrown kids at heart. But my favorite... my absolute favorite toy he ever got me is this:

Can you believe it???? It's a genuine original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Bubble Bomber!!! Woo HOO!

Every time I saw the commercial for this toy on TV, I went nuts for it. Kept telling my hubby how I wished our kids were younger so we could buy it for them. (Right.) And ta-DA, he gave it to me for my birthday! (Can that man take a hint, or what???)

It is the coolest thing ever! You put in soap solution and a little bit of cooking oil, which warms up, so when you release a bubble bomb, it's filled with smoke. The bubble hits the ground, goes POP, and out comes the smoke. It's probably been close to thirty years since he gave it to me, and I still love it. It is still the coolest toy ever. (One of these days, I suppose I should let the grandchildren play with it...)

                                                    Okay, one last one to show you.

Isn't he adorable? When you squeeze his belly, he wolf whistles, and says, "I go bananas over you."

                                              Your turn. Tell me about your toys.

A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly.  [Pablo Neruda]


Oh yeah, I've got a really neat jump rope, too, and a couple hula hoops. Last time I jumped rope with some of the grandkids, I fell on my arse. I thought it was hysterical, but my son and husband were mortified. Said I couldn't play anymore.

Think that'll stop me from playing next time ...?

Oh, no, no, no. I'll just be more cautious.

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                                                I will not play tug o' war.
                                                I'd rather play hug o' war.
                                               Where everyone hugs instead of tugs,
                                               Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug,
                                               Where everyone kisses and everyone grins,
                                               And everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.
                                                             [Shel Silverstein]


  1. I had the usual "action figures" as a kid. I had a couple of teh original style G.I. Joes, something called Big Jim who came after Vietnam and had more environmentally conscious playsets like firefighter and rescue.

    The old Hot wheels cars was something I collected as well.

    I have no idea where that stuff ended up.

  2. Fantastic post, Susan! Made me remember a rubber doll I had when I was little, Jimmy Scoody. Scoody was my own --nobody else's doll. He had a squeaker hole in back and I could take baths with him. Once I ran wet out of my bath to show my older siblings how Scoody could shoot water out his squeak hole. I was so proud, so weird. I still have a toybox full of cool stuff but Scoody rotted out by the mid-1950s. Thanks for this nostalgic post.

  3. A very thought-provoking post as usual. I have always been a child at heart. I've never completely abandoned all the simple delights that make childhood so special.

    Being a notorious "keeper", I still have toys from my childhood. I would have had even more, but my father was notorious for getting rid of things and he threw LOTS of stuff out.

    As for the Alf doll - long ago my Mom was an Alf fan and she bought one. I still have it, but it's packed away somewhere in one of my storage buildings.

    I no longer buy toys (needless to say) but I like to hang to the past.......

  4. I mean to say "I like to hang ON to the past".
    Sorry for the boo-boo.

  5. had to chuckle over the last photo!

  6. I still have my Dungeons & Dragons manuals, as well as a dungeon adventure I designed myself.

  7. You forgot one of the best quotes of all: I'm growing older but not up... Jimmy Buffett. I've had the same toys for most of my life... camera, guitar, and for the past 20yrs or so, a computer. Yippee.

  8. I had a doll collection was I was a kid. My grandparents travelled a lot and would bring me back dolls from the places they visited. I still have a handful, but like you said the rubber bands inside have all disintegrated to dust.

  9. The toys of our childhood always give us the warm fuzzies when we think about them. I don't have any of my old toys. My parents didn't keep them. I do have a tea set belonging to my husbands aunt. The last toy I bought for myself was a Furbie, but, my grands let me play with their toys whenever I want.

  10. This is only thing Monster hates about me -- I don't play. Of course it might have something to do with I don't have time, or quite possibly, I'm just too tired. But then, it might be because I just never liked playing. I'd rather read.

  11. Beach Bum- I remember the G.I. Joe figures, but don't recall Big Jim. I can't even remember if our sons had any of the G.I. Joe stuff, but since our younger son was gung-ho Army since he was really young, he probably did. They definitely had a ton of Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars, though. A lot of the cheaper versions of them, too, and when the paint started looking iffy on them, we'd sit at the kitchen table and give them our own custom paint jobs. Lots of fun.

    Geo- HA! I had a rubber doll like that named Bubbles, and I used to squirt water out her squeak hole, too. So, if you were weird, I guess I was, too.

    Jon- Neat that your mom had an Alf doll, too, but you should bring him back into the house. I'll betcha it would make you feel good just to see him from time to time.

    John- Naughty, but nice.

    Dianne- Oh, how neat that you designed some adventures for D&D yourself. (Not that I know a darned thing about the game.) I used to make my own board games as a kid. Not exactly the same, huh?

    Mr. C- My hubby has a tee shirt with something like that on it: "I may be growing older, but I refuse to grow up." I didn't realize Jimmy Buffet was the originator, though. Nothing wrong with a camera, guitar, and computer ... they're some of my favorite "toys", too.

    L.G.- If my father was able to fix the rubber bands in my dolls, I'll bet you could find someone to fix yours, too.

    Delores- Ah, yes, the grands are grand for letting us play with them, aren't they? They have so many electronic (and educational) toys that eat batteries, make all kinds of noises, move, and teach, I really enjoy introducing them to old-fashioned toys and games that run on imagination.

    Anne- Oh my goodness, no play? I love to read, too, but life without play would be like cooking a gourmet meal without herbs and spices.

  12. I still have two dolls and a couple of stuffed animals from way back. Matter of fact, I was cruising a Penny Brite doll on Ebay just last month. The last present I got from my eldest brother was a talking Eeyore doll. My friends and I still give each other toys and games and we still play them, and argue and behave like children. :)
    I gave my mother's Alf to Stevil a few years ago...
    I'm very impressed with that woman doing a vertical split!! Wow!!!!

  13. Laura- I love that your inner child is still very much alive and well. Yeah, I'm impressed with that gal doing that split, too. It doesn't mean a thing that I can't do that now, because I'm pretty sure I NEVER could've done it.

  14. How lovely to have been sent those beautiful China dolls (sorry, can't *not* think of David Bowie when I write that) after all those years!

    And I have to say I find it incredibly endearing that you fell in love with Alf. HA!

  15. My dad made a lot of my toys (out of wood) because ww1 was on. After the war I would ask for a set of trains for Christmas, wanting something like the "Lionel" set but just saying trains menat I got a couple cars and engine that you pull along the floor. The next year I asked for trains again but forgot to say "electric" or "Lionel" and got something just as silly as the year before. Finally on the 3rd Christmas try did I get the real thing.
    For my daughter I spared no expense each year.

  16. Suze- Aw, come on! Who could avoid Alf and those big adorable feet of his???

    Anthony- It's never too late to play with electric trains. We just visited a new hobby shop yesterday, and came precariously close to buying ourselves a new set. We just sold our old 1950's Lionel trains earlier this year, but we've been looking at some of the smaller gauge. Who knows? We may end up getting them yet. Only thing that's holding me back is concern that our cats will try to eat the people...

  17. I still have kids at home, so I get to play often. That pic of the young lady stretching on the sign looks like something my mom would have tried in her 80's. :)

  18. I don't really have any toys of my own anymore, but I do play with my grandchildren with theirs. And yes, I do buy them things that I would like. Now that they are all attached to their electronics though, it is not the same. They try to teach me, but I have no enthusiasm for learning them.

    Hubby though, has lots of toys. They usually involve a motor and are more expensive than any toy I ever had. You know that expression, "He who dies with the most toys, wins."

  19. Yes! There is nothing wrong with playing. I think play is essential to keep the mind and body young.

  20. They say "Growing old is mandatory but growing up is optional"

    Some of us never grow up, I still have diecast Nascar race cars I collected many years ago, but the most fun I had was while we were in NM helping our Grandson play with his toys.

    Benjamin and Papa can sure make a big mess in the living room Ha Ha

  21. Hey Susan,
    Oh yeah, I will never lose the curiosity, the wonder that comes from my 'inner child'.
    You have embraced the sweet innocence of childhood. And yes, we grow older, yet can be young at heart.
    I think this article was real cute and nifty neato :) Thanks so much for this.
    And now I must go find my Gumby and Pokey toys. Tomorrow I shall purchase a new Teddy bear. Think I'll call him Ernie.
    You take care and happy playing.

  22. TG and I still buy toys. Play is fun (and a lot cheaper than trips to Europe). Just the other day we bought ourselves two toy cars, just because they were the same kind as a couple of my characters drive. I guess that makes it sort of work-related, but mostly we just bought them to play with. :)

  23. This post sure put a smile on my face. I love Alf! That china cup is delightful, as are the Japanese dolls. How lovely and thoughtful to have those fixed up for you as a present.

    I think the best part about having a kid is the toys that I get for m... her. ;) There's a couple things I always wanted, that hopefully I... she will get. Like a race-car track, a science experimenting kit... maybe a snowcone maker... (I'd better stop now).

  24. Linda- Playing with our children (or grandchildren) gives us second and third chances to enjoy childhood all over again. Your mom musta been something else!

    Arleen- I know what you mean. I don't have much enthusiasm for the grandkids' electronic toys, either.

    Lynda- Absolutely!

    Jimmy- It's the sacred duty of every grandparent to help their grandchildren play. So what if we make a little "mess" in the process? Then, we can help them clean up.

    Gary- There ya go. You hit it on the head. It's the wonder and curiosity we don't want to ever lose. As they say, we don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

    Linda- Good! Maybe that's why there's so much fun in your writing. You still know how to play.

    CarrieBoo- It's perfectly acceptable to buy toys for your daughter that you want to play with and wish you had. However, you DO have to let her play with them every once in a while.

  25. Fun post, Susan. I often have to remind myself to play more with my kids- you know, get down on the floor and build something with Legos. Too often I put the "to do" list first. Thanks for your comments on my WIP and at my blog last week! Nice to meet you!

  26. Hey,

    I haven't bought or kept any old toys (they were destroyed!!) and I've moved too much, but I do *love* watching my boys play with the books on the shelf... I just want them never to be scared of books (even if they don't have any pictures) so I don't mind replacing jackets or reorganizing the shelves:)

    P.S. thanks for your comments re. Carol's story. That meant a lot...

  27. Excellent post! The few things my mother saved for me for 25 years I gave away after letting my own children play with them. I wish I had them back now, but the best things in life are the memories. I do still love to play :)

  28. Julia- Keep reminding yourself. Your kids will be grown up before you know it, and believe me, they WILL remember the times you spend playing with them.

    Mark- We've always had a ton of books around, and now that our kids are grown and raising their own kids, they have a ton of books at their homes, too. But I never thought of books as toys. (With you being in Hawaii, I kinda hope you have toys like a surfboard and/or snorkeling gear, too.)

    Martha- There are a lot of toys I wish I still had, too, but you're right. The memories are priceless.