Memories can be child’s play

Published 8:31 pm Friday, November 14, 2008

This time of year, a lot of catalogs arrive at our house. Among the ones that show up annually was an unfamiliar one. The cover touted it as featuring memories from yesteryear. It did exactly that to me. It changed my intention of taking a short nap into a trip back to my childhood.

A colorful tin spinning top caught my eye. What excitement that special toy brought to me as a child. You pushed the red wooden handle up and down. The longer you pumped, the more it spun, and the more it spun, the louder it hummed. One you stopped pumping, it transformed into a whirl of color. What a delight.

Did you ever have a Jack-in-the Box? Jack was enclosed in a colorful tin box with a handle on the side. When you turned the handle, “Pop Goes the Weasel,” began to play and “Jack,” a clown or jester, popped out. Then there were those tinkle-tonks that worked the same way — little boxes with a handle you turned to grind out music.

I thought of my little wooden piano. I recall it seemed like a magical thing when I plunked on it.

I saw one of my husband’s favorite childhood games — jacks that you played with a little rubber ball. One toy store site on the Internet from England advertised a set with metal jacks, two little rubber balls and five stones. Then at another site, somebody had page after page of instructions on the many ways to play jacks. My husband said that he and his sisters played jacks real often when they were growing up. You could always dash inside or on the porch on a rainy day and play a game of jacks.

I saw toys I had just forgotten about. How about pick up sticks? Ball in a cup? And kaleidoscopes, with multicolored particles in different shapes enclosed in a tube, fascinated me as a child. I feel a sense of wonder when I think of them.

I hadn’t seen or thought about clackers, balls dangling from strings in years, but I remembered what fun they were to swing out and see and hear them. Speaking of swinging, I remember the wooden yo-yos the boys in my elementary classes played with every day during recess and how adept some of them were in swinging the yo-yos far away and bringing them in smoothly.

And marbles. If I close my eyes, I can see little bunches of boys dressed in overalls down on their knees at a circle drawn on the playground, shooting marbles. They came in the classrooms brushing dust off their knees.

Some little girls loved Raggedy Ann dolls. I never had one, but I found that the man who wrote the Raggedy Ann stories supposedly found an old dusty rag doll in an attic, drew a face on it and gave it to its daughter. From that incident came the dolls and the inspiration for the stories.

We had simple toys but, to us, they were just as much fun as today’s electronic wonders.