My once-a-year book. My Aunt Who Put Up With Me Every Summer (I’d use initials, but all my aunts’ initials are “M.A.”) decided I should have a library of good hardcover children’s books. Every Christmas she and my uncle would get me a different title, which I put in my little white bookcase and called my library. I made my own bookplates (every book collector is cringing at this point) and glued them to the inside covers.
Those books started me off on a lifetime of reading and of collecting. Our new house features a library I’ve spent more time planning for than any other room in the house, including the kitchen.
Dollhouses. My first dollhouse was one of those metal ones with the plastic furniture. But it was stored in a garage when we moved and rock salt spilled on it, causing the metal to corrode. My next dollhouse was this ultra-modern ranch house with lamps that lit and a doorbell that worked. I wanted to live in that dollhouse.
That same year my brother got this huge Roman boat called “Big Caesar.” It was battery-operated with oars that stuck out of the side to move it along. He’d put his Viking and pirate Warriors of the World (10 points for anyone who remembers those) on the boat and have them visit my house. They were very civil, as Vikings and pirates go, and I don’t know what it says about us that this story line somehow made sense.
Desk and office supplies. When I was six, unbeknownst to my brother and me, my parents were having major financial problems. That Christmas my grandmother and aunt went together and bought us each a desk. My parents bought us paper and pencils, tape, etc.
I decided this meant I was officially a writer (I didn’t think it meant I should do anything as mundane as homework, though). So I wrote my first “book,” which I found among my mother’s things when she died. Apparently we had just been to the Broadway show “Oliver” because the story centered around “Nancy and the boys” and, read as an adult, sounds slightly pornographic because at some point the boys all jump on Nancy. To quote the descriptive narrative: “Olvr ws furs.”
James Bond attaché case. This was the coolest toy ever and, therefore, would never be sold these days. The James Bond attaché case shot real plastic bullets, little tiny things perfect as a swallowing hazard for a child under three and perfect for shooting someone’s eye out. Here’s the cool part: you could shoot the bullet from a plastic gun or you could attach the gun inside the case and as you are surreptitiously going for a stroll around the block and a CHAOS agent happens to pass you by, you could just push a button on the outside of the case, easily accessible from the handle, and ping a bullet at him. Or – OR – Get This!!! – you could take a picture of him!! Is that not cool?
Of course, it came with the proper identification forms, passport, pad with decoder, etc. More office supplies! I promptly opened my detective agency and was employed by our German Shepherd to find my brother, who was traveling the neighborhood under the assumed name Bumphrey Hogart.
A transistor radio. What to get a preteen too old for dolls, too young for makeup (at least in those days before Pop Tarts had little girls looking like used-up hookers)? Before boomboxes there were transistors, tiny radios that had the sound quality of chalk on a blackboard. You could put them under your pillow at night and no one was the wiser (strangely, when I woke up my radio was always placed neatly on my bedside table).
I’d lay in bed and anxiously listen to the Top Ten Countdown, which I didn’t have to do since my brother would have it neatly listed by the next morning. He kept all his lists so he could track the rise and fall of each song. He probably still has the lists in his Basement of Doom along with the weather maps he collected every day.
It is a sad fact that nothing remains of the above-mentioned gifts. When we decided to move to
She left the boxes of Top Ten lists and weather maps. So if you ever need to know what the weather was like on April 9, 1966, and what the No. 3 song in the country was, we're the people to call.