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LEGO and childhood toys…">On LEGO and childhood toys…

I'm a huge fan of toys in general; like, for someone who has absolutely no desire to have children, I like toys an awful lot. To me, toys are a reminder of the best part of childhood: infinite possibilities. Like all my favorite toys, LEGO represented that.

Yes­ter­day was the 50th Anniver­sary of the LEGO brick (well, the 50th anniver­sary of the guy fil­ing the patent for the LEGO brick). LEGO was one of my Top 5 favorite toys as a kid; hell, even now I love to look at the play­sets. Do they still come with the cat­a­logs like back in the day?

I’m a huge fan of toys in gen­er­al; like, for some­one who has absolute­ly no desire to have chil­dren, I like toys an awful lot. To me, toys are a reminder of the best part of child­hood: infi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties. Like all my favorite toys, LEGO rep­re­sent­ed that.

Orig­i­nal­ly, this was going to be a brief “Ode to LEGO” entry, but it kind of mor­phed into this, Christina’s Top 5 favorite toys:

  1. Fish­er-Price Lit­tle Peo­ple — I had so many of the sets, the school­house (two actu­al­ly), the McDonald’s, the fam­i­ly home (the old-style and the one they re-did in the ear­ly 1990s), Main Street (my favorite), the Swim­ming Pool, the Gas Sta­tion, the Farm, Sesame Street, and I loved them all. They changed the shape of the Lit­tle Peo­ple in the ear­ly 1990s (I just checked, it was 1990) and the change, in my opin­ion, was not pos­i­tive. I get that like 1 kid some­where choked on a Lit­tle Peo­ple fig­ure — and real­ly, those things are freak­ing BIG, like, I was the kid who almost had to go to the hos­pi­tal because I put so much mac­a­roni and cheese up my nose (yeah, I thought the noo­dles looked like nos­trils and decid­ed to stuff them up there — I remem­ber this. I also remem­ber hav­ing a hard time breath­ing and my dad hav­ing to use the sucky-tweez­ers to remove them and my mom being very, very upset) so I don’t real­ly under­stand how they could actu­al­ly block a tra­chea — but the re-design sucked and ruined the whole line, in my opin­ion. The one’s from the ‘70s and ‘80s (again, I just checked, 1965–1990), they pwned all.

  2. Fish­er-Price Fun with Food Kitchen set and food sets — Oh how I loved my kitchen set. Like, I fuck­ing loved my kitchen set. I got it for my fourth birth­day, and I knew I was get­ting it — because we gave the old kitchen set to the church char­i­ty dri­ve. Before my actu­al birth­day, I walked up the back stairs to the bonus room (which at the time was my dad’s office, before it became the bonus room, before it revert­ed back to his office) and found the actu­al box. I remem­ber this explic­it­ly, and my par­ents do too (they were in shock at the time and are still kind of in awe 21 years lat­er), sit­ting on the top stair, star­ing at the box. Just star­ing at the pic­tures, imag­in­ing all the great stuff I would get to do with that kitchen set. I was a pret­ty ram­bunc­tious kid at the time, but I was absolute­ly enter­tained by just STARING at the box, think­ing about every­thing I was going to do.

In addi­tion to the kitchen, which was this cool lit­tle thing with wheels and a side fold­ing table and the oven/stove on one side, the refrigerator/freezer/sink/pantry on the oth­er and stor­age bins on the side, the real awe­som­ness was all the food sets. I don’t know what Fish­er-Price is like now, in terms of toy qual­i­ty, but back then, they were prob­a­bly the best com­pa­ny, out­side of Play-Mobil (a very expen­sive, but very cool toy com­pa­ny who made sets that were kind of hybrids between LEGO and Lit­tle People..not sure if they are still around, we used to have to order them from a cat­a­log or get them at high­er-end stores, Toys ‘R Us didn’t car­ry them very often). And I say that because although the food might not have been the most real­is­tic look­ing (though I did have some food sets that were VERY real­is­tic — like the Piz­za Hut set and the fake pota­to chips that looked freak­ing real), but they had a lev­el of detail and qual­i­ty that was on anoth­er lev­el. I’m talk­ing bout waf­fles that felt sticky (but didn’t make your hands sticky), even a decade after buy­ing them. Milk in baby bot­tles that still hasn’t dried up after twen­ty-one years. The bril­liance of stor­ing scram­bled eggs inside two of the egg shells and fried eggs in the oth­er two (and hav­ing egg shells that break apart any­way — not just sol­id plas­tic eggs with­out that fea­ture), like, that stuff was the shit.

How cool was my kitchen set? This is how cool. The most pop­u­lar girl at my mid­dle school was my best friend when I was in the 5th grade (she was in the 7th grade and a cheer­leader and VERY cool). She would come over to my house, not to play Super Nin­ten­do or to do gym­nas­tics — but to play with my kitchen set that I still had in my clos­et because no one want­ed to put it up in the attic (huge pain). Like, I was 11 and real­ly not inter­est­ed — but this pret­ty, pop­u­lar old­er girl want­ed to play with it. Of course, when the red­neck girls from across the street went too far with my hand­cuffs from Wash­ing­ton D.C. (I think one of the girls acci­den­tal­ly flushed the key down the toi­let or some­thing, not sure, nev­er found out) and we had to go to the fire sta­tion to get them tak­en off of her (we were play­ing this game where some­one was hand­cuffed and had to fol­low anoth­er person’s orders — yeah, I know, I know — we were tween girls before the word tween exist­ed), Jen­nifer kind of stopped hang­ing out with me. And of course this hap­pened the day before 6th grade. Fuck­ing Sab­ri­na and Brit­ney. GRR.

  1. LEGO — and now we get to the rea­son for this entry. LEGO and its anniver­sary. I have to say, my kitchen set and Lit­tle Peo­ple might have a stronger place in my heart in terms of all-time love (I actu­al­ly don’t know which of those I loved more, Lit­tle Peo­ple or Fun with Food), but LEGO is right up there. My old­er sis­ter had a pret­ty sub­stan­tial LEGO col­lec­tion, but they were most­ly just bricks, not the play­sets.

My mom stopped work­ing after she became preg­nant with my sis­ter. She end­ed up stay­ing home for 14 years. Before her hia­tus, she was an edi­tor, but in 1989, when was six, she went back to school to get her Mas­ters in school coun­sel­ing. That sum­mer, right after I fin­ished kinder­garten, she was going to school more often and would take me with her from time to time when she need­ed to study at the UGA library. Before we would go, I would get a Hap­py Meal from McDonald’s and at the time, they were run­ning a LEGO pro­mo­tion where you got one of like six or sev­en dif­fer­ent LEGO kits. I would also get a pack of all straw­ber­ry Star­bursts and usu­al­ly some sort of soft drink. Then, while my mom poured over the stacks, I would build and rebuild my LEGO set, not only from the direc­tions, but into a mil­lion dif­fer­ent oth­er things. It got to the point I could make a heli­copter in my sleep. But that was what tru­ly trig­gered my love for LEGO.

The town sets were always my favorites. I had a few pirate sets and they were fun — but the castle’s nev­er did any­thing for me. Bor­ing. It always both­ered me that there wasn’t a more girl-friend­ly set, aside from the Dup­lo fam­i­ly blocks. Then in 1993, LEGO intro­duced the Par­adisa Col­lec­tion. Final­ly, real LEGO sets but with a girl aes­thet­ic. I had almost the entire col­lec­tion, but my favorite set was def­i­nite­ly Pool­side Par­adise. It was this great house straight out of LA Law or some­thing with a black con­vert­ible, but­ler, pool out front. Awe­some. In 2000, when LEGO intro­duced the Steven Spiel­berg Moviemak­er set, I was in love. I was 18 frig­ging years old when it was released (Christ­mas of 2000, I believe) and I want­ed it des­per­ate­ly. We sold it at Best Buy (where I worked), but it was like $200 ($150 employ­ee price I think, maybe $100, can’t remem­ber) but it was too much to jus­ti­fy for a toy. Then, when I grad­u­at­ed from high school, my friend Erik gave it to me for grad­u­a­tion (don’t laugh at that link, it’s from my old jour­nal — and I wrote that when I was EIGHTEEN. I’m now 25. I’m already regret­ting link­ing to my LJ. What­ev­er.). It’s still prob­a­bly one of the best gifts any­one has ever giv­en me.

This girl I was friends with in 9th and 10th grade, God, can’t remem­ber her name — any­way, her old­er broth­er Michael had their entire bonus room ded­i­cat­ed to a city made of LEGO. Like, he recre­at­ed the city of Atlanta in LEGO. When he grad­u­at­ed from high school, he dis­as­sem­bled the city. It was sad. But it was awe­some. Michael some­thing — you rocked. Wish I could remem­ber your sister’s name. Lau­ra? Jen­nifer? Beth? I real­ly have no idea.

  1. Barbie/Action fig­ures — I’ll lump these two togeth­er because I played with them the exact same way. I loved Bar­bie. Hell, I still love Bar­bie. Here’s a secret for all you guys out there — and it is the absolute truth, whether they admit it or not — the only thing girls past the age of 8 do with their Bar­bi­es is make them have sex. Peri­od. Bar­bie porno is the only thing we do. Because of my old­er sis­ter, my Bar­bie After Dark play­time start­ed pret­ty ear­ly, but I can unequiv­o­cal­ly say that it was the only thing girls past a cer­tain age (8 seems appro­pri­ate) do. Every­one always loved to play Bar­bie with me because
  2. A) I had a TON of Ken dolls. Where­as most girls had one or two, I had like 10 or 11. Dr. Ken. Hawai­ian Fun Ken. Beach shop Ken. Rock­er Ken. Total­ly Hair Ken (also known as Gay Ken). Dude, Barbie’s cousin’s boyfriend. Dylan McK­ay, Bran­don Walsh and Zach Mor­ris Ken dolls (well, Zach was a Bar­bie knock-off by Tiger). It goes on.
  3. B) Because I watched lots of soap operas and had a real­ly good knack for writ­ing dra­mat­ic sto­ry­lines, I was always able to come up with the most juicy sto­ry plots. I wouldn’t rip off The Young and the Rest­less straight-up, I mean, I would, but it would be com­bined with The Bold and the Beau­ti­ful, Mel­rose Place and some screwed up stuff from my own imag­i­na­tion. I tru­ly think Bar­bie was what taught me the fun­da­men­tals of sto­ry con­struc­tion — espe­cial­ly melo­dra­ma — because I would want to cre­ate the most interesting/torrid stuff pos­si­ble.
  4. As for action fig­ures, well, I have always loved them. He-Man and Master’s of the Uni­verse. Bat­man (the DC Comics series from Toy­Biz and the Dark Knight series and oth­er movie based fig­ures), Super­man, Lex Luthor, Mr. Feeze, Jok­er and Joker’s Hench­men, etc. I was major­ly, major­ly obsessed with the Nin­ja Tur­tles in sec­ond grade. Like I loved them and every­thing about them. I had the toys, the play­sets, the rar­er action fig­ures, you name it.

The rea­son I lump them in with Bar­bie, how­ev­er, is because as a girl, I played with the same way. They didn’t get as out of con­trol Ski­na­max — but the plot­lines were often more about Bat­man and Super­man fight­ing over Won­der Woman (who was in love with Jok­er, because she found evil attrac­tive), than about sav­ing the world. I had lots of so-called, “boy” toys — but I played with them in a very female way.

Oh, for my sister’s 30th birth­day last year — I bought her two Heart Fam­i­ly dolls off of eBay. The Heart Fam­i­ly was Mattel’s attempt to give Bar­bie an extend­ed mar­ket. They were Barbie’s cousins or some­thing and it was a mom, a dad and two twin chil­dren. I was total­ly in love with Mr. Heart. Any­hoo, I man­aged to find two unopened Heart Fam­i­ly Goes to Dis­ney dolls (mom and dad, each with kid) and she loved it. It was the best gift ever.

  1. The Nin­ten­do Enter­tain­ment Sys­tem — As much as I have always loved elec­tron­ics, most of my favorite toys were NOT elec­tron­i­cal­ly based. At all. In fact, the NES/SNES is the only “toy” I can think of that I loved even near­ly as much as the oth­ers. Why? Well elec­tron­ic toys tend to play at you, not with you. Which is why video games are dif­fer­ent. We got the NES for Christ­mas in 1988. I had just turned 6. Man did I love that thing instant­ly. The real turn­ing point though, was a year lat­er, when Super Mario Bros. 3 was released. That game changed my life. It made video games impor­tant and some­thing that I knew I would always love.

When my mom was get­ting her Ed.S in 1992/1993, I occu­pied myself those sum­mers by rent­ing a shit­load of videos from the video store and also a shit­load of video games. That not only gave me a very, very high base-lev­el film edu­ca­tion (I feel con­fi­dent say­ing that I had more knowl­edge of film/directors/cinematography/criticism at 16 or 17 than most peo­ple who grad­u­ate from col­lege with degrees in Film — I loved it and thus began absorb­ing every­thing about it from the age of 9 or 10 on), it also gave me my foun­da­tion for video games. I played so many games, I got to see what made a game work and what made a game suck — beyond graph­ics. I got an SNES Christ­mas of 1993 and that was prob­a­bly my favorite sys­tem ever. I got the Nin­ten­do 64 in 1996, 8 days before Christ­mas, and though that sys­tem was pret­ty much respon­si­ble for Nintendo’s pre-Wii down­fall, I loved it. I’ve also had the PlaySta­tion, the Dream­cast, the PS2, X-Box, Game Cube and now a 360 and Wii. Oh, and an orig­i­nal Game Boy, a Game Boy Col­or, a Game Boy Advance (replaced by the fold­able GBA) — no DS, because I have no need — but I think it’s very, very cool.

My very first job was at The Elec­tron­ics Bou­tique, which is not where most 16 year old girls want to work. Espe­cial­ly not hot 16 year old girls (yeah, I’ll be con­ceit­ed — I final­ly got cute around the spring of 1999), but for me, it was my first choice. That or Toys ‘R Us. But EB was in the mall. It won. Work­ing at a video game store when you love games is amaz­ing. It’s like the first few years I worked at Best Buy, before the bull­shit and dra­ma and pol­i­tics ate my soul. You get to be around stuff you love. As your job. All of that went back to that NES.

OK — so if you are still read­ing and not ter­ri­bly bored, chime in with your favorite child­hood toys! Or write a longer entry on your own blog and track­back!

Out!

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4 people have left comments

Caleb Chang - Gravatar

Caleb Chang said:

I think when we stop lov­ing toys, we grow old — kin­da like how the boy in The Polar Express could no longer hear the ring­ing of the Christ­mas Bells. I’m get­ting dang sen­ti­men­tal, so I’ll stop.

Just promise me, from one toy lover to anoth­er, nev­er stop lov­ing toys. Promise.

Posted on: January 30, 2008 at 1:35 amQuote this Comment
Steve Weaver - Gravatar

Steve Weaver said:

Christi­na,

I had an even old­er McDon­alds one. Like late 70’s ear­ly 80’s, I dun­no. Now where did I put it. (Off to go look.)

Posted on: January 30, 2008 at 8:19 amQuote this Comment
Most­ly Lisa - Gravatar

Most­ly Lisa said:

juicy post!

  1. i just found the moth­er load of fish­er price lit­tle peo­ple in the base­ment of my mum’s house. i like the dog the best, although mine has seen bet­ter days. it’s right ear was chewed off by my dog when i was lit­tle and i kid you not, not 4 hours after i recon­nect­ed with my favourite lit­tle fish­er price friend, my cat was found attack­ing the right ear.

  2. my rich friend had the kitchen. i hat­ed her for it and refused to par­take in any role play­ing games like “i’ll be the mom­my. You be the baby”. even then i was a jeal­ous, stick-in-the mud.

  3. The Lego air­plane set was my fav. i was obsessed with air­planes and fight­er planes. i want­ed to be a pilot until i got dis­tract­ed by fig­ure skat­ing and start­ed skip­ping math and physics in lieu of sneak­ing off to skate. boo! i regret­ted this deci­sion near­ly every sin­gle day of uni­ver­si­ty, espe­cial­ly the day i had to defend the frack­ing sta­tis­tics i used in my the­sis from the math­mat­i­cal heck­ling of a Physics pro­fes­sor. math­mat­i­cal isn’t even a word. see if i care!

  4. bar­bi­es stayed in their box­es. i already had self-esteem prob­lems at that age.

  5. I bought an orig­i­nal Saga sys­tem from Sears. oh yes. it was more aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing, but it had no games and peo­ple mocked me. uh. again with the bit­ter­ness… i final­ly caved and got the Super NES. but i gave it to this boy i had a huu­u­uge crush on in gr 10 and he nev­er gave it back!!!!

why is this trip into mem­o­ry lane mak­ing me so bit­ter? breathe like the doc­tor told you

Posted on: January 30, 2008 at 7:50 pmQuote this Comment
Sah­sa Cohen - Gravatar

Sah­sa Cohen said:

Sah­sa Cohen…

Man i love read­ing your blog, inter­est­ing posts !…

Posted on: March 21, 2008 at 12:23 amQuote this Comment