Well, we all have to be obsessive about something. I suppose it’s part of being normal.
My obsession has to do with children’s wooden toys — the kind that you buy for toddlers to learn shapes and animals and colors, and, if you’re like me, present to the child months too early so that the kid loses all of the pieces before he is cognitively ready to actually learn from the thing, much less play with it in the way it was intended.
Now before the Safety Police barge down the door, allow me the caveat that the toy parts need to be larger than an adult elbow before they find their way into soft, fat, sweaty hands.
Are we okay now? Can we move on?
After raising four children, you’d think that I would have learned that, if there are more than three parts to a toy, two of them will be irrietrievably lost or relegated to doggie chew chews, but I haven’t. I love wooden puzzles, and now that we’ve got the Toddler in our lives, I can start all over where I left off.
A few months ago, while I was traveling to set up an exhibit for the Norwegian Artist, I stumbled upon this magical store that sold dusty jelly beans and wooden puzzles, the latter HALF PRICE.
I’ve never been one for jelly beans, even clean ones, but the wooden puzzles unleashed in me a mania that had been buried since Tired of Being Youngest was 6 and I sadly packed away her bathtime toys (none of which matched, incidentally). Sweeping through the store (actually, it would have been nice if the owner had done this in a literal sense), I grasped puzzle after puzzle — thick, chunky African animals and thinnner, plastic handled domestic pet creatures, and Dressy Bessy Bears, and Shape-o-Ramas, and Fruitsi Blocks, and — eventually I had to stop. Even at half-price I had to keep enough in the bank account to pay for onions and dry bread.
So I narrowed my choices to eight, with the best intentions of saving some aside for birthdays and Christmas when the Toddler was older.
And I did, actually, only overwhelming the tyke with four of the wooden wonders at one time, one of which was a homely purple hippo pull toy that, mercifully for me, has no shapes to lose.
The other three puzzles, however, do — or did — have shapes, and the first week of the Toddler’s possession of them found me in the evenings crawling through the house, looking for possible places that a person under two-and-a-half-feet tall would have thrust or thrown a lavender circle (there were supposed to be two of them), dark blue hexagon (four of those), red square (five!), a smiling lion, and a thin, charmingly adorable kitten with a red plastic handle embedded in its chest.
Each day I replaced all of the pieces in the puzzles where they belonged — I believe this confirms my cognitive abilities to be at least in the 2+ range — and neatly slotted the puzzles in the overfilled Toddler toy box. However, life prevails, and on a day so busy that I was unable to crawl about seeking the purple rhinocerous and sky blue hippo, I asked Tired of Being Youngest to put away the Toddler’s toys.
This, she did, indiscriminately scooping up the wooden zebra with ordinary blocks, mixing the thin, handled iguana (this is a domestic pet?) in with the plastic teacups, tossing the colored shapes in amongst the general detritus of plastic toy-letries.
Result? Chaos, absolute disorder — a permanently lost chunky lion (is it smiling anymore?), and, worst of all, a missing green rectangle that not only was supposed to teach the Toddler about the color green and the rectangular polygon, but also was the only one of its kind in the set, which means that it was supposed to impart the numerical concept of “one.”
How is this child ever going to learn to count if we have lost the number one?
And where is that damned lion?
And why do I do this to myself?
how i look forward to your new posts. each time i can identify with your subject; toddlers [mine are my 2 g’daughters, 1 1/2 & 2 1/2], garage sales [i outfitted our home[s] and our many small children quite well that way for many years], happily visiting with ‘strangers’ almost on a daily basis [god bless small towns and mid-america!]. i just grin and grin at your funny warm wit [which is always minus that mean sarcasm that makes one cringe that is so abundant these days- thankyou very much. =D]
Thank you, Tina, for such lovely comments. I found this last night as we were preparing to watch Wipeout (I love that mindless show), and it sent me to bed with a smile on my face.
I am glad that what I observe and how I choose to write about it makes a connection. I firmly believe that we humans share so much of the same essential experiences, just cloaked in a different manner.
And I agree with you about caustic wit. It’s cheap, easy, and mean. It’s also very easy to fall into, but my editorial committee (The Norwegian Artist, Son and Heir, and Tired of Being Youngest), keep me on track.
Enjoy those beautiful Toddler people in your life. Don’t they make you smile? (and panic, at times — My God, it’s been quiet for awhile . . .)
I cannot wait to obsess over grandchildren. I too am a sucker for wooden puzzles….might be something in a Home school mom’s genes. But as I think about it it goes back further for me, deep into my childhood where I had a plastic puzzle (the 1960’s hip use of petroleum instead of wood) of the grand ole’ USA. I played and played with that thing well beyond the suggested age….not sure what that means…but this one thing I know, my grandchildren will have wooden puzzles that will teach them their color, letters, and numbers as well as I know my states!
I, too, was raised in the sixties and seventies, and I remember particular toys that I loved to pieces as well (although, in your case, yours started out in pieces). I remember, of all things, an empty shampoo bottle with Charlie Brown’s head as the cap. I was fascinated by it — the cartoon come to three dimensional life. Nowadays, such cheesey things are everywhere, but back then, they were unique and unusual.
I hope that our own kids and grandkids will be able to have favorite toy memories not wrapped around something that plugs in or is charged.
The grandkids will come. I, too, am a homeschool mom, and I know that it’s a combination of loving ’em because they’ll grow up all too soon, and locking onself in the bathroom and saying, “Dear God, let’s talk about some silence and space.”
Best to you.
I also thought the Melissa and Doug puzzles were lovely. I enjoyed stashing a set of them away from the kids, but then, they weren’t benefitting from playing with them. Once I buckled and they started playing, the pieces were quickly lost. I know it’s inevitably that kid toys get lost and broken and torn up and beaten (and eaten…oops :), but it’s still upsetting…
I agree that the puzzles are so beautiful that you just want to enshrine them. I think I always have this idea that the children will handle them with love and care and reverence, simply enjoying the sheer feel and look of them. It’s a sweet dream.
I just opened a package of plastic balls — five of them, all different — for the Toddler, and one of them is lost already, somewhere under a chair. How does she do this?