My Own Toy Story

Now that the weather is turning chilly, I am reminded of the days when Mom would get out the flannel sheets for the winter. It was cozy then, but I imagine I would roast in them now. I think my internal thermostat is busted.

Our sheets are kind of boring these days (solid colors or maybe striped if we’re feeling crazy), but I had patterned sheets as a kid. I can remember Peanuts in particular, which aside from Snoopy on his red doghouse was largely baseball-themed. One of the pictures had Charlie Brown on the pitcher’s mound yelling, “AUGH!” I can honestly say that I learned the word “augh” from bedsheets.

I also had Rainbow Brite sheets. And a puzzle, a coloring book, and a doll. My childhood was full of vaguely fantasy-themed toys, many of which were tied to cartoons I’d never seen (or, in some cases, was even aware of). I couldn’t tell you the plot of Rainbow Brite – I think the bad guys were trying to remove color from the world for some reason? – but I liked her horse and her little sprite friend and her awesome boots.

My mom was (and is) the queen of the garage sale, so I honestly don’t know how many of my toys were bought new. I like to think most of them were secondhand, if only because I had a rather alarming quantity. I had no idea until sometime in college when my interest in Jem led me to assorted other doll lines from the 1980s and I discovered that, for instance, I had owned just about every single She-Ra doll ever made, and a fair number of Strawberry Shortcake dolls as well. I think Mom still has a bucketful of my old Charmkins, and there are definitely some My Little Ponies in a box somewhere.

This “research” led to reminders of dolls I’d forgotten even existed, much less that I owned, like Rose Petal Place (I had two or three of them), Lady Lovely Locks (apparently the one I had was Maiden CurlyCrown, but I very creatively referred to her as “Lady Lovely Locks Doll”), and Herself the Elf (I definitely had three, and may have owned all five). I had the green Fluppy Dog plushie, but we also watched the movie several times and would sometimes pretend to be Fluppy Dogs while riding our bikes. Having not seen the movie in a couple of decades, I could no longer tell you what bike-riding had to do with Fluppy Dogs (which Wikipedia tells me is about time-traveling dog-like aliens). (…yeah.)

With the exception of a single Cabbage Patch Kid (named Kara – why do I remember that?), I wasn’t too interested in baby dolls. My toys had adventures. When they weren’t fairy princesses or similar, they were anthropomorphic animals, like Sylvanian Families or random plushies. Honestly, if the animals didn’t talk, I wasn’t all that interested.

Not all my toys were girly, of course – I played with Star Wars figures and LEGO and Matchbox cars – but man, what I would have given to be a magical little pixie, flitting about the forest and befriending woodland creatures.

What kinds of toys did you play with growing up?

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  1. Some of my most vivid memories of your house are of the strange and wonderful toys you had. I had no idea what Star Wars was and had never really played with Legos when I started going to your house. My toys always seemed so mundane in comparison (Barbies, stuffed animals). I remember the auction and swapping of stickers (do you still have all the Lisa Frank ones?). I also remember skating around your basement on one roller skate because there were not enough for each of us to have a pair. I guess you know all this, since they were your toys, but I have many more memories of playing with your toys than my own.

    • Oh man, sharing the roller skates! I’d forgotten about that. We also had the bicycle with the yellow banana seat, and the climbing tree whose lowest branch I remember having to jump to reach – but today only reaches about to my chest.

      I still have a lot of stickers, many of which are indeed Lisa Frank – she still exists and still makes stuff, though the designs have changed slightly (mostly in the form of enlarged eyes – yay for anime influence, I guess). I no longer keep them in books where I move them from page to page constantly, enacting little stories as long as their adhesive holds out, but I do have a plastic bin of them, waiting to be used for various projects.

      I have many more memories of playing with your toys than my own.

      To be fair, you spent a *lot* of time at my house as a kid. By the time we were spending more time at your house, we were big grown-up middle schoolers obsessed with make-up and Seventeen Magazine and boys boys boys.

    • I don’t think I was ever in on this roller skate sharing. What a hilariously wonderful idea.

  2. Funnily enough, I was just thinking the other night about asking Matt if he’d be interested in getting some flannel sheets. I didn’t ask, though, because I realized I wasn’t so into the idea myself. I like my smooth, crisp, non-clingy sheets.

    We did have a ridiculous number of toys. Aside from Legos (which I think did come entirely from a) garage sales and b) gifts from people outside the immediate family), I remember joining in your Sylvanian stories sometimes (I still have a little box of Auntie’s clothes, although I’m not sure I know where Auntie herself is), and My Little Pony, She-Ra, and Strawberry Shortcake. I remember some scented lip gloss that I think was from Strawberry Shortcake. I remember Rainbow Brite clearly enough to be outraged at her sexification in the past several years, but not the doll in particular. I still have the cover of the coloring book. I don’t think I had a Fluppy Dog, and my lone baby doll was Alice, the Baby Alive.

    The only Herself the Elf I remember is the pink-haired one, and that’s a vague memory; I don’t remember Lady Lovely Locks at all. Rose Petal Place, though – like you, I didn’t remember it at all until I saw the pictures, and then it came back. Did those dolls have a little rhinestone on them somewhere (face or dress)?

    Oh, and don’t forget our trunkful of Barbies!

    I did science workbooks for fun and read insatiably. We played school sometimes, and did stickers, and drew our own comic books and board games. As for board games, I don’t remember playing those much, except Monopoly (which I hated), Sorry and Life (in Williams Bay), and Trivial Pursuit (the answer is Richard M Nixon!). I do have vague memories of Candyland and that cherry-picking game. Hi Ho Cherry-O!

    • I’d forgotten about Auntie. She was a raccoon, right?

      Oh yes, how could I forget the Barbies? My favorite was always Midge. I can’t remember what specifically she was – maybe Malibu Midge? – but she had some seriously 80s fashion going on. We also had those larger dress-up dolls, but now I can’t remember what they were called.

      Didn’t we also have one of those Barbie heads for make-up and hairdressing?

      Rose Petal Place had a jewel in the shape of a dewdrop on a petal of their flower hat. It probably had some significance in the cartoon I never knew existed.

      I remember playing Sorry and Life at Williams Bay, and Paycheck at Micah’s house. I know we played Candyland, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, and Clue (which I mainly used as a set for my Sylvanians). While I remember having both Cooties and Hi Ho Cherry-O, I don’t know if I ever actually played either one.

      We were big on creating as kids – comics, drawings, stories, plays, games, newspapers, whatever. The Sylvanians I do still have are all wearing homemade clothes.

      And now I’m recalling those special plate things, where you had a raised design and you swiped a black crayon over the top to draw it on your paper,and then you could color it. They were mix and match so you could choose the head, torso, and legs. What were those called? Fashion plates? I dunno.

      • Auntie was indeed a raccoon, a duplicate doll in your collection (maybe you got one individually and later got the family as a set?). I only vaguely remember the dress-up dolls, but I can say yes, we definitely had a big Barbie head.

        According to something I found on or via one of the links you put in your post, the Rose Petal Place fairies or whatever were created when a little girl cried all over some flowers because she was so sad to move away from their beauty. So I assume the dewdrop thing was actually a teardrop.

        Was Paycheck this?
        I very vaguely remember something like that, but I mostly remember Atari from Micah’s house.

        I don’t think we ever played Cooties, but I certainly played *with* them. In fact I’m not sure I knew as a kid that it was a game rather than a building set. I think we were missing a lot of pieces, anyway. I remember spinning the pointer on Hi Ho Cherry-O (which I just wrote as Hi Hi Cherry-O) (much wow) but we may have made up our own rules for it. It’s a boring game anyway. :-)

        Fashion plates sounds right for those rubbings things. I actually was thinking about those recently (not ours, but in general) but don’t remember why… maybe having to do with one of our younger nieces.

        • Yes! It was Pay Day, not Paycheck. Paycheck is a Philip K. Dick story.

          I remember Micah’s Atari, but the only game I recall is Q-Bert. I do remember how surprised I was later in life to discover that most of the TI’s games were total Atari ripoffs.

          I definitely did not know Cooties was a game. I just liked mixing and matching the parts. She-Ra may well have ridden a Cootie from time to time.

          I’m trying to remember the name of those dress-up dolls. They’re not Glamor Gals, though I did have a couple of those too. I preferred them over Barbies because they were way tinier.

          Hot Looks! They were Hot Looks dolls. Okay, I feel better now.

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