When my father sold our farmhouse up north, he got rid of a trunk full of our old toys. We were all adults but it hurt – big time! I remembered every one of those toys – my Raggedy-Ann doll, the paper dolls with paper wardrobes, the small shop till, the book of Gulliver’s travels with pop-up features, the pick-up sticks and so on. Why would this affect me even as an adult? I think it was because we had few toys. I was brought up on a farm and we had to travel miles to get to shops. Our toys came from Christmases and birthdays with nothing in between. Each and every toy was played with and loved. And I remember them well.
I brought my son up the same way even though we lived in a city. He received gifts for Christmas and his birthday with the only other time being when he saved up enough money from doing his chores and we went off down to the local toy shop to purchase something precious.
My son has now left home and a few weeks ago I decided it was time to go through his crates under the stairs and see what I could eliminate. I invited him over and we went through them together. This 26-year-old man lit up with every newly discovered toy and we swapped stories about them. He found it extremely hard to reduce the number but we did. However, there are still a few that he simply couldn’t get rid of out of his life and I guess he will hold onto them to show to his own kids when the time comes.
This last Christmas, I watched as my two delightful young grandnieces unwrapped present after present, immediately putting them aside and unwrapping the next until they were surrounded by gifts from all their relatives. They each stuck a simple plastic tiara on their heads and paraded around for us. It must have cost all of $2 but was their preferred choice. The expensive toys were left in a pile.
I felt sad and I also felt for their mother and father who had to cart all those toys back home and add them to the mountains they already have. How different things are today. These children will probably not remember any of their toys when they grow up. Well, maybe the plastic tiaras.
Keenly aware of not adding to the problem, I bought them a family pass to the local zoo. This was an expense they would probably not be able to indulge in themselves – at least not as a complete family. Two days after Christmas, I received an email from my niece, their mother, thanking me for the zoo voucher. They had just spent an amazing day altogether at the zoo and it would be a memory that would stick for a long time.
How simple was that! A gift that leaves a lasting memory without adding to the clutter in their lives.