Recently I was tidying up some old cupboards and came across a very tattered, thinly covered pink rabbit. Tears overwhelmed me, and I sat there, cuddling that rabbit from long ago, while memories flooded back.
That well worn rabbit was my companion for so many years… she knew all my childhood secrets, heard all my frustrations, consoled me when I was sad, rejoiced with me when I was happy. I don’t know who gave me my dear friend, I just know that as a little girl, I loved her so.
She was so cuddly, with long floppy ears and the cutest little nose. I imagined her running through the paddocks, with me hanging on to her, carrying us to who knows where. I don’t remember her having any other name other than pink bunny, which was a fair enough name for a little pink rabbit. At night, she was my pillow and guided me through my dreams. I had other toys, but none held such a special place in my heart.
For our son, it was his ‘bydie’, a fluffy pink and blue checked blanket bound in satin, which was his constant companion. There was no going anywhere without bydie. It remained part of our family till it was nothing more than a few threads, held together by multiple machining over pieces of paper, then the paper soaked away. To this day, the remnants remain in his baby book. Big Teddy, Georgie Monkey and a number of other soft toys were part of his life, but bydie was the favourite.
For our daughter, it was a pink elephant, with lovely checked ears. She accompanied her everywhere, even to New Zealand on holiday, but sadly was lost over there. She also had to have a bydie, according to her big brother, so he used to get her pink blanket and bring that with us... two bydies and two children, and all was well with the world.
I remember my mother talking about a little rag doll, the only doll she ever had… my father recalls playing with jacks made of knuckle bones, also marbles… no manufactured toys otherwise. He and his brothers did make billy carts, with whatever scraps they could find and old wheels scrounged from the local tip, or dump.
My husband, who has always lived in a city, had a favourite plastic car with friction drive which was his special toy for many years. When he ‘outgrew’ playing with that as it was meant to be, he tied it with a rope and dragged it around behind his bike.
All this made me wonder about the toys, if any, that my grandparents had…did they do as my parents mostly did? Make their own, with whatever was available? Life was so different then, and they were both from larger families ... there was little time for play, so little need for toys. I recall my aunt saying that she never had a doll, but she did have a wooden dolly peg, wrapped in cloth, that she used to carry around in her pocket. Not for them the glamorous picture of hula hoops and spinning tops… no china dolls, nor fancy trikes. As I see the enormous number of toys that my grandchildren have, and yes, I did give them many of them, I cannot help but wonder how they would feel about no electronic toys, no, or very few, soft toys.
Children don’t really change. If their imagination was fostered and nurtured as ours certainly was, I’m sure they would have been very happy playing with my dress up box, which I kept under the tankstand. Scraps of fabric, old clothes, feathers taken from non complaining hens, broken beads… anything and everything that took my eye, became the adornment of princesses; the means to create fairy wings or the clothes of a pirate on the high seas… all of these wonderful items, stirred in with a good dollop of imagination and a small girl could be transported wherever she dreamed.
For my grandchildren, it is my large collection of buttons, all sizes, colours, shapes, made of everything imaginable, that has kept them occupied for years, along with their craft box. This I’ve filled with the usual pencils, paints, crayons, glue, scissors and so on, but also with scraps of fabric, waste paper, old cards and lots of different textured items. Like children gone before, foster the imagination and develop the child.
Image from http://www.mycbaby.com/rattle-lf.htm