I was having a conversation with my sister concerning toys. It is pretty known in my family that we prefer toys made from natural or recycled materials, and a bonus if they are handmade. My sister asked me why, when clearly we didn't grow up with this philosophy, or her kids didn't care about the materials. My sister's kids are a hardy bunch and she opted for plastic because it was durable and easy to clean. I think that is the beauty about being a parent. You get to choose what you want for your child. You have a say in the childhood that they live. Plastic, wood, bleach, vinegar, organic, processed, T.V., no T.V., My Baby can read, Montessori. So many options. So many choices. And we get to choose what comes in and what stays out in our homes. I think that is what makes households so unique. The choices that we make.
When I think back to my own childhood, we didn't have a lot of toys. My parents worked really hard to provide all of our necessities and a few wants. Toys were not alway new. Most were hand me down with the occasional new barbie dress. But looking back, I think that was the best thing that could have ever happened to me in my childhood. Having just enough and a little extra. In those circumstances is where the imagination really lies. Where you don't have so you have to make believe. Other girls had doll houses with all the furniture they could ask for. I didn't, so I made one. One out of plastic storage crates turned on their side lined with baby blankets and handkerchiefs. My mom's jewelry cases became beds, shoe boxes and string became elevators that could take you to any floor, handkerchiefs were embroidered bedding. I use to sew together tunics and bags for my barbies out of old pillowcases and pretend that my barbies were indians who hunted and gathered their food. I didn't have a play kitchen, but I had a whole room that could turn into anything I wanted. My dad bought me a set of real ceramic dishes from Pick and Save, ten cents a piece. They were small, perhaps espresso cups and dishes. There was a set of four plates, four cups, and two bowls. The bowls were the most valued of all. In those bowls I would cook stew using small erasers that I had gotten from school - you know the ones I'm referring too? They are the size of a penny and are in different shapes and colors: happy faces, carrots, bunnies, everything and anything. I think my student store at school use to sell them for five cents a piece. I remember collecting them and then pretending that I was making stew. When people were asked to supper, I remember one of my guests proclaiming, "wow, eraser stew!". I also remember that my mom use to bring a bunch of manila file folders that were going in the recycling bin at work home for me. She showed me how to cut out paper dolls, how to include tabs on their clothing so that I could change their clothes. I carried those handmade paper dolls around with me in a discarded plastic see through make-up bag all over the house and just played for hours.
I don't remember all of the toys that were ever given to me. But I do remember the imaginative play growing up. When I search for them, those are the memories that are the brightest and most vivid. That is what I want for my son. To have memories of having just enough with a little extra so that his imagination is stretched to create all of the excess.
With all of these humble beginning reflections - I have a confession to make. For the past few days, my just enough with a little extra hasn't been the mantra in my head. No, my thoughts have been a lot more of the two year old tantrum quality. Only twenty dollars to put away for Liam's play kitchen this month? My mind has been scheming on ways to put away more and it has been causing havoc to my calm. We have enough to pay all of our bills, purchase all of our gas and groceries, and we also have a handful of bills to treat ourselves to little extras. Oh my - look at all of the blessings. And my mood has been a little black rain cloud all because I can't buy his kitchen now? Like right this second right now NOW ::foot stomp:: How horrible, yes? I truly am quite ashamed of the tantrum that I have been having in my head and I hope that the homemade sweet tea and good dinners placed on the table have shown my repentance.
So I have taken a leaf out of my own childhood and put my imagination to work - to create excess in the just enough. Liam and I are going all out with our little camping kitchen. We are going on a journey to a far away land to retrieve a lost bear. Our berries are sea berries given to us by a most honorable wise woman that transforms to a fish in order to harvest them during a new moon. We only have ten, but one berry, cooked in a certain way, will satisfy our hunger for twenty five meals. Would you like to stay for a meal? It is berry stew and although the berries are most precious - oh my you are welcome to share with us.