Christmas 1973

L-R: Tommy, Bobby

It’s a pretty safe bet that everything you see in this photo is probably in a landfill somewhere.’

OK, now that I’ve gotten the sweeping statement out of the way, it’s fun to quantify (and qualify) the fates of our possessions as they sailed off towards eternity like the souls at the end of Herman Broch’s The Death of Virgil. Almost all of the toys were destroyed or given away within a few years — while I can’t speak for my brother’s toys, by my estimates, the inch-worm (upper left-hand corner) wins the 1973 toy longevity game. I’ve got a clear recollection of trying to play with it during the Bicentennial party two-and-a-half years later, then watching snow fall on it in the yard one night, probably during the next winter, where I imagine it stayed until it was thrown out, water- damaged and insecty. The all-time oldest toy of mine I have any trace of: the Fisher-Price Play Family Castle (it seems appropriate to italicize it, like it was a work of art). I sold it off for mere dimes in a garage sale in 1977, 1978 or so; sometime before the family quit the North Bellmore house for good in 1992, I ran my fingers underneath the radiators in my room and found this little survivor. I also own the family’s Atari cartridges from ’78-’83 and a Woodstock doll with a gnawed arm that I should take to the New York Doll Hospital one day, to say nothing of the LEGO sets I still have. There was a very odd Christmas special back in ’78 or so where a magician or a scientist (what’s the diff in these things?) misguidedly tried to encase all the world’s toys in Lucite cubes so that kids can have them around forever and ever. Raggedy Ann & Andy would have none of that, leading us to the Heartwarming Lesson: the whole point of a toy is to love it — in other, more Marxian words, to use it up and then buy another one. (Bet it was sponsored by Toys “R” Us.) The Lucite option actually sounded pretty attractive to me, as I never liked how my attentions would make toys increasingly crippled, yes crippled, as I was an animist at heart and treated almost everything around me as having some kind of soul that I had some responsibility for. Surfaces scratched, pieces lost, the dog ate the New York puzzle piece again, BAD GIRL: these were little injuries and deaths. The not-so-faint traces of that attitude later inform my understanding of economics and ecology, teaching me you don’t waste stuff. Toys that lost their usefulness would not get completely discarded, instead they’d “go to charity” — that is, get thrown into these large dumpster-like metal boxes you’d see in suburban parking lots, set up by a local Catholic church usually, thereby postponing the landfill-fate for at least a few more years. Unless my grandfather simply ditched them in a dumpster somewhere, which I wouldn’t hold past him.’Right after I got rid of most of my early toys this way it occurred to me that there was still something perverse and wasteful about sloughing off the old only to make room for new in endless cycles, and, perhaps not coincidentally, the spell of toys had over my imagination started breaking.’

Anyway…the carpet and wallpaper disappear by the late eighties; the furniture gets thrown out once we leave North Bellmore. The glass credenzas (upper-right corner), after spending some time in my apartment, are now in an unloved corner of my mom’s basement; the green glass globe (also upper-right corner) is also in the basement; the glass ash-tray (on the side table) is…somewhere, while the porcelain bowl with a lid is in privileged space in keepsake cabinet. The boys are still around, if irretrievably grown-up. The house itself still stands, now occupied by another family.