Christmas 1977

L-R: me, Holly, mom, Tommy

I think I asked my mom to make the horsie kiss the dog. I love the look on my mother’s face, it’s so maudlin.

The dog was Holly, by the way. She may have been born on or near Christmas day, hence the name. Or she may have been named for the holly bushes that used to be grown on our property before the house was built, which was around late 1966. Somewhat embarrassingly for all involved, her name was the first word I ever spoke, not “mama” or “dada.” I was very attached to her; we all were. She was, as my mom puts it, “a lady.” She had an instinctual sense of manners, displaying an unholy patience when putting up with all the nonsense young kids do. Like when I tried riding her like a horse. (She would just slowly walk away from under me.) Or when I used to eat from her bowl. (This when I was really young — before I had any idea what such a thing was, my parents cheerily announced a “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” to me; uninterested, I turned around and went back to the Gaines Burgers.) More benignly, sometimes when she was laying on the floor, I would rest my head on her tummy and doze off — amazingly, she wouldn’t get up.

She was already a little slow from age when I knew her, and about eight years old of the time of this photo. Soon after, the vet discovered she was now blind in one eye; and soon after that, she developed a large cancerous tumor in her mouth. I always thought it looked like a piece of pink wadded gum. She was put to sleep not long after.

In the lower left-hand corner, there’s a box for a Biotron Micronaut, evidence of a mad passion for Micronauts I developed a few months prior. Very uncharacteristic of me to take any liking (or admit to liking) to toys of force and power, on the other hand, it seems very much like me to prefer them to what eventually became the canonical toygeek collector-scum object of lust. (It wasn’t even a contest. As I never tire of telling people, around this time passed up several chances to see the 1st/4th movie in theater because I thought it would be too scary, and this to day still haven’t seen a single SW movie in its entirety.) The burning hot core of the toy’s fascination was the its interchangeability across sets, or, as this site says: “One of things for which Micronauts are best remembered is their 5mm peg hole system. Nearly every Micronaut toy could be disassembled and joined with other Micronauts for completely new creations.” I don’t think I did anything with them, no play-acting or mini-wars, none of that, just building and rebuilding the sets and exchanging pieces between sets to fabulate less recognizable and perverse quasi-organic machines. I amass quite a large collection that fills a milk crate that a few years later I dump wholesale “for charity.” I even receive the Rocket Tubes set, probably next year, though there are conflicting release dates on the web. It’s easily the most expensive toy I’ve ever received by that time, wearing a $99 price tag from Playworld (a toy store chain so utterly gone almost no reference to them exists on the web), an imaginable sum to me, and that impresses me almost more than the toy itself. The toy is very very cool, but before Christmas, it seemed so unlikely I’d ever get it that it never occurred to me to want it. Furthermore, I don’t know how to operate it, and neither does my dad. The day after Christmas dad sets it up on the floor of the den and tries to get it to work, but there’s some vague unspecified thing wrong with it, and back to Playworld it goes, to be replaced by…nothing, I think. I can’t say I remember feeling cheated.