Seldom do I get inspired by others’ inspirations, but Coltin1948 and his story Toy R Gus hit home…and in a good way, and a sad way.
Parents, when they become parents, seem to be afflicted with that adult disease, you know the one I mean, the one that prevents them from remembering what it’s like to be a kid.
The disease, and I’ll call it “Parentalitis” seems to wear off by the time those same adults reach the Grandfather or Grandmother stage. Then, all of a sudden, maybe from all that thick white hair penetrating their scalp, they remember what it’s like to be a kid and with what a kid yearns to play and imagine.
And, as Coltin1948 has so eloquently described, it doesn’t take much.
Now Burb, aka Barbie, that’s me, I’ve never been a parent so “Parentalitis” has never disabled my ability to see as a child sees. The toy section still holds promise for me and an unopened carton of Crayolas, a new blob of Silly Putty or a brand new can of Silly String is the cat’s meow (sorry Mikey and AV!) on a rainy afternoon!
And, as with Bruce’s plastic soldiers, it was for me a harem full of Barbie and Ken dolls, and the odd G.I. Joe for security guard flavour when Barbie and Ken were hitting the town in all their limo-strewn finery. A cop’s daughter I’ve always been , ya know!
My parents would usher me to countless formal dinners and Cocktail parties, where the women wore long gowns and fur stoles, the men in tuxes and pipes, and as long as I would play quietly at the end of a table or in the corner of a room with only one Barbie and Ken doll, I was allowed to tag along, baby-sitter free was Burb through most of her childhood, a non-cranky night-hawk even back then.
The three of us cleaned up nicely – Dad with a fresh gob of Brylcream in his army-length hair cut, Mom, looking only slightly less regal than Queen Elizabeth herself, in jewellery and furs I was sure must have come from Buckingham Palace, and I, dressed up in yet another long royal blue or fire-engine red velvet dress, with my long chestnut hair in a bow or a bobble, obeying their orders, acting civil and all grown-up around the grown-ups, keeping mum with just those two plastic dolls on the floor for company, quietly acting out in fantasy what I saw in front of me in reality, these adults in their world, invisible and unheard was I to them, two symptoms of “Parentalitis”, no doubt.
I didn’t need any other kids around and I didn’t need any electronic do-dads to spark life into these dolls. A long gown and a clutch purse for Barbie, a tux and cummerbund for Ken, and my boundless imagination to see these two plastic figures come to life, mimicking the lives of those adults around me, living and acting out the Life that I thought would some day be mine.
Barbie’s make-up never smudged and Ken’s plastic hair was perma-coifed. Barbie’s heels were always in fashion and she only had worldly, urbane, intelligent responses to Ken’s upper-crust viewpoints.
Barbie NEVER had a bad hair day, and if it looked like she might, that would be easily fixed with my Mother’s hair brush in her own clutch purse.
Ken never got stressed from work and although he was a Cocktail drinker, usually VSOP, he never had a problem with drinking and he never yelled at Barbie, ever.
When I, the real Barbie got tired, I would send Ken and Barbie to the opera, usually “La Traviata” – it’s a long one and the girl dies in the end while hitting a high C note. I, the realBarbie, would leave the dolls to their night out and I would find my way back to the coat room, you know the one, where all the adults’ over-coats, hats and furs would end up in a house party affair. I would take one flying leap across the room and land, not unlike an angel on to a heavenly cloud, onto the bed, sinking deeper and deeper into that furry realm, the acronym P.E.T.A. standing for “PET A Fur!” and nothing else back then.
Buried in that furry existence, awash in the different perfume and cologne scents, I ‘d usually fall into a sound sleep, these parties rarely seeing anything but dawn. As invisible as I was to these “Parentalitis”-ridden adults, my absence was un-noticed until the partiers were party-pooped and slowly one by one the coats and the furs were lifted off to reveal a Sleeping Beauty, Me, the adults amazed and amused that such a young girl could be so content with so little on these evenings.
But they in their “P” affliction, had forgotten the contentment such Nothingness could hold. I was warm, and loved and totally secure in my childhood world, where I knew big, tall, strong adults lay between me and the cold cruel one, and those two plastic dolls provided all the outlet I needed to live even briefly in the world which I thought would some day be my own. Barbie and Ken remained at the opera until it was time to go home.
My Dad, ever the RCMP cop, would say, “Mount Up!” to my Mom and I (Geez, yeah, sigh, I know. Hey, you had to be me and live through it all to understand!), and I would be scooped up into his arms, Barbie and Ken dolls in my Mom’s hands, Dad at the wheel he should never have been, I in my Mom’s lap praying that Dad and our Buick would not kiss a ditch or telephone pole as the three of us fought away sleep for the long country drive home.
Barbie and Ken never really went to bed after these soirees and would remain in their finery, their eyes permanently open, laying wherever Mom had placed them, until the real Barbie awoke once more to scold the two plastic dolls for not going to bed properly. Barbie and Ken would be undressed and redressed, sleep and arise, hit the beach or the beauty shop, as real adults with “Parentalitis” do, when they take their kids in tow, with no more than two plastic dolls and a vivid imagination.
Yes, for Bruce and his friend Gus, it was plastic soldiers; for Barbie, the real Barbie, it was Barbie and Ken. No bells, no whistles, no rockets firing out of their palms, but a kid’s imagination and a hunk of plastic and the world full of promise that adulthood and reality had yet to tarnish.
I am 45 years old now yet I still have all of those dolls, packed away in tissue paper and plastic wrap. Ken’s hair is still coifed and the Barbie's probably need a comb-thru but only a moment in time is needed from this real Barbie to have them up and at it once more, decked out in all their finery, ready for the opera, if only the real Barbie could fit her adult head into that childhood world once more.
It’s difficult to do now that I’m no longer protected amongst all those fur stoles anymore. Now I’m shivering in the cold cruel world of today, as an adult, where fur has morphed into a four-letter word and stole means a crime and not a covering.
Anyone out there wanna come play Barbie's with me? Gus, how ‘bout you bring Bruce’s soldiers over?!