Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Playing With Cars

When my son was a toddler, we restricted his TV time to twenty minutes each day. While I'm sure the American Academy of Pediatrics advised on the matter, the twenty minutes arose from an entirely different source--it was the length of the Elmo's World segment on Sesame Street.

As a child of the seventies who watched M*A*S*H reruns three times a day on UHF and turned out fine, I didn't plan to limit screen time the way I now do. That changed when I learned that my son couldn't handle TV. He would watch all twenty minutes of Elmo with tears streaming down his face--because he wouldn't blink during the entire segment.

When he got his first feature-length film on DVD, the twenty-minute rule still applied. Elmo was quickly replaced with Lightning McQueen, and we'd play twenty minutes of Cars each day--the first twenty minutes. To my two-year-old, watching consecutive twenty-minute segments of a two-hour movie made no sense, so we watched the first twenty minutes of Cars over and over and over again. (I finally watched the rest of the movie alone after my son had gone to bed one night.)

The Cars obsession turned into a fixation with the movie character toys. He discarded the John Deere tractors with Elmo, and it was all cars all the time. Many of my memories of his toddler years are colored by those cars.

Secondary Ramones - Flotsam of the Mind

Inexplicably, those colors popped into my head yesterday.  I've been participating in the photo challenges at Jujujems Art and Portrait Studio, and this week's challenge is secondary colors. Although those cars haven't littered my floor in at least six years, I recalled that purple Ramone also had some orange on him. I looked in all the likely places and couldn't find the cars.

I asked my son about it, and he knew exactly where they were. He even volunteered that he also had a green Ramone and an orange Ramone. He ran down to the basement, retrieved the cars, and started pawing through them with his sister.

To my surprise, he still had a mental inventory of every single car. He knew all the names, all the different colors of Ramone, and all the iterations of Lightning McQueen. The kids divvied up the characters, plopped them down on the hallway floor, and began playing.

It was one of those special parenting moments when you see your Now child playing next to your Then child. I listened to the maturity of a fourth grader and the glee of a four-year-old side-by-side. In all the times I tripped on those cars, cleaned them up, or watched those same twenty minutes of movie, I had no idea how much I would miss them. Yesterday was like being reunited with an old friend.

This morning, I took my good friend Ramone--in green, orange, and purple--out to the driveway for a photo shoot in the early morning sunlight. Now I can return him to the box with all his Cars friends and hope that my kids will play with them just one more time before they are filed away.

Those cars will never be given away because there are too many memories attached to them. What toys feature in your memories of your kids' younger years? Do you still have them? For that matter, did your parents save any of yours?

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