I’ve always wanted to quote from Corinthians, and say I was doing it, so:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, something something, but when I was a man I put away childish things. Corinthians. Something something.
Oh, and when I was a man I read Everybody Needs a Rock:
“I’m sorry for kids who don’t have a rock for a friend. I’m sorry for kids who have Tricycles, Bicycles, Horses, Elephants, Goldfish, Three Room Playhouses, Fire Engines, Wind-Up Dragons and Things Like That.”
I know. Every generation tells the next about how they spent endless, excellent hours playing with rusty batteries and paperclips and their endlessly inventive imaginations, and here’s the thing: maybe it’s true. And then they grew up and they put away childish things, and got Things Like That. Things like really fast cars and really smart phones and really big refrigerators, and they got their children Things Like That too, only a little cheaper, and a little less likely to result in death, and then the children got bored, and they got more Things Like That, and they killed a few hours, but mostly everybody got really irritated with one another and tired of saying things like, “I don’t know. What am I, a cruise director? You’ve got a roomful of toys. There are eighty million children in India who are happy to play with a rock.”
Because lets face it: while it’s a pretty big leap of imagination between, say, a rock and a supersonic spacecraft meant to wreak chaos and widespread destruction in the evil empire of Zog, it’s not very much easier to picture that destruction emitting from a miniature plastic facsimile. Either way you’re probably going to need (to want?) to imagine those Zog-men amid the rubble, scattering and throwing themselves upon their lasers, a wicked toadish emperor pledging his eternal toadish servitude, then just as conveniently rescinding his offer so you can start all up again with the blasting and scattering and supersonic treachery tomorrow.
I’m sure I had a lot of gadgets as a kid, but it was the longing for those latest models and vital accessories that I remember more sharply than whatever it was I ended up actually doing with them. In many cases I have the distinct recollection of disappointment, as though having crossed some threshold of diminishing returns, like when the Action Jackson caravan did not prove as proportionally fun, in size, in price, or technical sophistication, as each of the Action Jacksons it was meant to convey. And more recently I’ve seen this with my kids when all of the enhancements of Robosapien Two did not measure up to the novelties of his earlier incarnation. We jumped the shark, as they say, with that one, indeed it’s painful to even look at him behind the second-hand yellow plastic school bus with those weeble-wobble passengers that gets driven and endlessly crashed in our corridor - it’s hard to see him over there, massively dusty, eight D batteries in endless reserve, and not wonder about the superior entertainment and limitless variability of hunting, and choosing, and treasuring a rock.
In I Lost My Bear, Jules Feiffer tells of a stuffed animal that is never more valuable than when it’s lost, along with a purse and a magnifying glass and Magic Markers that a little girl digs up in her panic - which pretty much answers my suspicions these days about the serendipity of discovering, or remembering the value-added of a thing.
And in Heidi Goennel’s While I Am Little, a boy seems to recognize the gift of his childhood even before we do, collecting pennies and stamps and string, and splashing in big, muddy puddles. Playing cowboy. Making snowmen. The pictures in this book are spare and unequivocal, yet nothing I have read, or dreamed of ever quoting, speaks more eloquently to the unparalleled foolishness of ever growing up.