The Corner

American Childhood

Now that my children are off to camp, I have been sorting their stuff in the course of moving. It is amazing what we have accumulated in a decade in this home. I know why I have too many books, and too much china, both of which I love, the latter irrationally. But my children appear to have in their possession the contents of a small toy store. Going through the sports equipment I could not, for the life of me, understand why we had actually bought beautiful ice skates, apparently year after year, for children who skate about half a dozen times a winter, and whose feet reliably grow each year. I got rid of old roller blades, scooters, Razors, bikes, baseball gloves, tennis racquets, gym mats, and a swing that hung from a tree in a rented summer place. Boogie boards, a croquet set, and two badminton sets were sent off to the country. I kept the trampoline, since they will need to bounce off energy at odd times. Their current gear is, of course, with them at camp.

We brought bags and boxes of toys, games, and stuffed animals (plus a port-a-crib which I was saving in case we had guests with a baby, which no longer happens so much) to a shelter for women, aged 16 to 24, and their babies, which occupies what ought to be high-end real estate a block away from us. (It’s a remnant of the decades in which the Upper West Side was undervalued and not so safe.) Despite getting off their school bus in front of this building for several years, the girls had never noticed that it lacked a doorman, had a guard and a security desk, and is populated entirely by very young minority women in a neighborhood where that is unusual. My kids were mildly curious about the shelter. I was mildly curious that stuffed animals are apparently so cheap that we could own so many bags worth. I hope those kids like the toys, and their mothers have as much fun with all the ‘my little genius’ spatial reasoning block sets, maze games, and other paraphernalia of over-parenting I personally spent hours with to ensure admission to preschool. Oh, and I hope the next owner gets more use out of the costly, barely used set of Phyllis Schlafly’s Hooked on Phonics books I bought out of ideological fervor and a nagging fear that maybe my kids wouldn’t learn to read since their school taught reading a different way.

This morning I have sorted through Poly-Pockets and their gear; My Little Ponies — we gave away their castle but are keeping them; and an endless supply of Barbies. We appear to have owned Princess Barbie, Fairy Barbie, Beach Barbie, Evening Gown Barbie, and too many iterations of hooker Barbie. Gone, the lot of them, along with the Bratz and other silly stuff. There is an entire colony of bears, built at Build a Bear birthday parties, and a bunch of “webkinz” I’d love to dump, but am under orders not to.

Of course we are keeping our American Girl Dolls, which were fantastically expensive, and which still get some use. For the record, none of my kids wanted Kit, the Depression one about whom the current (fabulous) movie was made. We have Samantha, (Victorian), Mollie (WWII), Elizabeth (the Tory leaning one from the Revolution), and a dark haired one that my platinum blond daughter chose, perhaps in an effort to fit in with the rest of the family. In addition to their extensive wardrobes, they each seem to have pets and gear of their own. At least Samantha doesn’t outgrow her ice skates.

Any question I may have had about why most kids I know don’t value what they have have been fully answered in this process. Too Much Stuff. Need to remember that at birthdays and holiday. But now I am looking at three different child-sized tea sets, (all from Grandma, who never drinks tea.) As I mentioned, I have a weakness for china, and these might actually last until they have children of their own.

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