The Suitcase Lady


December 8, 2009, 11:30 pm

An American toy store is the last place in the world I want to be. The merchandise in these ear-splitting emporiums of Chinese junk falls into two main categories: dolls that are sex symbols for girls and weapons of mass destruction for boys. All are designed to break quickly, and some are even toxic.

I’ve had the good fortune to have visited toy stores in European countries. These shops are small and filled with delightful, hand-crafted playthings that are made to be passed down to the next generation.

I can spend hours looking at the gentle, sweet toys on display. My favorites are the wooden animal farm sets, wooden doll houses and Steiff stuffed animals. This German toy maker has been in business since 1880. The animals are so charming they could make Scrooge smile.

When our children were little, the rule was, “If it’s advertised on television, you probably can’t have it.” Our children managed to survive and flourish. Our son’s favorite toy was Legos. He was thrilled every time he opened yet another Christmas gift of them. Our daughter loved her play kitchen complete with happy face pots and pans. Many of these toys survived into the next generation and may make it into the third.

Young visitors to our house consistently head to the upstairs closet, take out the bin of dollhouse furniture from my childhood dollhouse and play happily for hours. My original dollhouse (made from orange crates) was donated to charity years ago. The kids simply set up the rooms of furniture on our carpeting or stairs. Sometimes a cat enters into the fun.

Most American children suffer from an overabundance of toys. The bins at thrift stores overflow with discarded teddy bears and their friends. But I still have faith. No matter how many plush animals children receive, they usually have only one favorite. It’s the one that is bedraggled, threadbare and truly loved. You might even still have yours.

5 Comments for this entry

  • Rebecca Jones

    How true! Walking into one of those large, ill lit toy stores is depressing. Luckily, my daughter doesn’t ever ask to go to one. It’s the simple toys that kids love best.

  • Naomi

    My favorite stuffed animals were Rosa (a bear from Japan); Monchichi, who had a handmade vest knitted by one of my mom’s friends, and Bambi, a gift from my college boyfriend. It’s sort of sad that the menagerie can’t just hang out on my bed anymore. Anyway, thanks for the post. I just had a nice walk down memory lane!

  • LoieJ

    Now days, parents have to have the children pick about 25% of their toys to keep and the rest go to charity.

    The thing that amazes me and bugs me about modern “toys” is the over-stuff look of so many of them. I just don’t see why the same item can’t be smaller and more compact. And why all the bells and whistles? Yikes. I have 2 and 5 year old grandsons.

  • Jen

    How true! My girls loved the Playmobil castle; it still has a place of honor in my 16 year old daughters room- she just could not quite put it all away yet. Olivia also had a very ragged bunny under her pillow, and Ivy has a no longer fluffy poodle. And I still have a Raggedy Ann wrapped in tissue in a drawer.

  • Mary

    I remember when Grandma Vera did an amazing skin graft on Raggedy Ann!!!!!