Toys In The Basement
What’s in your basement? A t.v.? Some workout equipment? A playroom for the kids? Upon first glance, you may think the latter of my basement. As you descend the narrow stairs to the lower level of my house, you are greeted overhead by a Hocus Pocus movie poster, and an array of vintage monster toys. Stuffed, plastic, rubber.
As you come to landing and look to your right, to your left, past the bar, around the corner. Toys. Shelves and shelves of toys. Surely, this must be a play area for the child and her friends. Right?
But, then it strikes you, many of these items are still in their package. And, wait, I had that. I remember that. I loved that. The glow and warm comfort of nostalgia washes over you. At least that’s how I feel. If you come into my basement, I hope that something affects you in that same way.
I have been collecting for some time now. My collection is very particular. Recently, while purchasing a Mighty Max playset from a local nostalgia store, I was asked if I was in need of any others. The man had quite a few, that I am sure he as hoping to push, maybe even for a nice bundled discount. My reply was, “nope, just need this one.” He asked if I had the full collection now. I told him, “no, but this is the one I had.” I explained to him that I only seek out and purchase the things that I owned and had been lost to the garbage, or garage sales over the years. He inquired, “oh, so you’re a completest in that way?” As I started to tell him that he was right, that I had never thought of it in that way, that this was actually the very first item that I purchased entirely on my own, I realized that what I was collecting was not stuff, not really, what I was collecting was stories.
Clutching this item in my hand, telling the store owner this small tidbit, I could easily take it even further. My parents were at Circuit City with my brother. I had birthday money “burning a hole in my pocket” as my, and probably every other mother used to say. After surprisingly little pleading, my mother said that I could walk over to the Toys R Us and buy something. I was to meet them back at the Circuit City. I walked excitedly, not running, but about as brisk a walk as you can get without making the jump to a jog. Through the shopping center lot, across the street, and into the Toys R Us. I was like a kid in a candy store..or a toy store.
Knowing that I was expected back sooner than later, I walked hurriedly through the store. First the video games. Nintendo, at the time. Far too expensive. Action figures, games, all the possibilities. Then I saw them. On the endcap. (a word that I use now, but never would have known at the time). Mighty Max! You could carry a full playset along anywhere! But, which to pick? Time was ticking. Without a watch, I was starting to feel the panic, the urgency of a deadline which I was not even sure of. Excitement and panic tightened and wrestled within my chest. The shark was cool, but it was just his head.
The dinosaur was again, just a head.
Then I saw the snake. A bad*ss snake.
Everything about it was awesome. There was a scorpion that would be the snakes rattle when closed, his mouth opened to create a platform with a rope chain running across to the main portion. So much to interact with, and it was an entire coiled snake!
What was more, it even came with two bonus figures. Norman and Virgil. To tie the original sets into the cartoon series.
This was the one. I made the purchase. The very first item I ever bought on my own in a store. I walked back to meet my parents and brother who were waiting in the parking lot. Pleased and content with the perfect purchase.
This was a toy that I would play with regularly for a number of years. Making up a great many scenarios, losing, finding, and losing the scorpion again and again.
Eventually the set would become tucked away on the toy shelf in the furnace, laundry, freezer room. This was not the end for the snake, or mighty max in general. One year for Christmas, as a gag, I placed the set in a gift bag tagged for my brother. In the jaws of the snake, a handwritten paper reading “gotcha!” I am, to this day, unsure if he ever tried to snoop early, but I like to think that he did.
In more recent years, Might Max had become a part of my life again. I had always loved the show as a child. Max’s ninja turtle voice, the Skullmaster, Tim Curry. It was well written, and always had that intriguing history lesson at the end, No doubt to conform to the educational television programming quota. This in mind, I introduced my daughter to the series. We watched it together. She loved it. Requesting to watch in on many occasions on her own.
Even more recently, Max turned up again. For Halloween, I was Max. Continuing in my tradition of creating scenarios for the character, this was no different. Donning a backpack filled with the late Virgil’s scrolls, and a snippet of his feather, wielding the late Norman’s sword, the cap bearer would venture the plains of time and space seeking out the Skullmaster and his revenge.
All these memories, all these stories from inanimate plastic.
It’s the same for each and every item in my collection. You can point at anything, and I can give you a story. A happy story, a sad story, a funny story, my story. My memories. It is what I collect.