Monday, November 28, 2005

Archeological Kids

I was floating around at home after the departure of my son – as deserted Dads do. The lonely life of an part-time, childless father.

I was digging around in his box of toys. Not sure why, just for something to do I guess. My mind began to wander, as it is wont to do. I saw the brightly coloured array of toys, the inevitable palette of colours that assailed my visual cortex.

I began to dig into the toys, perhaps thinking that I could find a better system for organizing everything that was there. From the top came the toys that he had played with today. Little vehicles that are worked by pushing a lever, and a fire fighting figure emerges from under the roof, points his hose, and says, ‘I’ll put out the fire,’ before disappearing inside. Meanwhile, the wheels roll forward, the truck charges on fearlessly to face the putative fire.

My mind is given to wander and I think of the endless supply of batteries that I need to keep all this stuff together. Enough heavy metals to poison a large pond – or a small child. It is disturbing, but I’m unsure how to deal with it – and I sweep off this layer without too many other thoughts.

Beneath, I find some older toys, out of favour mostly. Some are broken a bit, but nothing that a little bit of lick, spit, glue and tape could not fix up. But I wonder ‘what’s the point’ given that he has moved on. I’m reminded of one toy that he loved, a really cheap plastic car transporter that did not last more than five minutes after he got it. The trailer became separated from the prime mover – and it was only with careful repairs using a pin that I was able to reassemble the whole. My boy is a very gentle boy, and so, when the truck broke again – somewhere else if I recall correctly – I simply buried it so that it wouldn’t be found.

Beyond this layer, I find older toys, toys reflecting a childhood. I shake the rattle, and I watch the balls in this rattle fall down through sieves of various sizes that allow some balls through, but not others. I wondered whether my son ever noticed this. I’m not sure that I did before. The intricacy of these designs in something as ‘simple’ as a rattle. I wonder how many other toys have such elegant little design elements that are barely ever noticed.

Moving to the lower levels, I find the smaller pieces, the pieces broken from the toys above, or cast into the box in the hope that they might later be matched to the toy from which they broke, and perhaps might be used to repair the toy. Vain thoughts probably. I feel like at this level, I am fossicking through toy detritus, the remnants of an earlier era. An era when my son was a baby, so small that I could virtually hold him in my hand. I turn over these relics, thinking of the DNA of my son deposited thereon, mostly in the form of spittle combined with porridge, mushed peas, dried milk.

I realize that this box of toys is like an archeological dig. The various strata offering various insights into the past, the past of my son, his various preferences, his trail of destruction, the toys that he detested or perhaps wore out or more simply outgrew. I look back at his toys, sorting through. My eyes are old like any dusty archeologist perhaps, but there’s a spark there when I see something that I recognize, something that reminds me of the little man that carries my own spark forward in him, that is after all, a chip off the old block.

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