Sunday, November 21, 2010
Who was that elephant I saw you with?
In a conversation with my son this morning, he wondered if children today are given the time, freedom, and encouragement to use their imaginations, to create something from nothing. The elephant toy, an earlier handcraft from the on-line shop of an artist I was unable to identify, symbolizes the personality which the hand can create from any material. Once the creature finds its child, the tales, the myths begin.
Stuffed animals of my acquaintance, from my growing up or my son's, had richer lives than anyone seen on the social pages, if such things still exist. They had backstories, relatives, businesses, musical abilities, idiosyncrasies, feuds, aversions, skills, aspirations and senses of humor. In a recent email thread among a women's art group, many told of designing their dream houses/apartments as girls, cutting pictures from magazines, building the roofless homes and making all the furniture from cardboard, keeping elaborate notes of JUST how it would all be.
I like a toy with a clouded past, one whose every thought has not been explored for me in animation. I like them to arrive as ciphers, of whom I can ask, "Who might you be?" A child knows who he is meeting; if that child part endures in us, we can still play. We can name things, find their hidden magic, fabricate and embellish, dream. A world built of imagination is not time ill spent. It is the realm of the visionary. Without those who can see beyond we would mope through our days devoid of flourish or zing.
The animated characters that inhabit the toy store aisles grew from a spark, a speck in someone's mind. I choose to believe that children will always be children, that imagination will always triumph. Weapons were not toys I wanted my son to play with but I knew I'd lost the battle when he bit his grilled cheese sandwich into the shape of a gun and started making "pow, pow" sounds.
In the past couple years, after drawing a line of rubber stamp creatures, I got to name them and give them histories. One I enlarged into a stuffed toy, a modern Marco Polo, as it turns out. His magazine debut added to his mystique with new travels, posing for a photographer, being among others of his kind. Maybe I need to add a new line to my no longer active resume: toy biographer. I could tell you stories.