When I was a kid, there were no boys my age in my neighborhood. We went to school in the next town, so all my friends lived there. Still, there were boys my brothers age (three years older than me) and girls my and my sisters age (I’m a twin) and we would all play games together like war, cops and robbers, ride our bikes around the block, or talk Star Wars and Atari.
One set of neighbors we played a lot with was a boy my brothers age and a girl my and my sisters age just down the block. We were in their finished basement one day playing a game I’ve long since forgotten, when I climbed on their bar and jumped down behind it, without me knowing that was where they kept their snow blower in the summer. I fell right on top of the blades, and a moment later I came climbing up the bar with one hand, my other holding my left leg, crying. When they asked what was wrong I took my hand away to reveal a gash in my left leg deep enough to show the bone.
I remember my friends mother carrying me, running down the block to get my mother. I went to the hospital, and 17 stitches later my leg was sewn shut and I would have a scar like a check for life. My parents always bought us a get well gift when we got hurt, and this time was no different. My choosings were simple: a checkerboard, a Return of the Jedi Yoda action figure, and hot dogs for dinner. I got just that.
Fast forward several years later to when I was a teenager and looking at family pictures with my immediate family. There was one picture of my grandma sitting in our front yard at some family party. She was resting her hands on a cane and looking up a bit, and for some reason it reminded me of a still photo of Yoda. I called her just that. Now, you might think that mean calling my grandma a short, chubby, green alien, but my grandma was a short, chubby, little Italian lady. Now you know from my first post that she was a great at sewin, but she was also a great cook who made the best homemade pizzas, pasta sauce and chicken soup ever. I loved her dearly, and the name Yoda was given to her out of affection. Everyone laughed at that and the name stuck with me, though I would never call her that to her face.
I don’t think my grandparents ever saw any of the original Star Wars movies. Sure they might have seen commercials for them, or heard us talk about them and seen us playing with our toys, but they didn’t know a Dewback from a Wookiee. I say this with confidence because one time we were eating dinner over there in their dining room and something in the China cabinet caught my mother’s eye.
“What’s that, Mom?” she asked.
“It’s a monk. Aunt Mary gave it to me,” my grandmother replied.
“That’s not a monk, Grandma, that’s a Jawa from Star Wars,” my brother, sister and I said. And in fact it was. A cloth robed Jawa in the China cabinet. She didn’t know what a Jawa was, but she did get a kick out of it and gave us the toy.
Years later when I was dating Mrs. Nostalgia my grandmother grew very sick. I remember making a surprise visit to her house before she went into the hospital. I’m so glad I did this because it would be the last time I would see her. Several weeks later she would pass away. This touched me very deeply. She was the second closest person I knew to die. She was the kindest, sweetest woman ever, she loved my girlfriend, she loved me, and she loved her family. I just know she would be so happy that my wife and I married, though I do wish she could have been at the wedding.
The day of the funeral we were at the funeral parlor for the final viewing. I went up with Mrs. Nostalgia and we paid our final respects, and before leaving I left in her coffin my original Kener Yoda action figure. His accessories were gone, but it was fitting for me to leave Yoda with Yoda. Later on at the repass my mother would ask me if I left that there and when I said yes she smiled.
Life went on and whenever I would visit my grandma at the cemetery I would leave a calling card for her. A piece of Star Wars Yoda memoribilia. The first time this happened my mother asked me if I went to visit grandma and I said yes. She said she knew I was there because of what I left at the foot of her gravestone and always knows when I pay a visit.
To me, this is what toy collecting is all about. It isn’t so much the collecting of items, but the memories they hold. The memories they can bring back, like a Jawa in a China cabinet, or a Yoda action figure making me think of my grandma. You’ll notice most of my posts are about events from my childhood and what a certain toy represents. Some of these toys I no longer have, some I will never get rid of. But each one I write about is as dear to me as the toy was when I was a child.