Our last assignment for Writing 101 is to tell the story of our most prized possession in long-form writing.
That is a bit tricky because it seems so materialistic. My thoughts travel to those things in the world that I most treasure — family, friends. My mind. Memory. The bits of me that make me, me. Laughter! My cat’s warm sleepy stretch exposing his tender underbelly. Above all things, I treasure my daughter. They way she makes me smile. Her hugs. The wacky food combinations she fixes us when she’s making us a meal.
But none of those are things that I possess any more than I can own the earth. Or air. I value those things, but I do not own them. They exist, and I treasure them.
So returning to something materialistic — that I can possess or own — I turned to two things. First, the journal I kept in the first year of my daughter’s life. Those pages hold all the little memories from her first smiles to her first words. The way she used to roll everywhere instead of crawl. The way she loved her swing. Her bouncy seat.
Along with the journal, I’d have to include the photos and movies we took of her along the way. Maybe I can put those on a flash drive and tape them to the journal for safe-keeping.
When I wrote the words in that journal I did not know that my child’s eyes would eventually turn from dark blue to hazel green when she was three. That she would like to laugh so much. Be so wonderfully silly. That her hair would lose the little waves and turn from strawberry to warm blonde. That baby is gone. She’s grown into a very silly tween. But I loved the baby as much as the tween, and I’ll cherish her always. I’ll also treasure that journal.
The other thing that I treasure is my Darth Vader head of original Star Wars action figures. Yes. Yes. I know. It’s dorky. And how can I have a toss up between my beloved journal and some plastic toys, right? I mean is it even a contest? Yes. And no.
If the house were burning down and I could only save one material thing (after the humans and cats, of course), then it would certainly be the journal. How could I replace those memories? Time travel back inside my own brain as I awed at the miracle of my child? It would be irreplaceable!
But for years before my daughter was born I guarded that Darth Vader head of original Star Wars action figures. I did not bring it with me to college as college held too many dangers. I brought a spare Yoda and a large Chewbacca that I got at a flea market. But the head? I needed to keep it safe. I made my mom swear not to sell or donate it as so many other mothers had done.
Inside the head are the first Star Wars action figures I ever got. Not dolls. Action figures. Not that I didn’t like dolls. Before we moved from Chicago to Mount Juliet, Tennessee, I really, really, really, really, wanted to buy Star Wars action figures. I had friends whose little brothers had them. I had a second cousins who had them. They were amazing! Luke. Princess Leia. Han Solo. Dearth Vader and Ben Kenobi with their telescoping light sabers. I collected Star Wars bubble gum cards. But somehow buying these toys meant for little kids. Little boys, really. It set a fear into me. I was afraid, somehow, that I’d be breaking rules to buy Star Wars toys.
My grandparents used to have a drawstring bag full of beautiful marbles. I loved those marbles. I played with them when I was at their house. I chose my favorites. The ones that were clear with no swirl looked like little crystal balls, and I could imagine the wonders of the universe trapped inside them. If I could just look at them the right way, I might see what the future might hold. Maybe see what my future child might look like. My loves.
I wanted to keep the marbles for my own. My grandmother said, “no.” Marbles were for boys. I could pick some dolls. My cousin, David, could have the marbles if he wanted them. My grandparents wouldn’t let me have the chemistry set from the attic for much the same reason either. I had almost talked my grandfather into letting me have the chemistry set even though I was a girl. The little jar of uranium was covered with the coolest little screen. The bottles were glass with stoppers. These held the ingredients of magic. All contained with a buckle inside a yellow, wooden case. Alas, I almost had it, but my grandmother convinced my grandfather that the chemistry set was too dangerous for me. I might hurt myself. They would get rid of it.
So somehow this idea had sunk into my head that I could not have toys for boys. That I couldn’t have toys for little kids. I was nine when Star Wars hit the big screen. Soon to be a tween. Nearly a teenager. I’d almost ask my mom for action figures. Or I’d almost spend some of my own money. Then not.
Until we moved. Being displaced can be a strange experience. It’s as if by leaving everything you know behind you can find more of yourself. So I think it was for my thirteenth birthday, possibly twelfth, I asked my friends for Star Wars action figures. Most did not take my request seriously. Some teased me. I didn’t care. I was done worrying if it was OK. My first was a Luke Skywalker. He was a birthday present from my friend, Linda, and I stood him on my shelf next to books. My nightstand. My dresser next to my frilly girl stuff. It was awesome!
The spell was broken and I no longer cared a hoot if anybody else thought I was weird for wanting action figures. I wanted more. A few of the more popular figures were hard to find — Leia, Han, Dearth Vader. I could find Power Droids and R5D4 just fine.
We ordered the set of basic characters through the Sears catalog. Even then it was hard to find the good ones on pegs in the stores. The catalog was a doorway to awesomeness. I was a little disappointed when the figures arrived in a plain white box instead of a bubble pack with pictures and descriptions of the characters. But they were nonetheless exactly what I wanted.
Soon I had enough for a whole Dearth Vader head — the moulded case that held the action figures. But what to do with all those weapons? I didn’t want to just put them all in the case haphazardly. They might get lost or mixed up. I’d lost too many Barbie shoes along the way to know that those pesky little plastic accessories had a way of losing themselves like socks. So I taped each one to a strip of paper and labeled it with the character to which is belonged. It was perfect.
So there it is. My most prized possessions. Material things, yes, but inside each lives a special piece of my past.
The Dearth Vader head now sits packed away on a self in my daughter’s room. My daughter doesn’t like them quite the same way. She likes other things.