From Kid to Teen
Do you remember the difficult transition?
The majority of us came to a point in our lives when we grew up drastically. Do you remember when that time was? Do you recall when you put down the G.I. Joe figures, Barbie dolls, Legos, or Strawberry Shortcake? Can you pinpoint the timeframe when you started taking a stronger interest in the opposite (or same) sex and less interest in toys? Some of you may have made the kid-to-teen transition in High School or earlier while in 7th grade. For me it was after 8th grade during summer vacation.
I had a decent size G.I. Joe collection of figures and vehicles that began in 1982 when I was still in 3rd grade. I still smile when I think of the times I'd be rushed over to my Grandma's on my dad's side for the week, and I'd have to grab a few toys to bring over. Which ones do I bring? Which ones will the neighbor kids have that I have? Did I bring over the right vehicle? Usually I'd just carry the big paper bag of figures along with one or two big vehicles and it was off to Grandma's I'd go.
My Grandma and I at my post-First Holy Communion party
Unlike my Grandparents' place on my mom's side, my Grandma's place on my dad's side had kids nearby that I knew and got along with. This way at least I knew I'd have some companionship while I was there. The two kids I knew well were Brett and Erik. Erik was a year older than I while his younger brother Brett, who I was closer to, was a few years younger.
Me at my other grandma's pretending to drive, sans kids to hang with.
I can recall all the times we'd play with Star Wars figures, then roleplay in the nearby woods with the girl in the group being Princess Leia. When G.I. Joe figures came out, we took a stronger interest in those figures since they were more articulated and poseable. Of course when we would get tired of playing with the figures, we'd roleplay as usual with the girl in the group being Scarlett and then Lady Jaye. We would make up yard sales in Brett's parent's garage (usually without them knowing or authorizing), pretend to be army troopers in the woods, use Brett's Blue Thunder helicopter toy as a G.I. Joe vehicle, take walks up to the nearby shopping center to see the toys in Woolworth's, take turns riding his Big Wheel and see who could make the biggest skid mark (on the road, not in, well, you get the picture). Ah, those were the days. I still remember my Grandma making a fresh pitcher of Wyler's or Flav-Or-Aid fruit punch drink for us kids, but the drink would empty so fast and not get a chance to get cold because we would be so thirsty and guzzle it like there was no tomorrow.
Getting in trouble for sitting on my Grandma's dining room table. Check out those pants!
As years went on, I took an interest in other things aside from toys. I had a keen interest in keyboards and synthesizers, and I got a late start on learning how to ride a bike since my parents first purchased a nice BMX bike from Sears when I was in 8th grade. Unlike some boys, I had an interest in girls that began in preschool and never stopped. I guess you never forget your first kiss in a sleeping blanket. There were hardly any girls around my grandma's place, but the ones that were around had no interest in me. There was a time when some older girls, probably in their mid-teens, would fight with us guys, but at the time I wasn't sure if they were only pretending or what. One of them had held me against my will as a "hostage", but her friends/sisters/cousins were around as well, so it wasn't an obvious one-on-one deal. Whatever it was, it made me take an even stronger interest in women.
But this was the end of 8th grade in the summer of '87. With my new bike I was trying to earn money to buy freestyle parts such as axle pegs, Skyway mag wheels, GT forkstander pegs, a rotor, and more. Although I had a mild interest in keyboards since I received a Yamaha home keyboard the previous Christmas, I knew I wouldn't be able to afford a real professional synth until I got a job. I wouldn't reach that goal by shelling out my money for action figures or vehicles like I had done for many years; that money coming from Christmas cards, my birthday, Easter, or doing various chores. I was always so happy running into a Hill's Department Store, K-Mart and Ames/Zayre's Department Store and finding a fresh batch of toys available to my picking. Running into Kay Bee toys in the mall would be a thing of the past, just as it was years earlier going into Games 'N' Gadgets / Electronics Boutique and looking for Atari 2600 games. My focus was now on learning to become a better musician, fitting in a good group in High School, dressing to fit in, and just keeping the tradition of being cool.
That was the last time I would spend sleeping over at my Grandma's and hanging out with the two neighbor kids. Years earlier my best friend and I had come up with a little club of ours called the Spy Team. We'd dress up in black jackets, hang out at night, spying on neighbors and attempting to protect other kids from being bullied. Although we never saw any real combat action, it was a wonderful idea shared with Brett and Erik who had also taken an interest in it. My favorite thing about the Spy Team was the handbook I had made. It was a spiral notebook with a graphic of Optimus Prime in a battle scene on the front, but the content contained information such as friends and allies in the cities where I and my grandparent's resided. It also listed various weapons used, the woods nearby that we used for hideouts and bases, common kids we knew that were trouble, phone numbers for our parents, and even a page of delicious and dietary foods we'd need to stay in shape. I remember my parents' car in my Grandmother's driveway and saying goodbye to Brett while my parents were saying their goodbyes to my Grandma. I handed him the Spy Team handbook, hoping he would carry on the tradition somehow. When I got in the car, recent G.I. Joe figures in hand, not having the Spy Team handbook with me; I felt a loss. High School was coming up, so I knew I couldn't stay at my Grandmother's anymore, no matter how good her French Toast was in the morning, how much fun her and I would have watching game shows, nor how much fun I had with her playing 500 Rum and various card games. I had to grow up.
The geek, yours truly, at 14
It was a difficult but necessary decision to make. Sadly, it was the last time I would see Brett and Erik, as I found out later when they had moved that their parents had gotten divorced. For a short time I still kept my Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures in the same paper bag until my Mom (mistakenly) gave them to my little sister's babysitter. I still wanted to keep them; not to play with but for the many memories of the hours of fun I had with them. As the years went on, I no longer felt the rush and excitement of being in the toy aisle at a department store, nor the need to be in the local Children's Palace, then a Toys 'R' Us. Going to the mall was a bit different as I still frequented the arcades and bookstores, but not the toy stores.
From a Hot Wheels Chevelle to the real thing of my own.
After college in the summer of '94, my girlfriend at the time got me into collection the new Star Wars figures, and from there spawned an interest in collection various toys. These toys were meant not to be opened but to be preserved. And so it began a new wave of collection new Star Wars figures, some of the newer 3 3/4" G.I. Joe figures and various Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. I have opened a few figures and vehicles to display them on my desk at home, and they still take me back to the times of being a kid. It's comforting knowing that one can be grown up while still holding on to old memories and making new ones. Thankfully some things change, but the pleasant memories still stay the same.
Grown up in 1995