Archive for January 16th, 2012

Plays with Booze

NaBloPoMo prompt:  “Tell us about some of your first toys.”  Oh, dear.  You may be forgiven for not believing this one.

I actually did have a toy, a stuffed elephant (Dumbo was very big when I was a child).  And I have photographs of me grinning prettily, clutching Dumbo, which does nothing to explain why I dislike elephants in adulthood, though the movie may explain why I really loathe circuses.  In any case, Dumbo was a gift from one of my several uncles, I’m not sure which one, and I treasured it.

But as for other toys – not for quite a few years did I have dolls and doll-houses.  Having been widowed very young, and the late 1940s being a time when women with small children just did not go out to work, my mother was not in a position to buy toys.  Although the very notion affronted her mightily, looking back on the whole time – we were poor.  She got Social Security for herself and for me, and probably an income from her sister, whose son she watched so my aunt could go out to work.  That was it.

However, there were other ways to amuse oneself, and I found them readily.  I liked the sound her keys made, so I used to play with her keys a lot, dropping them to get them to make that pretty jingly sound.  Then there were my doll substitutes.

One day (this was my mother’s story, I don’t actually remember it), I said to my mother, “I saw a funny lady today.”  When my mother asked what was funny about her, I said, “She had knees.”  “Everybody has knees,” said my mother, and I replied, “Blackie doesn’t  have any knees.”  And there was no arguing with that because Blackie was…a powder can.  A used-up can of baby powder that I had somehow adopted and turned into a doll, of sorts.  Blackie had a companion, “People” (I liked the sound of the word, that I do remember).  “People” was a whiskey bottle.  When the man who would become my stepfather entered the picture, he courted my mother with boxes of candy; I didn’t get to eat too much of it, but I did get to keep the empty candy boxes with the little paper wrappers that rustled like…pigeons.  (Dad kept pigeons.)

So there is my little roster of toys:  a stuffed elephant, a powder can, a whiskey bottle, and boxes of candy wrappers that sounded like pigeons.  And if you’re wondering how someone who was “really poor” could afford to buy whiskey, you’re not the only one asking that, though in charity, it probably also came from one of my several uncles.  Being Irish, they knew what was important in life.

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