Eight years ago, when Mellow was two years old, my life depended upon knowing the exact location of two tiny toy cows that fit perfectly inside his fists. As we all know, two-year-olds have a tendency to lose their toys and then not understand why you can't procure them out of thin air the moment they want them back. To avoid the inevitable meltdowns and broken-hearted weeping, I ended up buying several of the little toy cows so we would have a better chance of finding one when Mellow demanded it. The cows ended up in constant rotation. They were very good about taking turns getting lost, so we were usually able to find at least two when we needed them.
Now Caboose is following in his brothers' footsteps, only the object of his deepest affections is a Lightening McQueen matchbox car. The heavy-duty, die-cast vehicles are slightly more expensive than the little plastic cows (read: ridiculously over-priced), so my method of buying several and letting them take turns being lost is slightly less appealing.
I've been pondering over the phenomenon of the favorite toy going on regular holidays and wondering why they have to go away so much. Also, have you ever noticed that when your child's favorite toy disappears, he is the only one who is able to find it? You can turn the house upside down looking for it, and said child will cry himself to sleep for several nights in a row. Then, one day, you happen upon the child, who is happily playing with the lost toy and your jaw drops in amazement. Since he's too young to offer any explanation over where he found the toy, its hiding place will forever remain a mystery.
So I wonder... where do the toys go when they disappear? Is it really just a coincidence when they go missing and return shortly thereafter or is there something bigger going on?
Cue imagination sequence...
Lightening McQueen rolled into his first meeting with trepidation. Even though he was used to meeting new people, the large conference center was packed with unfamiliar faces.
A large, muscled toy soldier stood at the front of the assembly behind a podium. "I hereby call this meeting to order. If you're joining us for the first time today, this is Disgruntled Toys Anonymous. We meet every day. We have an open door policy, which means you're welcome to pop in unannounced and stay for as long as is needed. My name is Tom and I've been a member of this chapter for six years."
"We'll start off the meeting with our motto, then we'll hear grievances." Tom raised his arms and all the toys in attendance rose from their seats. A chorus of voices chanted out:
I am a toy, but I have feelings too. I am more than an object of desire. Although I love my owner, I have unique talents and abilities that can't be pursued when I am too well-loved. I am therefore entitled to take breaks as seemeth fit. I will return home when I am ready, and my child will love me more for the absence.
"Wonderful!" Tom's voice echoed throughout the room. To begin our round of grievances for the day, we'll hear from Mr. Sill E. Puddy."
A sickly-pale, portly ball bounced to the center of the stage and leaned into the microphone. "Hello, everyone. Thank you for hearing me today. I've had a real rough week. I used to be popular, you see. I used to be desirable. But in recent years I have been reduced to a mere dollar toy." He paused, and a single tear rolled down his face. He continued haltingly. "I'm a pity gift. A party bag tchotchke. Something to be purchased only to be thrown away a short while later. Kids hate me because I don't flash or talk or have a power cord. Parents hate me because when kids leave me in their pockets, I end up going through the dryer and destroying whole loads full of clothes." He choked out a sob. "I might be here at DTA to stay." Sill then rushed off the stage, hiding his face in shame.
"We feel your pain," Tom exclaimed from his seat as Sill made his way past. Shouts of "You are among friends" and "Don't lose heart" rang out from the audience.
While Mr. Puddy melted back into the crowd, a large, awkward structure made its way to the stage. As it rumbled forward, bits of it fell off and had to be collected and brought forward by the stage crew. When it reached the podium, a chorus of voices rang out in stereo, "Hi. We are Legos. We've taken the liberty of dropping off our owners' favorite sets at will and coming as a group. We are very popular and never get any time off. But we must always be aware and watch out for each other. If ever we find ourselves separated from the group and picked up by a parent, there's a very good chance we will go straight into the trash." A collective shudder rippled through the room.
As the Legos were finishing up, a row of Tinker Toys were making their way to the stage. They sent forward a single Tinker to voice their grievances. A deep voice said, "Hello all. My name is Tink." A murmur rippled through the audience, and McQueen could hear muffled laughter. "I know what you're all thinking. I have the same name as that girlie fairy. But it's even worse than all that. Sure, kids love us. We are really cool toys. But parents hate us because we have so many small pieces. We get scattered to and fro, stepped on, and sucked up into vacuum cleaners. Parents do their best to hide us in closets where their kids will forget all about us. It really is a very hard life. We just needed some time away. It's so great to be here with you all - thanks for your support."
Lightening McQueen shuddered. He couldn't imagine being shut up in a dark closet, hidden away from the love of his child. In fact, he couldn't relate to any of what these toys were saying. Maybe spending his time being squeezed to death in the sticky fingers of a young boy wasn't such a bad life.
When no more toys approached the stage, Tom stood and strode to his podium. "Thank you for coming, one and all. I hope this has been a time for you to relax and gain strength from others in similar situations. We will now break for our workshops. If you are interested in speaking at our next meeting, or are in need of a list of today's classes, please see Wanda." He raised his arm and a large doll stepped forward, her hair twisted into unattractive clumps of yarn at the nape of her neck.
Lightening McQueen shook his head and fled from the conference hall before anyone could rope him into coming to a class with them. He zoomed back to home base as fast as he could.
He missed his boy.
...End imagination sequence.
So now you know where toys go when they disappear, only to mysteriously reappear a few days later. Be sure to keep your favorite toys happy, or they just might take a longer vacation than you or your child would like.