Saturday, August 27

Life's Random Bounces

When I was a wee lad, back in the mid 1960’s, toys were cool. TV was full of promises on Saturday morning. “It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! For fun it’s a wonderful toy!” Mousetrap. Booby Trap. Silly Putty. Tinker Toys. Erector sets. Captain Action with Batman accessories. View Master. Lincoln Logs. Matchbox cars (with real rubber wheels!). Close ‘n Play record players (“When you hear this sound, “prriing,” turn the page”). Even breakfast cereals held forth tantalizing treasures, as long as Mom didn’t mind you emptying the whole box of “They’re GREAT!” into one of her prized mixing bowls.

But one day, I saw something I just had to have. The Superball. Something about the “Super” conjured up images of comic book heroes, Martian explorations, and mad scientist chemistry experiments in a lab with stuff that went “zap” and “chzzzzzzgg.”

In those days (insert sound of grampa here) we weren’t handed toys whenever we wanted one. So when you got a surprise, it was a big deal. You would parade your new toy in front of all the neighborhood kids, accepting their accolades. It was like a mini-Christmas that might happen once, rarely twice, in a year. I don’t remember how I got it. Probably my Dad bought it for me on the way home from work one day just to shut me up.

But get it I did. I opened the vacuum plastic and there it was. Black with a seam around it where the two halves had met in the mold. Even the seam was cool. The other boys and I imagined a factory with sparks and fires and robots, where a brawny man in welder’s goggles poured the secret stuff into a glowing mold to make my Superball.

The very first day I rushed outside with the Superball. Polliwogs and marbles and rocks were forgotten. Everyone, even the girls (ick), wanted to play with it. We rolled it in the gutter, threw it on the sidewalk and watched it describe amazing arcs that seemed to orbit our houses. We quickly learned that if you flicked your wrist, and smashed it into the concrete, you couldn’t predict where it would go. It bounced and bounced and bounced and bounced zig-zag along the street hitting parked cars shaking leaves from the trees scaring dogs making us giggle.

It was the coolest toy ever.

Then, in one horrifying moment, it slipped through my fingers. Into the street. And a car ran over it. It was blown to jagged mysterious boingy pieces

Life is like that. Sometimes it rolls slowly in the gutter. Sometimes it bounces perfectly and you can catch it. Sometimes it aggravates you in your attempts to retrieve it, as it describes its own random path. Sometimes it’s all you can do to chase after it and giggle.

And sometimes, just sometimes, something smashes into it and shatters it into parts you can’t put back together.

I didn’t cry that day. I learned a lesson I still try to remember, although I often fail:

“Damn. That was really cool while it lasted.”


jazz bird said...

What an enjoyable read! It was also fun to reminisce over a few of the toys mentioned (although I'll swear to my death I'm not old enough to remember them- haha). Yes, I got past the toy list to get the message in the story, too.

I was such a Lincoln Logs fan, I now even have a mini set of them (they're really cute and tiny!) on my desk at work. I never had a Close 'n' Play, but I did have a Show N' Tell (only red) record player that I adored. It was a hand-me-down, but loved it all the same.

And, huh... I could have sworn it was the *boys* who were gross... although I think I got over that one eventually.

test said...

my Mom didn't let me out much...I played with Little People and Barbies until I was like 12. ha! I still have an unnatural obsession with Little kids have every item ever made! ha ha!

Bebti said...

I never had a Superball, but I do have numerous memories with Lincoln Logs and there anything you couldn't make with those? I personally feel that today's children are being robbed of the use of their imaginations by the "instant gratification" slew of toys and video games. Can you imagine a child today being fascinated by a rubber ball? Not to mention the fact that most children these days hardly go outdoors to play anymore. When was the last time you saw a kid flying a kite? I remember the streets being filled with children playing. Perhaps that's why our children are growing up to be FAT. Or perhaps I'm just getting old...