Most people understand the benefits of physical exercise for the body, but the mind needs a workout, too. Reading, working puzzles, and writing stimulate the mind. Did you know that reminiscing is an effective mental exercise? Mental health studies conclude that reminiscing decreases anxiety, stress, and depression. It increases emotional and spiritual well-being, leading to better overall health. In general, people who reminisce have a positive outlook on life. Looking at the past and accepting failures, celebrating successes, making amends, and coming to peace with life is a way of giving ourselves meaning. It helps us accept our eventual death.
People of all ages are delving into the past and writing memoirs. That's what happened when I requested stories about childhood dolls, and later, childhood toys and games. About 100 of these stories have been published in my two anthologies.
In Dolls Remembered, women reminisced about their childhood dolls. As touchstones to the past, dolls validate childhood, a span of years that often seem like fragmented moments in time. With their life-like faces, blemished complexions, and snarled hair, vintage dolls hold sway with a magical power that rarely wanes, and often grows. In this collection, not all the dolls were pretty; not all were wanted; some were disappointing; not all were favorites, but each was memorable for some reason. One woman, in a serendipitous discovery, found her childhood doll in a most unexpected place.
In Toys Remembered, men have their say. Although many toys and games are common to a particular era, each boy’s experience is unique. The locales represent a cross-section of America, as well as the Philippines, Canada, England, and Latvia. Some stories are poignant, others are humorous; some are serious, others are tongue-in-cheek; still others slip into fantasy or whimsy, or are creatively dramatized.
Unlike Dolls Remembered, which focused on a single plaything, this collection required opening a bigger box of crayons. First: What is a toy? The dictionary defines a toy as something a child plays with or uses in play. So, is a stick strummed across a picket fence a toy? When in the hands of children, do maple tree seed pods become toy helicopters? Was the old Underwood typewriter on which Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Persons (later Capote) pecked out stories, a toy? Must a toy be tangible, or might it be as weightless as a whisper secreted in a boy’s small fist? Keep an open mind.
Second, as the stories arrived, I saw that these reminiscences are not only about toys; they are about indoor and outdoor games and the arena in which they were played. In sum, this anthology is about boyhood. Boyhood remembered. One writer called it, “The magic and wonder and marvel of that time of life; the simplicity and innocence of childhood.”
Step back and enjoy the magic.
[All royalties from these books go to Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia.]
Note from Randi: I am so pleased to be able to spotlight both of these anthologies here. Madonna was very gracious in allowing Foreign Quang readers to participate--as a result you might recognize some familiar names as you read through the delightful stories.
In Dolls Remembered, Foreign Quang readers, Jill, Janice, Juliah, Auntie M. herself, and I all have stories.
In the long-awaited follow-up, Toys Remembered, you will read submissions from Computer Geek, FQ reader Ken Devine, and my former student, Benji, along with an interview with Weston.
Order one or both of these books, make some hot chocolate, light the fire, and take advantage of your enforced indoor time!