I didn’t have a lot of toys growing up. Not ones that people would identify as such, that is.
It’s not that we were poor. It just didn’t seem to occur to my family that I might like to have them. To be fair, I don't remember asking. In my opinion, toys made by toy companies were overrated. Toys created on the spot when there was little other choice: that’s where the magic happened. (Note: You might say I had no choice and you’d be right. But looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.)
Pillows. Bedsheets. Couch cushions. Furniture. Stairways. Banisters. Bowls. Silverware. And above all, my dad’s Collier encyclopedia set, which he paid way too much for - all the rage for parents in the ‘70s who hoped the mere presence of which, as their children strolled past the bookshelf, would educate them by osmosis.
All of the above served as mountains, rivers, castles, dungeons, swords, shields, military headquarters, airplanes, tanks, landmines, satellites, spaceships, costumes, parachutes, drums, and punching bags.
Sometimes they provided environments for the handful of actual toys I owned: my beloved Star Wars action figures. (Acquired via five-finger discount at the local Kmart. I never said I was an angel.) But most of the time, all of this created a world for me. The only child, who spent most of his time alone and discovered earlier than most that we all have to create our own reality eventually.
So my favourite toy wasn't a toy at all. It was a world. Conceived and constructed from the stuff that populated my real one. I use the word “real” loosely, given that my imaginary existence felt every bit as real as my corporeal one. As a child, I walked effortlessly between worlds. The result: a lifelong belief that there is, in the end, no wall between reality and the imagination, and that life is what you decide it’s going to be.
Nothing has changed.