Childhood Memories Friday: Kids

Note:  I’ve been writing up some of my childhood memories, mostly ones focused on church. What follows is a chapter about the Fisher Price “kids” that my sister and I loved to play with.

 

He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands

 

He’s got you & me sister in his hands,
He’s got you & me sister in his hands,
He’s got you & me sister in his hands,
He’s got the whole world in his hands!

 

If I could distill my entire childhood into one happy afternoon, it would be spent in my playhouse.

The summer I was seven, my dad built Jill and me a playhouse in the backyard. Dad often took construction jobs in the summer since he was off from teaching, and he put his building skills to work in creating the most fabulous playhouse I could imagine.

Jill and I eagerly watched as the concrete slab was poured, and then the playhouse itself began to go up. It had a front porch, two windows, and carpet inside. A woodpecker doorknocker was on the door. It was heaven on earth.

Mom sewed calico curtains for the windows and furnished the playhouse with a second-hand child’s stove and sink, but I’m afraid we crushed her intentions for domestic play.

Because when I saw the playhouse, I didn’t dream of playing with dolls and mixing up pretend dinners. I dreamed of an entire world for my kids.

Jill and I had almost a hundred “kids,” which was the name we gave our vast collection of Fisher Price Little People. We loved them as Jesus must have loved the missing sheep.

Indeed, the stories of our devotion to our kids were legendary within the family. A vacation to Florida was almost ruined when my Fisher Price dog, which was touted to float, drowned in the motel pool. Although the staff drained the pool in search of Toto, he never surfaced. God Bless the folks at Fisher Price, who sent a replacement after Mom mailed them a letter chronicling this sad tale. The day the new Toto arrived in a padded envelope rivaled Christmas.

And probably the best Christmas of my life was the one when I was gifted the Little People Castle, and Jill received the A-Frame. The details captivated us, allowing us to vicariously live lives other than our own:  the A-Frame’s tiny sliding glass door! Its bunk beds, complete with foam mattresses! The castle’s side den where a pink and turquoise dragon lived! The castle dungeon, where many a bad kid ended up spending a dreary afternoon.

We arranged an entire kid village in our playroom, but the idea of moving our world out to the playhouse was so irresistible that it gave me goosebumps in July.

So, Jill and I rolled up our sleeves, opened the door of the play stove, and began converting its shelves into a two-story city county building.

The center of the kids’ world was, of course, the church. We created a huge and detailed place of worship, modeled on First Baptist. An empty Kleenex box turned on its side became the Fellowship Center stage, and communion cups made perfect seats. Upside-down nut cups were scale-model-perfect tables, and alphabet blocks spelled GOD LOVES YOU down a long hallway.

Our kids went to church at the same frequency we did, or maybe even more. We created tiny choir robes from fabric scraps and taped them on, and Jill was an expert as she voiced the miniature Dr. Silver:  “Sleepers, awake!” (shouted with enthusiasm), or “Oh, beloved …” (this was a clear signal that the message was nearing an end).

We enjoyed our kid town out in the playhouse from the first March weekend above freezing until the final October day when we could stand it. In between, we spent many blissful hours there, sitting Indian-style on the floor with our legs sticking together in the heat. A box fan by the screen door blew around the humid air. There was a constant hum of activity as a village of carpenter bees discovered the porch rafters, and refused to leave despite my dad’s best efforts to rid the playhouse of this pestilence.

Around the edges of our village, we arranged our Fisher Price School, Farm, Village, A-Frame, Houseboat, Castle, and Hospital. The hospital was especially prized because of its story. One summer, Mom offered Jill and me a choice:  would we like to take a family vacation, or get the Little People Hospital? It took us about ten seconds to choose the hospital, complete with an X-Ray machine, operating table, and working elevator. No trip to the beach could compare!

To fill in gaps, we created houses for our families from boxes decorated with wallpaper scraps and furniture made from Jello boxes. Furnishing our town kept us busy for many a summer day, and we relished every minute.

Our kids had recreation other than church. We set a trio of kids on the turntable of our portable record player, and when we turned it on, voila – a perfect skating rink! We learned that using the faster speeds was a public health hazard as it resulting in kids flying off, and we never were able to find a way for the kids to skate while a record actually played (the moving needle got in the way), but nevertheless we loved our invention.

When the kids weren’t skating, we made full use of the record player to play singles Mom picked up at garage sales.

“Here you go, girls,” she said one morning, walking in through the playhouse door and handing us a new 45. “I really wanted to get you “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, but then I wasn’t sure it was totally appropriate.”

Instead, we got “Devil or Angel” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” which I’m glad were deemed appropriate, because over the years we committed every word to memory.

***

If the playhouse seemed perfect to us, we weren’t the only ones who thought so. Every child who visited was destined to wander in, giving Jill and me heart palpitations.

“The Johnsons are coming over this afternoon, so you girls make sure you are nice to Kara,” Mom casually mentioned one day at lunch. I met Jill’s eyes and stopped chewing, as my baloney and cheese roll-up had suddenly lost its scrumptiousness. My stomach did a pretzel twist. Kara was four years old. The odds of her not noticing the playhouse were not good.

“Does she have to go in the playhouse?” Jill asked.

Mom spun around, turning Paul Harvey’s volume down on the radio.

“Now girls. If you went to someone’s house and they had a playhouse, wouldn’t you want to go in? Just be nice to her.”

So it was settled. We figured since the enemy was coming to us, we might as well meet her on our own turf. We headed back to the playhouse and resumed the church service we’d interrupted with lunch.

***

“Wow!” Kara stood in the playhouse doorway, totally obliterating the sun.

“Yeah, it’s neat, isn’t it?” I said, more as a statement than a question. I was hoping to show some authority here. “You can look at it, and then maybe we can go play outside …”

But my hopes ended as Kara laughed and with a single kick, wiped out the Fellowship Center.

“Kara!” Jill cried, “You can’t do that!”

But Kara was on a roll. She walked around the village, indiscriminately kicking down this building and that, like a human tornado. Jill and I  stood by, paralyzed in our horror. We were to be nice to her, and I didn’t think dragging her forcefully out onto the porch counted as “nice.”

After the longest minute or two we’d known in our brief lives, Kara tired of this and went outside on her own.

***

That evening, Jill and I began the arduous task of reconstructing our town. No natural disaster was ever met with greater resolve, and within an hour we had restored Kid Town to its former glory – or, possibly even improved it. After all, I’d been thinking about some improvements to the choir loft, and Jill had a few ideas for a new slogan to spell out along the hallway. “God Loves You” was so 1972.

We made solemn announcements to the residents, informing them that a great danger had passed, and that it was safe to again begin their daily routines.

It wasn’t so bad, having a whole world in our hands.

 

5 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: Kids

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I had the same buildings and also spent countless hours playing with them.While I didn’t have a playhouse-I did take everything outside and set them up in our small garage that had a gravel floor (Dad wasn’t always thrilled when he came home from work and couldn’t park the car!) I remember making a Swiss mountain out of shoveled snow during the blizzard of ’76 and creating tunnels for the cars to drive through. I’ve often wished I had saved all these things for my own kids-but they never seemed to have the same level of enthusiasm for Fisher-Price as I did.

  2. My next-door friend and I played with those Fisher Price people (and their DOG!!) all the time. My kids would die laughing if they new how old we were when we stopped. We had our “family” and “world” that consisted of the House and the Houseboat. It was a wonderful way to play and I remember it all very happily. Nice post and I hope you get to do a book!

  3. I could have told this story exactly substituting Fisher Price people for Barbie dolls! Thanks for sharing such a fun memory! Wonder what ever happened to Kara?

  4. “I really wanted to get you “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, but then I wasn’t sure it was totally appropriate.”

    HEEHEE this is funny. Very funny. how is that song not appropriate…???!?!!?

    and I suggest you change it to this:

    “I really wanted to get you ‘Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,’ but then I wasn’t sure it was totally appropriate.”

  5. I love your comparison of loving your kids like Jesus loved the missing lamb!
    No wonder the record player went out. . .
    I think somewhere in my possession I still have the very faded first playhouse curtains.
    I also recall when you and your sister would get in a total spat and do your own kicking the town down! You girls would come in our home in a total huff! I don’t think that happened too often, thankfully!
    I recall how you named the kids after local people you liked – like Laura Burbrink, the Greens, maybe even the Aults. . .?

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.