I had a friend who made the switch from Star Wars to GI Joe. He already had five Star Wars figures. What would become of them? I privately judged him. I had about nine Star Wars figures plus a Tie-Fighter. You’d never catch me making a change like that. But the GI Joe guys bent at the elbow and knee, and pretty soon, my Star Wars figures that didn’t were rendered useless and embarrassing. I think I blocked out initially making the switch. I just remember reaching the point where I had more GI Joe figures than Star Wars figures and thinking, There. Now it makes sense to switch.
When I got a little older I switched again to Micro Star Wars. Those figures didn’t move at all, they were about half the size of my current pinkie, probably about the size of my then pinkie, and they came with location sets, basically from the movies. In the coolest one, Bespin, I could lower Han Solo into that carmelization chamber and then turn him around to the other side where a bronze statue of him with just his hands and face protruding would come back up. It was kind of a magic trick that wowed my friends. Those were cool because no one I knew collected them, so I felt unique and proud, feelings which still depended on my friends’ approval of them.
I rescued most of that stuff from boxes in the attic of my dad’s house. It’s all junk. Missing pieces and layered with dust, probably home to spiders. It was junk at the time, just no one told me. I delivered The Trading Post every Monday afternoon. It took me about an hour, not counting the night before of folding and rubber-banding them. I got a check once a month for, I think, sixteen and change, so it was around minimum wage for that time. I also did odd jobs for pay, raking leaves or shoveling driveways. I got Christmas and birthday money. I was a good saver, but virtually every cent I saved went, eventually, to these collections. There were only two times a year, Christmas and my birthday, when I could pretty much let what I wanted be known and it would be there. For a period of a few years, I used all these opportunities for things like the GI Joe hovercraft, the Cobra boat to match against it. I still feel a slight pang of grief when I think of the Micro Star Wars Millennium Falcon piece I longed for but never got. My parents let me pine for these items, slowly acquire them, and treasure them. If just once my dad had, even gently, guided me toward finding more practical ways to spend my money, those treasured collections could have been destroyed.
My parents were raising a writer. Those same feelings of pride and accomplishment that I got when I was ten from collecting GI Joe and Star Wars figures, I now get from collecting my writings. For the first few years, my writing was probably junk just no one told me. My parents read the first draft of my book and managed to sound encouraging. Although by then what others thought wasn’t going to stop me. My parents had already instilled in me that value of collecting, of putting those vital parts of who you are–that when shared aren’t dispersed–into something. I put them into those collections when I was a kid and when I played with them, while I was enjoying them, I think I was also celebrating those parts of me. Now I put that into my writing and when I read my writing, while I’m enjoying it, I think I’m also celebrating those parts of me that are in there. Those vital parts of me that will end up dusty in boxes, home to spiders. Maybe someone will dig them out and read them.