Thursday, December 22, 2011

Those Toys We Gave Away

by Jeanmarie Hamilton

Do you ever wonder what happened to the toys you gave away every year right before the holidays? I was thinking about some of those toys the other day. What toys did you give to the charities that collected them for children who might not have any gifts? What did those toys mean to you?

While watching Antiques Road Show the other night, an appraisal of an old miniature chest reminded me of a small wooden doll dresser I played with in my early years. It wasn't fancy, but it was painted cream with blue trim, had rounded wooden drawer pulls and three drawers. It couldn't have been larger than about 14 inches tall and 12 inches wide. I kept my dolls' clothes in that simple wooden chest that someone had made, and somehow it had been given to me. Alas, it was given to the toy collection at the fire station in our neighborhood. I wonder where it ended up. Did a child enjoy it as much as I did? Did it end up broken and left outside to fall apart, or does someone still appreciate it and take care of it? What is its value today?

I also wonder what happened to the doll clothes my grandmother sewed for my dolls. And whatever happened to the dolls I loved and played with before they were given away? Even though my dolls were given to the fire department toy collection, I retained my love of dolls. Before they were all gone I even learned how to sew doll clothes with my grandmother's help. She taught me to sew on her old sewing machine, the kind that had an iron foot rest that I had to learn to tilt back and forth with my feet in order to spin the wheel that moved the needle up and down. The oak sewing machine table had two small drawers, one on either side. There was a rhythm to pushing the foot rest with my feet. It was a soothing rhythm just like the hum of the wheel turning. I'll never forget those days with my grandmother learning to sew and the satisfaction of making something. I put the doll clothes I made in that doll chest.

While rearranging the spare bedroom recently in preparation for a holiday visit from my daughter and son in law, I came across a shoe box full of bits of sewing materials for making doll clothes. It belongs to my daughter. We made clothes for her dolls when she was very young. I made some of the clothes, and she made her version. The doll clothes in the box that held the bits of sewing materials brought back great memories. I put the box with its contents away carefully to save for her to remember those times.

While she was visiting we discussed family heirlooms and the value of keeping some of them. Not only do they have value as useful objects in our daily life, such as a full size chest of drawers, but they have other important values. With one word, my daughter taught me a new reason for their importance to us. The word she used is mnemonic. At the time, we were all talking avidly about family heirlooms and so I didn't interrupt to ask her what the word meant even though I knew it was a very important word. I looked it up the other day, and used as an adjective it means
recollective, memoried, retentive, retrospective, reminiscent, mindful, remindful, suggestive, redolent, evocative. What a wonderful, important word. And it just proves how valuable cherished objects become. Gifts given to others may become more important than we'll ever know over time. They may even have mnemonic value. I hope you have some in your home. :-)

Happy Holidays!


  1. Great post, Jeanmarie. You know how sentimental I am, so your post really resonated with me. I have an old doll trunk, like a small version of a steamer trunk, and the doll that came with it. I've wondered if it's collectible to anyone but me. :-)

  2. Fun post, Jeanmarie. I tend to keep things I shouldn't can get rid of things I probably shouldn't. I get on a binge that my house is cluttered and start taking things to the Goodwill store.

    But while I don't have any toys left from my childhood. I cling to the dishes and knickknacks that were my grandmothers's.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Caroline and Paty, I'm the same way. I've practically stocked the book shelves of the Candlelighters second hand store on my side of town. But I hang onto things that belonged to my grandmothers and my mom before they were given to me. :-)

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Wonderful...brings up some memories. Me...I have almost every doll I ever received, except one...a lifesized boy doll. I never liked that doll, so I must have gotten ride of it somewhere. Two years ago, I dragged down my box of dolls. The box smelled horrible. The of the old dolls..and I mean "old," had rotted--the rubber that was used in the forties was not as good, so it had literally began to disintegrate. They were all baby dolls. I was heartbroken and could not stand to put them in the trash. Instead, I placed them in an old pillow case, tied it up, and gave it to my husband. I promise you, I was crying. I asked him to do something with them..whatever he wanted...just don't tell me.
    Now, that's just idiotic, but lord, I loved those dolls. Those that are left have hard plastic bodies...maybe they'll last another lifetime.
    Memories, recollections, anything vintage just melts me.
    Thanks, Jeanmarie...loved this post. Merry Christmas...

  5. Celia,
    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I can't believe your Baby Dolls were in such bad shape. How sad. Thank goodness you still have some dolls that are plastic and you can keep them. It's nice to meet another doll lover. :-)

    Merry Christmas!


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