Bloganuary daily prompt: What was your favorite toy as a child?
Long story longer.
Art therapy for adults. Sometimes I hated it. Sometimes I loved it. Well, okay, love is a strong word, but sometimes it was insightful. A little insightful. Like if you squinted real hard from across the room at something you’d drawn, you might find a way to interpret the doodling as somehow relevant to your life. The art therapist, peering over shoulders as the patients worked on their projects, would sometimes nod or sigh or smile or give a little “hum” sound at the back of her throat as she walked around the room. All in all, it was kind of creepy.
I preferred the more structured assignments. One’s that didn’t involve jostling with the others for access to a pile of magazines for a collage project, trying to snag something that hadn’t been hacked to pieces by prior collage makers. Then trying to avoid eye contact with that person across the table who’s trying to guilt you into giving them the magazine you chose because out of the entire stack of magazines, that’s the only one that is bound to have the image they need for their masterpiece.
Just keep it simple. Hand me a piece of paper and a crayon and tell me to draw what depression looks like for me. Make sure it’s a black crayon and we’ll be set.
One day at group therapy, there was a large assortment of materials spread over the tables as we entered the art room.
“Today I just want you to play,” the therapist said. “Use whatever you want to draw, paint, cut patterns out of colored paper, glue photos together as a collage, make something out of pipe cleaners, whatever appeals to you.”
“Play? I’m in this damned program because I’m damned depressed and I’ll be damned if I feel like playing.” That was my thought. I sat there in silence, arms folded in front of me, staring at the clock on the wall. Daring the therapist to try and make me “play.”
“Come on, it’s fun!” exclaimed one overly jubilant woman. Obviously it was time to boot her out of the program. “Just pretend you’re a kid again and play like you did back then.”
“I didn’t play when I was a kid,” I snarled, and I stood up and left the room. Didn’t play as a kid? Where did that come from? Of course, I played. Didn’t I?
I did play. Make believe, storytelling, hide and seek. Mother may I. Red light, green light. Simon says. Operator. Checkers. But none of that came to mind, specifically to my depressed mind. I didn’t remember having fun.
Group therapy ended years ago for me, and thankfully I’m in a much better mental state these days. And yet, faced with the question today as to my favorite toy as a child, my first reaction was. “I didn’t have toys.”
Of course, I had toys. Matchbox cars, bikes, skates, etch-a-sketch, spirograph sets. Balls, dolls, stuffed animals, board games. I’m sure I had lots of toys, but it’s hard to remember.
Living with depression can be like walking around wearing blinders. You don’t have the bandwidth to deal with a whole lot, so you block out a large portion of what is happening. I’m not talking about blocking out memories of traumatic experiences. I mean blocking out all sorts of things, even memories of playing and having fun. And it gets to be habit.
I still have trouble; not a poor memory per se, but I don’t focus enough to memorialize well, if that makes sense. A part of me still thinks it needs the blinders, and so the details get lost. Or the big picture is lost. I don’t know.
All of this to say, if I had a favorite toy as a child, I don’t remember it. But that’s okay. I get to play with my grandkids’ toys now. My favorite? Probably the t-ball set. I can send that plastic baseball over the fence like Hank Aaron! Remember him?