Play With Your Toys!
I had the red pen out again. In the blaring Summer sun, I liberally dragged the ball point up and down Kirk’s chin. Now, redness seemed to be dripping out of the left side of his mouth.
Grabbing the back of his head, I plunged the captain’s face into the dry earth, rubbing it in really well. I flipped him over, the figure splaying rigidly over the palm of my small hand. Perfect!
To me, my Mego Captain Kirk action figure, already an uncanny likeness, now looked like he had just fought off a Gorn. His little tunic was ripped open. (The sleeves had been mended with gold thread after an earlier reenactment of “Miri”.) The right amount of blood and grit had been applied. Boots and trousers dirty. Now I could play.
Late in the afternoon, I stood at the bathroom sink. If I got on my tiptoes, I could reach the faucets. Not too cold; that would make the pen ink set into the pliable plastic faces. Too hot and I risked losing some of the brown and black pigments applied to the characters’ moulded “hair.”
My Uhura figure was the one I had to take a little better care of. She had black doll hair. Synthetic, but it still took more time to clean. All of the hard plastic bodies were easy; a few wipes and everything came off.
I opened the tri-fold Enterprise Bridge play set, made sure my fistful of pale blue communicators and phasers were all safely tucked into the transporter module. (Due to their flimsy plastic straps, the tricorders had been lost long ago, on some distant world… likely the vegetable garden!) Then, I carefully stacked the clean-faced crew into the set, flipped up the Bridge deck, folded the sides, and flipped the small latch. Good as new, and ready for the next mission.
Some days, my brother would join in, if the other kids weren’t playing baseball, or basketball. I wasn’t a sports kid. I loved to read, and to create stories. Long before I started writing and later became an editor, I would watch Star Trek, then recreate the episodes with my action figures. That led to new and more exciting, original adventures, and more dirt, pen marks, scars, and torn clothing. But I learned how to tell stories, and I loved acting them out.
Last week, as I packed up our house for a move, I came across a taped box with my mother’s handwriting on the lid. It read “John/Toys”. I pulled the old tape off the dusty lid. Amid the magic tricks, cassette tapes of Star Trek TV episodes, and other childhood ephemera, there was, nestled underneath, a worn paper sack. Mom’s handwriting again – just the initials “ST”. I unrolled the sack, feeling a familiar hard lump rolling inside. Kirk, bare chested and missing an arm and a leg, slid into my hand, along with a faded yellow uniform shirt. He was smaller than I remembered, but still held a look of determination on his chiseled face. I turned his head. There’s a trace of red ink in one ear, no doubt from fighting a Klingon forty-six years ago. And all of the adventures flooded back. My parents were still alive, and I was a seven-year-old boy playing in the Summer sun.
A few years ago, after a surge of nostalgic recognition, Mego, the company that originally designed and sold my 8” Star Trek action figures, reopened its doors. Their classic Star Trek rerelease was such a hit that you can now order a variety of new figures like Khan or ST II Kirk. They look amazing, and I’m sure a lot of you received them as gifts during the holidays. I’m also sure that there are those of you collectors who would never dream of breaking the packaging.
So, with the story above in mind, and with all due deference to the collectible industry, I shout: “Rip open those boxes!” Many of you will be tempted by the siren song of big money for your pristine toys. But when I reflect on the times I spent with my battered and bruised crew of the starship Enterprise? Well, I wouldn’t trade those memories for a thousand unopened boxes. Play with your toys!