Reeder: Small toy elicits truckload of memories
BY SCOTT REEDER January 3, 2013 8:10PM
Updated: February 5, 2013 6:32AM
The tiny hands grasp the smooth blue steel and push the truck down the hallway.
My 4-year-old daughter, Anna, exclaims “Catch, Daddy, catch!”
As I reach out for the rolling toy, I’m transported back to an earlier time.
The truck had once been my older brother’s, then mine — a treasured possession that had traversed sandboxes and gravel driveways for years and spent decades in an old cardboard box before being rescued to roll free once again.
To a casual observer, it might seem to be nothing special — no batteries, no remote control, no parts to be assembled. Just a sturdy toy truck.
But it is more than that, more of a reminder of when things were built to last. It’s a time portal.
With each push of the toy truck down the hallway, I think of my brother who has been gone now for seven years.
I hear his adolescent voice as I toddled behind him, enthralled by his every move.
He could do no wrong in the eyes of his 4-year-old brother. My favorite place was perched on his handlebars, rolling down the brick streets of Galesburg.
“Who’s that?” the old ladies on his paper route would ask him. And he would reply with a 12-year-old’s matter-of-factness, “He’s my little brother.”
When he became too big to play with the truck it became mine. I’d proudly proclaim to any neighbor who would listen that the truck had been “my big brudder’s.”
I tried to improve the truck with a coat of silver paint when I was 6. Our West Highland White Terrier was terrified to see, and smell, a child blasting away with a can of Krylon.
The word nostalgia is formed from two Greek words, one meaning “homecoming” and the other “pain or ache.”
I feel the ache and the joy when I see that truck in the hands of my daughters. I miss my brother but remember the good times.
Shortly after my second daughter was born, I retrieved the truck from my parents’ basement, sanded away the rust, painted it back to its original blue and fixed the chrome.
But I left in the playground dents and the backyard scratches. After all, what would life be like without our dents or scratches?
I watch my daughter Caitlin toddle past as her big sisters push the toy about. They can do no wrong in her eyes. I know the feeling.
Some days I want to remember, I feel a need to see the little truck. I find myself looking for it amid my daughters’ things — the Smurfs, the Barbies, the My Little Ponies.
Once I see the truck in the clutter, the recollections march forward. But when I see the toy in the hands of my daughters, those recollections are replaced with wishes for their future.
Will they someday watch their children push that truck about? Will the pride, love and joy of parenthood fill their home as it does mine?
Will the sight of that truck remind them of a sibling’s love?
I sure hope so.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist-in-residence at the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group that supports the free market and limited government.