Sunday, September 05, 2010

EMPS: Dusty Memories

Dusty pictures
Of girl and boy,
When they were young,
Alive with joy,
Do they resemble people we knew?
I can't recall, can you?

--from The Ending of Desire by Ruth Ann Johnson Funk

When Carly posted her final EMPS for 2010, Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #105: Nostalgia, I'm sure she was very aware that my house, Casa Blocher, the Museum of the Weird, is full of stuff that qualifies as nostalgic. But it's a word I struggle with. Many years ago, I read an article in Life Magazine about Nostalgia. According to the article, the nostalgia of the moment looked back on the 1920s. To my pre-teen sensibilities, that was too far back. Who was seriously remembering the years immediately before the Depression with first-hand fondness and longing? Still, way back in 1970, there were probably some people for whom it wasn't just an odd little fad, driven by a Broadway show or two.

For that matter, who remembers 1895 London? Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both Doctor Who writers, recently wrote and produced a modern day version of Sherlock for the BBC, to high ratings and much acclaim. It turns out that the characters are much more important than gaslight and hansom cabs. They don't have to look like Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, either.


For me as an adult, even the 1950s is too far back to really remember; but our house has lots of artifacts from the 1950s. Some of them are John's old toys and games. Some are vintage furniture. You have to get to the 1960s to start picking up on things I personally remember fondly, including Barbie and some of her friends and relatives. Sometime in the 1990s a friend of mine gave me a Tutti doll to replace the one I had circa 1966. Later I replaced my long-since-discarded Casey (Barbie's cousin's friend), my Talking Stacey (with an English accent!) and my Bubblecut Barbie (which originally came to me in a back yard trade) from eBay. Straight-Leg Skipper turned up in a local auction, and I don't honestly remember where I got some of the other Barbies I picked up in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the ones I really care about are the ones I owned personally way back when: the bubblecut Barbie, Tutti, Casey and Stacey.

The last classic Mattel doll I bought was at a toy show several years ago. It doesn't seem right to have a semi-serious collection of classic and mod era Barbie dolls and not have some version of the ultimate classic Barbie design, Ponytail Barbie. Mine is a "#6 Barbie" from somewhere around 1962-4. None of my friends would have had the super-valuable 1958 dolls, so I don't need to own one now. And how much do I think about my Barbie collection? You can probably tell from the dust in the photo above. I should dust those shelves much more often than I do.

Here are the upper reaches of a much more diverse exhibit at the MotW. The German sampler was done by my dad's grandmother, if I recall correctly. It's almost certainly the oldest thing in the house. I'm not nostalgic for it because I didn't grow up with it. My dad probably did, though. I display it out of love for him. The Tiki salt and pepper are 1905s and early 1960s kitsch, but I love it even though it's only vaguely from my childhood. Hawaii was a big deal when I was 4 years old, because it was a brand new state. Captain Kangaroo told me about it at the time. And Snoopy was very much a part of my childhood. Two weeks of my 25 cent allowance would buy me a Peanuts book if I could scrounge a few pennies for the sales tax. My mom was always good about that.

On the shelf below that stuff are my Quantum Leap books. That's a tricky one. I hated those books because they didn't follow the rules of the series very well. But I'm mildly nostalgic for the days when my friends and I were watching and taping Quantum Leap, going to California and interviewing people from the show, and putting together a fanzine about it. Not that I'd want to do all that work again, but John and I were watching Quantum Leap Season One a couple of hours ago. It still holds up as a great show. And of course there's a nostalgia factor in the premise as Sam visits past eras from 1953 to the early 1980s. (Well, once he went to the Civil War, but that was an anomaly.) There's a lot of fun to be had, laughing at Sam in his disco duds.

The sheves below the Quantum Leap books hold my Doctor Who novelizations. I didn't grow up with these, but lots of British fans did. To me they're a source of nostalgia for my other major fandom of the 1990s - but not too much, because I'm at least as much into Doctor Who now as I was in 1990.

Back to the toys and dolls. Most, but not all, of the stuff here is a replacement copy of something I had as a child. That's the exact kind of Breyer horse, and I definitely had a Jan doll (but not a Spunky), and a Bunsen Bernie Kiddle. I'm not sure about that exact Kiddle Kologne, I didn't have the brown poodle, and I'm not sure about that particular Hot Wheels car.

But again, what does all this stuff mean to me now in terms of nostalgia? I am very fond of it all, but I don't think of any of it very often. Would I give any of this up, though? Some of the dolls I never had, maybe. The rest, not on your life!


P.S. While Carly is taking a break from the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot and other memes, I'm going to fill in the gap with a new meme on Mondays. I couldn't come up with a good M word to go with Mondays, so the meme will be called:

Karen's Quest and Question

What's it about? Here's a teaser: one week, one photo, one sentence! Details tomorrow!

1 comment:

Jama said...

Seeing these dolls sure bring back memories of my childhood, I think I have one doll similar to the ones shown here. We were too poor to have too many toys, most of what I played with are self made. Since my mom was a seamstress and we have lots of remnants of material, my sister and I made rag dolls out of them. During those time, creativity and imaginations rules the day, plus lot of outdoor play! something which is lacking in our kids nowadays especially here in my urban city. Give them the electronic game, and they are happy!