(Circular) Toy Story
Carrickmacross | Ireland
Some time ago we were biking in the Irish countryside. We kept going through ups and downs along the winding hills of the green isle till we realized we got lost – you know, countryside roads, they all look the same. We ended up on a closed road that led to the only little patch of a forest present in the area. Crazy as it seems, there we met a leprechaun, one of those weird pixies dressed in green.
At first we were a little scared, leprechaun are known to be tricky fellows. We wanted to cosy up to him, so we started with a ceremonious praise of the little corner of paradise he had and how cool it must be to live in there. He was not particularly pleased about his green/golden cage. He said sneeringly: “ye.. I'm really as lucky as a toy...”
That was weird. I mean, the situation was weird, but that was even weirder. We had never heard that expression. We have a saying – he said, noticing we were a little puzzled - to be as lucky as a toy!
How is that?!?
See, - he explained - we fairy folks are not really held in high esteem, we are always told to be a little sneaky, a little cheeky, a little fickle. Look at that Tinker Bell girl in Peter Pan... Toys instead ... we are discriminated! Wanna know about paradise?!? Listen to this story:
Once upon a time, in a toy factory in a far off land,a small toy dinosaur named Dina was born. She was not just the usual toy dinosaur, but a beautiful, wooden one with a unique feature – Dina could change her colour at children wish! Thanks to special paints she always carried with her, she could be green one day, yellow another and then red and so on... But she was not aware of it yet, laying a bit confused in a big box full of dinosaurs like her.
- Where am I?
- In the toy factory – answered one of her fellow dinosaurs.
- What is going to happen with me?
- You will soon be shipped with all of us to the toy shop, and from there to the house of the child who picks you up from the shop window. And then you will always be together – your child and you - and you will live happily ever after.
- 'Oh, that sounds amazing!' thought Dina, but she didn't say anything, still a bit ashamed of being in such a big group of other dinosaurs.
Things went as they said – a few days later their box was moved and after a long trip they ended up in a new place. Through the small holes in their box she could see that the new place was much smaller than the factory hall and full of people running around and screaming something like:
- Take this new order and put it on the shelves!
- There is no space here anymore!
- Throw away some of that old stuff, nobody wants it anyway...
Dina couldn't understand really what it was all about, but she didn't have much time to think it through as soon enough big, hairy hands grabbed her and others around and brought them to a new place – the shop window. And it was so much unlike the box! There was light, many other funny-looking toys and she could observe everything happening in the shop and out of it! At the beginning she was a bit scared by the hustle and bustle of people and cars passing in front of her, but soon she got used to it and she even started to enjoy it. She liked especially when children approached the window, with so much joy and a bright light in their eyes – any of them could become her child and she was very much looking forward to it. Day in, day out, time passed and she was never chosen. She was dreaming about her child during the dark nights, imagining them playing together, living together forever. And yet, during day time, even when a child got interested, big people around – usually called mum or dad – would say: what about this one instead, that one is too expensive. She was not really sure what expensive means, so one evening, when all people were already gone, she asked the stuffed dog close to her:
- Dog, expensive...what does it mean?
- It means that something costs a lot of money - answered the dog.
- Oh, and am I expensive?
- Yes, you are.
Dina thought for few minutes in silence. And then she asked again:
- And why don't people want to buy expensive toys?
- Because they need time and effort to earn money, so they think it's better to go for something cheap - explained the dog.
- Oh, I would like to be cheap! - exclaimed Dina.
- No, you wouldn't. - answer the dog softly.
- Why not?
- Because cheap toys usually don't live long. Look!
The dog pointed at the garbage cans, just across the street. And when Dina had a closer look, in the container with 'plastic' written on it, she could notice some parts of toys which were with her on the shop window before.
- That's terrible! What happened to them? – asked a terrified Dina.
- They are made of plastic, which is cheap. But they are very easy to break and when they do there is no point in repairing them. People just throw them away and buy a new cheap toy.
Dina didn't say anything else that evening, but her toy brain was working intensively. She couldn't understand people that much. Why would they buy something that doesn't last long and then they have to buy a new one? From that day on, she started to keep an eye on the garbage cans and she noticed that people use them a lot, especially the plastic one was full every day. People drop all sorts of stuff there, things that did not live long. Why putting so much energy in producing them if they live so short? For as much as she chewed over the question, Dina couldn't find the answer. Soon she stopped thinking about it anyway, as she finally got chosen!
One cold day, some time before Christmas, an old lady entered the shop. She had colourful clothes on her, white hair and a big blooming smile. She looked our dinosaur straight in the eyes and Dina felt immediate connection. And she was right, a few minutes later she got picked up from the window, wrapped in a nice piece of paper and put in the old lady's bag. She heard her saying something like: Mary will be so happy!
- Ah, Mary must be a child! My child! - said Dina to herself jumping a bit in the bag, not even sure if out of joy or because of the old lady strides through the uneven, snowy street.
And soon the BIG DAY came. After all those months waiting in the shop window, she was going to meet her child! That day everything seemed to be a bit hasty. She ended up under a big, green tree, surrounded by other colourful packages. And soon lots of people came, including children! Which one can be Mary? - wondered Dina. I think it has to be the one with brown curly hair. And she was right again! After few hours Mary's small hands impatiently opened the colourful box just to find the dinosaur inside.
- Granny, that's amazing, a dinosaur, a dinosaur!!! - Mary started to jump around hugging her new toy. And Dina couldn't stop her small tears. Tears of happiness!
The days to come were like heaven. They spent all the time together. Mary would take her on trips to the city and to the lake, they would sleep together in the bed and she would paint the small dinosaur different colours, showing the results to every single person around. Our small dinosaur couldn't be happier, imagining that this would be her life forever.
But it was not.
One day Dina realized that Mary started to forget her while going for a trip with parents or to the kindergarten. Doesn't matter – thought Dina – she will pick me up soon and we will have fun together, as usually! But deep in her heart she felt something was wrong. Day after day Mary seemed to be less and less interested in playing together, she got new toys and became more interested in them. Dina watched it from the corner of the room, where more and more toys ended up with time. She tried to call Mary, get in front of other toys to make herself more visible, but nothing worked. She was completely forgotten.
Worse still, after some time Mary's mum came and asked:
- Mary, do you use these toys?
- No, mum.
- Then, let's put them in a wardrobe in the basement.
And our dinosaur ended up again in a small, dark place, for many, many months or maybe even years not seeing Mary, or the sun, or the street full of people or anything else in fact. She got so sad, she would sleep most of the time, not speaking with anybody around. She felt her life was over.
But after a long time which felt like an eternity, somebody opened the wardrobe. Ah, Mary came back to me! - thought Dina. Instead, she was put into a big rubbish bag together with other toys. She heard Mary's mum saying:
- There is so much mess at home, we have to get rid of some of those things. I think I found the right place for them.
- Oh no, I'm gonna end up in the garbage can! - Dina got really scared. But it was not the can where she was taken to. It was … a toy library.
- Where am I?
- In a toy library – answered her fellow toy, a small astronaut.
- A toy library? It's like a big bin?
- Oh, no! - the astronaut started to laugh – it's like paradise!
- It's a place where many toys live and where children come to bring them home, play with them for some time and give them back, choosing other toys instead - explained a small puzzle piece, one of many in the box with Frozen characters on it.
- But it means that I won't have my own child?!? - Dina burst into tears.
- You will have many children! And they will all love you! And just before they get bored, they will bring you back here so you have a chance to make another child happy. – said the wooden helicopter joining the discussion.
- But I don't understand, I thought my purpose in life was to make one child happy forever! - hesitated Dina.
- It's impossible. - said a little penguin on wheels – Sooner or later children get bored with toys and even if not, they grow up. You can spend some years with one child, if you are lucky enough. Most of the cases it's just a few weeks or even days. And it's ok, as each of us, toys, give children different experiences, they can learn a thing with one of us and then jump to the next one. And we can come back here, meet our friends and wait for one more excited child to pick us up.
'Hm, it doesn't sound that bad', Dina thought, but she didn't say anything that evening anymore.
And the day after she got her first child – Nile, who painted her purple and played with her for 2 or 3 weeks. And just when Dina started to stay on the toy shelf a bit too often, Nile's mum brought her back to the toy library, where she met the penguin, the helicopter, the jigsaw puzzle and many other toys again. They spent a few nights talking together about their adventures in the children's homes and just when the stories were more or less over, our dinosaur got picked up again by Kazik. He painted her white and took her to the kindergarten for several days. And then she came back to the library again, starting loving her new life – full of trips, adventures, children's smiles and memories exchanged with other toys. Just in a few months she met not only Nile and Kazik, but also Małgorzata, João and Lilly, who painted her in 6 different colours and went around telling everybody that that was her new rainbow-saurus! That was so exciting, she couldn't stop talking about it once she was back to her friends at the toy library. It was also that night when she realized that most toys around are wooden, like her!
- Why are we all wooden? Most of the toys I've seen before were plastic. - she asked her friends.
- Well, plastic toys are easy to break. - answered a stuffed bee.
- Yes, that I know already – confirmed Dina.
- But that's not all. Plastic is also not good for the environment. - added one of the blocks from the building blocks box.
- What does it mean? - she asked
- It means that it destroys our planet. Plastic is very easy to break, but very difficult to get rid of. From the bin, broken plastic toys are taken to the landfill and that's where they stay for centuries, before they become soil again. - explained another block.
- Wooden toys like us are more resistant, they live much much longer and they are better for our planet! - a third block entered the discussion.
- Ah, that's why we are expensive! - Dina recalled the discussion she had at the shop window.
- Exactly. And we are also educational toys!- there was a long line of blocks which wanted to have a say.
- Educational toys? - Dina didn't understand again.
- Yes, it means that we are created to boost children's imagination and creativity. With many toys today you do nothing more than pushing a button, but with us you can do so many things! - said the fifth and the sixth blocks talking over each other.
- With us blocks you can build castles!
- And with puzzles you can create pictures!
- And with the doctor kit you can play doctor and do check ups with all the family!
- And with the cooking kit you can prepare meals for them!
- And with Alphabet Jigsaws you can learn letters!
And they would go on and on and on, but Dina was already too tired to follow and she fell asleep, happy she had found her home here, with all these interesting, ecological toys and able to meet new excited kids every few weeks. It was not the way she had imagined her life to be, but now she couldn't be happier. She really started to be grateful to Mary and her mum for bringing her here. They could have kept her in a wardrobe instead for many many years, sad and useless. Yes, she was definitely full of joy and gratitude in her small dinosaur heart.
You see now, toys are lucky. This is just a story but Toy libraries like this do exist for real! - said the leprechaun - There are quite a few in the world and we Irish have our very own in Carrickmacross, opened by local volunteers. And soon there will be even more, one for each town, if people keep joining the movement. And maybe, finally, we will also have our Fairy library!
--- Inspired by the Toy library in Carrickmacross, Ireland. ---