A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why I Feel Like Hugging a Toy Right Now

And I don't even like toys. Never have. At least not the kind that are shelved in the "Toys" section of your local KMart, Target or Big W. I know, I know... I'm a contrarian... but not by my design. When my sister was playing dress-up and grooming with Barbie, I was reading Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and Famous Five. When she had one of those battery operated walking, barking dogs with a leash, I was reading Anne of Green Gables. And when she started her Strawberry Shortcake collection, I was tearing through Agatha Christie and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Great childhood. Had plenty of imaginative leaps. That said, my mother gave me an amazing tea set ... that I loved. Not Royal Albert or Wedgewood but something beautiful to touch and hold.

So where was I? Oh, yeah... I am totally not a toy person. But I adore Toy Story... 2, in particular and now after today, 3 also.

It boils down to...  one thing... the power of Pixar... that they make you care... that they understand those raw, human emotions and tap into them. They tell good stories. They take ordinary things and make them incredible. They just plain "get it". And they usually get it right.

I'm still teary from that last scene in Toy Story 3... I bawled my eyes out like a bub at the last ten minutes. But most of you are ladies and you get it. The feminine creature is an emotional fount and some of us are a gift that just keeps giving. (But sometimes, too often, I'm more the volcano, ready to erupt at the slightest agitation)

It's like saying goodbye to old friends that you have a suspicion that you'll never, ever see again. Of course there are DVDs but that's about replaying old memories... not making new ones.

Ten minutes into the film... I feel tears running down my face... Andy is all grown up, leaving for uni in a few days... and there are video clips of him in his younger days playing with his favourites... But my tears are not for Andy... but for my 9 year old who once upon a time was a baby. It seems not that long ago when I couldn't wait for her to grow up... to quickly get out of the baby stage, the crawling stage, the toddler stage... and now all I can think is... she's growing too fast... she'll soon enter the hazard zone of adolescence... Stop... slow down... make the moments last...

The 3 year old is growing up too... more articulate, more aware... plotting, scheming, blaming the big sister for everything. She likes her "scabetti", wants to wear skirts and dresses under her pyjamas and thinks that everything not tied down with a ball and chain, is hers.

*blows nose*

Ah children... they drive you nuts... but they get under your skin like nothing else can. When great men and women in the world out there are outdoing each other in grandiose schemes, here one day and gone the next... A certain clarity comes to  you... a clarity you probably wouldn't have unless you've changed nappies, toilet-trained a child and mopped up puke. You know deep down that really it is the little things that matter, the ordinary things.
Ordinary things are important because they give us stability... occasionally though, we long to transcend the ordinary so that's where the imagination come in.

Toy Story 3 gets that. The raison detre of a toy is to be played with... to become whatever the owner wishes. In the world of a child's imagination, Mr Potato Head is not just a plastic potato with anatomical parts. A piggy bank is not just a container for saving pocket money... they can be dastardly, bold villains in daring train robbery. When the 9 year old was 4, she took two shampoo bottles, sitting on the kitchen bench waiting to be put away, and made them talk to each other. She made sure they had separate identities and she gave them different voices. She's no Tolkien or CS Lewis (but who knows?) but in her mind, she created a makeshift world with the aid of two shampoo bottles.
"Who are you talking to?" I used to tease her.
"I'm just pretending mum... I'm making a story. Don't worry." She would reassure me.

In our house... we don't have a lot of toys... but we have blankets, cushions, pillows, tissues, sheets and in the hands of a child they become something else. They have meaning beyond their humdrum purpose. Not that they care... but we can pretend that they do. Blankets become ghosts and gowns, pillows become beds for dolls or weapons of mum's depression.

As I intimated earlier, this last installment of Toy Story is also about growing up and moving on. Childhood is a season of life... too short and too often wasted on the young. But growing up is painful... it's hard on mums and dads. Boys must grow into men and girls into women. Others will get left behind. But will they allow themselves to be left behind or will them move on too, and carve for themselves a new role.

A couple of hours ago the 9 year old was playing Monopoly with her father. It's school holidays afterall. Good time of bonding.
An hour later, she storms off.
Now... she hates Monopoly. She's never going to play it gain. (So she says)
Why? Because she lost...

My motherly impulse is to tell her... when you lose, you need to try harder next time... don't give up... practice makes perfect... The usual platitudes. But I don't. Because I know her... I know me...
She's sobbing bitterly and all I can say is... "Oh... L... " and smile to myself.
I remember hating to lose, I remember throwing a big tantrum and I remember how I would avoid certain activities because I couldn't bear losing agin.
But a sign of maturity is recognizing that there can only be one winner... and it might not be me... Maturity is also realising that losing forces you to learn from your mistakes.
Maturity comes with time... and we who are parents can give our children the stability of a God-honouring family to learn the art of self-discipline. Self-discpline as we all know, seems to be a scarce commodity these days.

I weep also because I am reminded yet again that we need to make those memories... moments gone can never be retrieved. There is no time machine... just physical tokens in photographs and mental ones locked away in the conscious mind. Children remember much and we can only hope that the good outweigh the bad.

Above all Toy Story... 1,2 & 3... are about timeless truths... that communities cannot survive without loyalty, friendship, sacrifice... It's trendy in modern times to talk about "seeing the world" and "finding yourself" but what about those who stay behind and find meaning in giving themselves to those around them?
Woody, Buzz & Co are heroic not because they lack fear but because they love... and out of that love they use their gifts to protect and nurture one another.

Good families do that... good churches too. It's not airy fairy feel-goodism but stout, sacrificial giving motivated by love, not sentimentality.

Did I say how much I love this film?
I laughed, cried, laughed some more and then more and then I cried.
Walking out of the cinema, the 9 year old says to me, "Mum, are you going to get the DVD later?"
"I think we will... I'm sure we will."


  1. Great post. I too cried and laughed through Toy Story 3. I think it is a Mum thing. My oldest turns 12 today. Where has the time gone? I particularly liked your last bit about the messages from the 3 movies and what that means for us as families and churches.

  2. Thanks Jillian...
    Yeah those kids can't seem to stop growing...
    I'd better stop before I dissolve into tears. Very sooky lately.

  3. I haven't seen it yet but both my kids (16 & 13) have, and loved it! Not too many kiddie movies that teens are happy to see ...

  4. When I asked our nephew who is 13 whether he was watching Toy Story 3 a couple of weeks ago, he said, "Not at my age!"
    I told him (in a slightly chastising tone of voice) that I have watched everything Pixar has brought except for Wall-E.

    Everybody loves Pixar though...

  5. Beautiful post Lilian! One of your best yet.
    By the way, I can't believe you haven't seen Wall-E. It's a good one too!

  6. Thanks Ky...
    The 9 year old is adamant that she doesn't want to watch robots in space.
    Not sure why... she likes The Jetsons though.

  7. I loved ALL the Toy Story movies. And the last one did make me cry... Love your review.

  8. I loved them all too, Kelly. They certainly tug at the heart-strings.


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