Silly Old Burt learns life lessons from old toys

Burt's Eye View

Alfred, Lord Tennyson once opined, “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

Burton, Columnist Cole’s Corollary asserts, “At Christmastime, an old man’s fancy heavily turns to thoughts of lost toys.”

It’s true. Every year, I sort through the piles of high-tech loot my grandson hauls in and I sigh — because visions of the gloriously simple wonders of my youth dance in my head (technology hadn’t been invented yet).

The “Get Smart” secret decoder, the Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker, the Spirograph, the Secret Squirrel push-up puppet, the G.I. Joe frogman… Where did they all go?

I haven’t met a guy yet who hasn’t lamented the millions of dollars’ worth of baseball cards his mom threw out in a fit of cleaning. Whenever we see a story on the news about a rare card being discovered, every one of us is positive we had several copies of those very same cards scattered on our bedroom floors. I personally seem to recall that I had six Honus Wagner cards, three Babe Ruth rookie cards and an autographed Bob Uecker (I signed it myself).

We lost our youthful toys and our fortunes.

Researchers say we all had that one thing that became our security blanket. Sometimes, it was an actual blanket.

I had a toddler cousin who dragged a plastic laundry basket behind her. When it was naptime, she climbed inside. When she got into trouble, she pulled the basket over her like a turtle disappearing into its shell.

We figured she was destined for a distinguished career in the laundry arts. When I asked her about that the other day, she leaned out the window of her dump truck and said, “Didn’t you notice how I never put clothes in my basket?”

Scientists claim that we fixate on toys that stoke our imaginations and help our brains develop into adulthood.

Many of us still have toys of significance stashed away for those distressing adult moments when we need our blankies.

Me, if I still have it, I’m not risking losing it in a stash. A Spider-Man action figure dangles from a webline on the ceiling of my home office. Cans of Play-Doh sit on my desk at work. Mattel Whizzzers from Christmas 1969 lurk just out of sight in my sock drawer — mostly because the little rubbery piece broke off and I can’t make them whizz anymore.

Then there’s my real treasure — a well-worn copy of “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne. It’s even autographed (my mom signed it herself, and signed my brothers’ names, too).

The year was 1967, and this was the gift that introduced me to the beauty of lyrical and humorously thoughtful writing (such as “My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places” and “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”)

I carried that book around like my cousin’s laundry basket. I disappeared into it every chance I got.

I’ve tried to emulate that beauty in my own work. Someday — maybe when I grow up — I shall. Until then, I periodically pull out that volume like a security blanket to wrap myself in the delightfully simple but sage prose that opened my imagination to the magic of writing.

Grow up, if you must. But let’s not lose the wonder of what the toys taught us.

— Write that Silly Old Burt at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or

@BurtonWCole on Twitter.


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