I had joked in a previous post that the girlfriend/fiancée doesn’t like flea markets. Recently however, she has found a reason to go–and it’s not just to help me pick through dusty tubs of action figures while listening to me spit out bullshit numbers of how much they’re possibly worth. Now she looks for her own toys because she’s a child therapist, and she needs cooler toys for the kids to play with.
Last weekend we saw this bucket of dinosaurs for sale.
“These dinosaurs are cool. I don’t have any dinosaurs for the kids to play with!” she said, as we examined the bucket.
“There’s even an Allosaurus in here!” I said.
It was a great bucket, and I felt good that these were going to a worthy cause. Before the bucket, I imagined her office to be a place of depressing “therapy toys,” outdated dolls and grimy Lego sets with half of the pieces missing. But now she was putting together an awesome cache of toys starting with the awesome dinosaurs. The kids could make the dinosaurs fight and eat each other, and also make them play house. All kids make their dinosaurs play house. Right? Don’t they?
I picked through the dinosaurs and imagined the kids’ overjoyed faces, their faces beaming like in pancake commercials. Then I saw the most incredible thing.
DINO EGG NEST. With one of the eggs half-eaten by another dinosaur! I love really specific toys. I immediately claimed it for myself. I needed this.
I know you probably think I’m a jerk for taking toys from the traumatized children. It’s worse than that. Once I really began inspecting the bucket, I realized I needed a few more.
The Brontosaurus with a bit of character.
A hairy Cro-Magnon man with blunt rocks as tools. Again, I love the specific toys.
And this pissed-off Pterodactyl whom the eggs obviously belong to.
But these are the only ones I took. I still left a lot of awesome ones for the kids, like these. I even left the Dimetron because I have a heart of fucking gold.
Digging through the bucket got me thinking about what dinosaurs mean to me. Even before Jurassic Park came out, I was a huge fan. All children develop little islands of expertise, and mine were rocks, the TV Guide, and dinosaurs. I borrowed stacks of books from the library and learned the names of each dinosaur. I memorized their sizes, food preferences, and approximate country of origin.
I even wanted to be a dinosaur. I wanted to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I practiced by stomping through the kitchen and dining room, chasing the dog and pretending to be one. Spritzy would run so fast that she would reach hyper-speed. She would lean into a forty-five degree angle, her paws skidding along the linoleum kitchen floor.
I also tried being a Triceratops, once. Triceratops was a plant-eater, so I picked a few blades of grass out of the front yard and tried eating them. The grass tasted bitter and like gym shoes. I knew I was meat-eater dino all the way.
Perhaps I was drawn to dinosaurs to balance my world. The word dinosaur derived from Greek meaning terrible, powerful, wondrous. I was small. Everything, everyone towered above me. I was quiet and shy. I was solitary.
The world is vast and lonely to a child. Grown-ups sat at tables, and had conversations in serious tones. They smoked cigarettes, and looked over receipts and bills. They loomed and paced, their legs like tree trunks to me. Things happened above me. The whole world happened. I knew I was not a part of it yet. I was just a little kid, bored and plucking blades of grass. Eating chips and drinking juice boxes. Coloring stuff and telling secrets to the dog. She was on my level. I trusted her.
I was prepared for incredible things to happen. After all, dinosaurs had once roamed the earth. Giant monsters–bigger than elephants, even–were real, once. Dinosaurs proved that life was incredible. There was proof everywhere.
I could look up to see stars in the night sky, even though they were millions of light years away. It was like having superhero vision. They formed pictures of animals, as though God drew pictures millions of years ago for me to see. It was amazing.
It was amazing that Santa Claus existed, and that he somehow knew my biggest wishes. Back then, wishes did come true. I wished all the time. I wished upon finding pennies. upon fountains at the mall. Upon fortune-telling machines and birthday candles. Upon dandelion spores. I blew, and the spores fluttered to the ground, but I imagined they carried my wishes all the way to God and Santa. I wished for toys and video games, mostly. Sometimes I wished for stuff my parents wanted too, whatever they talked about, grown-up stuff. I wished for my sister, and for my grandmother, and I wished for the dog, too. This was my family. I wished for all of us.
There was God. God was an amazing thing. God was easy to hold onto. He simply was and I never asked how. Childhood is never asking how. There was proof everywhere–in the sky, in dandelion spores, and in the dinosaur bones resting in the earth.
Dinosaurs still inspire that feeling in me. A feeling that the world is amazing, still. This is also why I write. I want to convey the world. I want to take the world and hold it up and show it, because I am in awe of it.
I guess that’s why I still like childish things like the dinosaur figures, too. It keeps me in touch with the world of imagination, which so many adults lose.
When we dream in our sleep, our brains can construct fantastic stories. We walk through doors that become our childhood homes, but is also our workplace, and also a McDonald’s, all at the same time. The person working behind the counter is our significant other, but also an Asian man, and also we walk through another door and now there is a gun chase. We never stop to question the validity of the dream or ask how it’s happening. We simply accept it.
In my waking hours, I am still prepared for incredible things to happen.