Bucket of Dinosaurs

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 Before the bucket, I imagined her office to be a place of depressing “therapy toys,” outdated dolls and grimy Lego sets with half of the pieces missing.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.

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15 responses to “Bucket of Dinosaurs

  1. For many years I have worn a little silver charm on a chain around my neck. Many people have asked what kind of animal it is, and it is sad that most are dumbfounded when I tell them it is a protoceratops.

    But I always get my hopes up when I answer the question, because the world IS amazing, which means that once in a great while I get to meet a person who knows that a protoceratops necklace is AWESOME.

  2. Been reading your blog for the past few weeks. Like ALL of your blog instead of working hard. Today is my last day at my current job and I feel happy to have a nice post like this cap off my 3 or so weeks of reading all the rest of your blog. I’ll continue reading when I’m not wasting company time too.

  3. Major kudos to The Girlfriend. I have a child in multiple types of therapy, and these people are saints. We owe so much to them. She sounds like a great person.

    I’ve been reading for awhile, and every post is like a snapshot of my childhood. Thanks for this blog! You’re a great writer.

  4. I’m with you man! Some people that I know, think me a bit odd for getting excited about toys and collecting vintage ones. It does keep you young at heart, and in touch with your imagination. Toys were a lot different back in the day, because they were made to be used in conjunction with your imagination. Some of my favs were the very first happy meal toys that came out in the early 80’s.

    Sets of non articulated toys made by Diener for McDonald’s, included spacemen.. dinosaurs.. animals.. and cars. They were simple, yet provided us with endless hours of fun!!

  5. Beautiful. And I love the Cro-Magnon. Thanks for the summery and the weird. It’s needed here in the world.

  6. Have you ever seen those dinosaur attack trading cards? I don’t know what they were called, but each card depicted a different human scene (wedding, birthday party, office environment, etc) that was being destroyed by dinosaurs. And they were really graphic, like people were impaled on horns and disemboweled and bleeding to death…basically, these were little portraits of people being slaughtered by dinosaurs.

  7. I loved this article! I love to be reminded to enjoy the wonder in our beautiful world.

  8. I love it! I laughed myself silly. Pizza, you are a star–and your sense of humor is incredible. I love what you’re doing with writing!

  9. I was always a Triceratops guy myself. Dinosaurs are so mint. I wish I had flea markets to go to so I could dig through bins like this. Lord knows I do the same thing with NES games.. Last time I was in Baltimore, I bought this awesome shirt with dinosaurs on it at the Security Square Mall. Something tells me the designers did not have a lanky white guy in mind when making it..but its awesome nonetheless, and I get compliments like crazy.

    –And Mariam, for some reason “Trilobite Terror” is permanently stored in my head just a frightening second away.

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