Writing Assignment: Remember A Favorite Childhood Toy

by Randy Murray on October 15, 2010

Memory is one of the writer’s most important assets. It is a mysterious thing, not the simple recording of an event to be played back upon demand. A memory is wrapped in layers of detail and information, often including one’s emotions at that moment combined with the emotions of remembering. These are recollections of sensations, not the sensations themselves. And memory evokes other people, some long departed; in such depth that it sometimes seems that they still live, if only in that moment.

As the writer draws upon his or her memory it becomes crucial that they learn how to use the memory and not become lost in it. It is very similar to the process that actors use to create a character based upon their own memories and recalled emotions. The writer must practice to let the memory live and to find a way to let the reader imagine and experience the event fully. This is more difficult than one might think. For the individual, every part of the memory is coated in significance. For the reader, they can only experience what the writer presents to them. This means that the writer must use all of the tools at hand and give the reader the information and detail that they need to tap into similar experiences.

In today’s assignment, write about a favorite childhood toy. Your task is to not just describe the toy, but to layer it in detail to relay what the toy meant to you then and how remembering it affects you now. Look for clues to take something insignificant and relate how it occupies an important and cherished part of your personal memories.

Here’s my example:

My nickname? I give a different answer based on who is asking, but because it’s you, I’ll tell you the real story.

It’s because of a doll I got for Christmas when I was a kid.

OK, an “action figure.” And I think I became a bit of who I am because of him. He was Captain Action. He was decked out in skintight dark blue tights, had a rubber captain’s hat, a ray gun and a lighting bolt shaped sword. He came with a vinyl case that doubled as his secret lair. He was dashing and powerful and perfect.

But what made him really special is that he was the master of disguise. And his disguises were all superheroes. I had only one costume for him and it was what I had him wear most often. For me, he wasn’t pretending to be Batman; he WAS Batman when he wasn’t Captain Action. It’s as if Superman’s secret identity was the Flash. Or Spiderman was Ironman when he took off the mask. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent imagining and thinking about this when I was young and when that toy was new. I didn’t even need to play with him – the thought of him was enough to keep me fascinated for hours. Masks and layers. You can be whatever you can imagine.

I sold him a few years ago on eBay and I found that he still looms large in my memory. I didn’t need to keep him in my closet, dressed as Batman, waiting in the dark. You see, there’s a third layer to those secret identities. Batman is really Captain Action. And yes, underneath, I am Captain Action.

You may leave your completed assignment in the comments section below.

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Writing Assignment: Remember A Favorite Childhood Toy by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann Janzen October 17, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Oddly enough, I can’t remember having a favorite toy… or even any toys. I grew up with marbles and pots and pans as my “toys”. Although I can recall spreading out the marbles and corraling them with spaghetti strainers and other cooking utensils, I can’t say that they were part of my most favorite pastime. No, my most favorite childhood pastime was making mud pies and climbing trees. I was always very industrious, even as a child, and needed to be doing doing doing. I could spend hours with my hands in the mud and forming all kinds of cool shapes with it. Later on in high school I worked with wet clay and a potter’s wheel and I remembered how much it felt like my mud pie making… Life was so simple then.

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Randy Murray October 18, 2010 at 7:29 am

Thanks for sharing, Ann.

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