Friday, October 26, 2012

A Cheery Countenance

Today's post is a memoir written by a fellow MK, Ron Wasson.

The Child Was Happy

Growing up in Nigeria, parents had little choices as where to buy “Western” toys for their children. They were simply hard to come by. But every so often, when parents ventured to the city for supplies, they would stock up on toys to be used throughout the year for the upcoming birthdays, Christmas or other special occasions where a toy would brighten up a child. One toy that was among the favorites for children was the Matchbox cars that were made in England. They were called Matchbox because they came in a box the size of a small matchbox that would slide open just like a real matchbox to reveal the priceless treasure inside. The child was happy. 

Each toy was made of metal and with exact precision to its larger counterpart but to a much smaller scale. There were not just cars, but trucks, trains, cranes, motorcycles, buses, police cars, ambulances, anything that was manufactured on the larger scale was reproduced on the smaller scale and with much detail. With so many different models to choose from, collecting became a hobby and each child longed for a new and different toy to collect. At times, a child would end up with two of a kind or one he/she no longer wanted so trading became a very common practice. The child was happy.

But what made the Matchbox toys so popular was that because of the size, the child (and parent) could take it anywhere and be used to entertain the child, much to the delight of parents. Have an antsy child who could not sit still during the long church service? Then pull out one of his favorites and let his imagination take over. (only one toy at a time as two or more would cause a major distraction!) The child was happy.

As for the child, the outdoors was the perfect environment for playing with the toys. Grass, rocks, dirt, mud, cement patio; whatever the condition was there was a toy made for the occasion. Countless of hours were spent playing outside with the toys.

Sometimes, other children would join and together the state of affairs would expand to the limits of each child’s imagination. Of course, this also meant a few would get lost never to be found again until perhaps a hard rain storm washed it to an area more visible and to be later found by a delighted little child. It didn’t even matter if by this time it had already begin to show signs of rust and discoloration or the wheels didn’t roll. It was once lost and now it was found. The child could now relate to the hymns that were sung in church about being lost and then found. That’s all that mattered. Life was easier to understand when the Matchbox toy was shared with it. And when the child couldn’t play outdoors, the Matchbox toys were just as easily adaptable for indoors where the hard floors, carpet, furniture, beds, etc. all provided a whole different environment for the child to unleash his/her imagination. Nothing better to entice a child to take rest time in the afternoon then to allow him/her to play quietly with one of the favorites until sleep conquered the imagination and the dreams took over. The child was happy.

I remember one Christmas; my parents struggled to find toys for us. It was during the civil war and imports to Nigeria were slowed if not stopped altogether. But with a little imagination and creativeness, a miniature outdoor world was transformed onto a piece of plywood. There were painted roads, little houses, trees, rocks, grass, even a lake (small mirror glued to the board). This tiny world was created with whatever was available and put together with abundant love and imagination but to us, it all was just like the real outdoors. It didn’t even matter that new Matchbox toys were not included, as we already had our own. All that was missing were children to bring to life this miniature world. It didn’t take too long before fantasy and imagination burst forth onto the special little world. The child was happy.

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