Toy Library

The most wonderful experience in Annie’s recent memory is The Toy Library. If Annie were to imagine heaven, it would probably resemble the toy library.

It was a rainy Saturday morning – chilly and gloomy, with no hints that it would be a morning to live in Annie’s imagination as one of the pinnacles of her life. Her parents told her they were going to a Toy Library but they didn’t know what it would be like. Annie recognized a promising name when she heard one, so she willingly climbed into her carseat and they drove a few minutes down the street. Cora, who was not excited at all and had no interest in finding out what a toy library was, fell asleep in the car.

Annie jumped out of the car into a gravelly puddle. She was wearing her gumboots, of course, because that is what New Zealand kids wear. Annie had the most beautiful gumboots in existence: they were rainbow sparkly gumboots, and had purple lights on the bottom that twinkled when you stomped your feet. She ran up a wet ramp and in through a sliding door and then stopped short. There were toys. Everywhere.

She took off her gumboots by the door so as not to get anything wet and looked around. She was in a large playroom. Next to her was an excavator, larger than she was, which a boy was riding on; the arm moved as he manipulated the controls. There was a red car with a yellow top sitting empty next to it. Brightly colored plastic things were tucked into corners, just asking to be taken out and played with. A large bin of games was sitting at the other end of the room, next to a rack of puzzles. Through a doorway she could see shelves that went up to the ceiling, and the dim outlines of uncountable bags on the shelves; bright colors were visible through the transparent bags. Her heart lifted. She felt an urge, deep inside, to see and touch and explore everything in this wonderful place. She felt she belonged here. And she needed these toys. She needed all of them.

Annie recognized that this toy library was serious business, not something to be taken lightly. She felt a little daunted by the task at hand but knew she was up for it. She had work to do – she was a woman on a mission. She did not smile or speak a work, and she did not hesitate, as she reached out for the red car.

It was a few minutes later that she realized that she could actually take toys home.

“I want to take this one home,” she told her mother. She was now in the back room with the shelf upon shelf of bags and plastic bins, each of which housed a toy. She was grabbing the first bags she saw, pulling them off the shelves, trying to hold as much as she could. “And this one, and this one too.”

“Look through everything,” Mommy advised, “and pick the best toys, not the first ones you see.”

“But Mom…” Annie started, holding a bag with a large plastic rocketship in one hand, and a bag with a wooden bus in the other. “I want these ones. I really, really do. These are the best toys.”

“Look around,” said Mommy. “There’s a section for vehicles, and a section for blocks, and a section for baby stuff, and a section for dollhouses. Pick out the best toys so we can take them home to play with them.”

Annie couldn’t imagine making this kind of decision without removing every single toy from its bag and examining it.

Annie soon found herself back in the playroom with the other kids, where popular toys were out for public consumption.

Annie found a plastic laptop computer with a plastic mouse, and opened it up. Another little girl was eyeing it as well, so Annie was careful to keep it within the girl’s sight but just out of her reach. The girl reached over to press a pretend button. Annie jerked it away. The girl reached over again and Annie scooted a little further away, keeping an eye on the girl but pretending not to.

“Why don’t you share, Annie?” Daddy asked. Daddy often asked irritating questions like this. Annie ignored him, all her attention on the toy and, peripherally, on the little girl. “You could both use the computer,” Daddy went on, doggedly. The little girl was watching Annie, her look pleading. Annie pretended not to see. Annie lay on the ground on her stomach, pretending to use the laptop. She made it clear that this was a very interesting toy and she was having a great time with it. The little girl watched sadly, in silence. After awhile, though, she finally gave up and went to find another toy. Annie gave a sidelong look after the little girl, then abandoned the laptop to play with something else. Daddy, exasperated, went back into the other room.

The family did not wind up getting too many toys, but the toys they brought home were very good. Mommy picked out all the toys in the end, except for Daddy’s toy. Cora got an activity center, which has a seat she can bounce in, and many plastic things that spin and wobble; she can put them all in her mouth. Annie got a wooden dollhouse and a wooden bus to go with it. And Daddy got a broken ukulele. When he was checking it out of the toy library, he explained loudly, to anyone who wanted to listen, that he was only taking the ukulele so he could fix it.

Mommy helped Annie set up the dollhouse when she got home. It took them a long time. 

There are 5 people in the dollhouse – 2 grown ups and 3 kids. Their identities are often in flux, but generally speaking they are Mommy, Grandma, Annie (the biggest kid), Shark (the middle brother), and Baby Cora. Sometimes she uses another toy, Mr Ghostbuster Man, to pretend to be the daddy, but sometimes the daddy is at work. Sometimes other toys, like Barbie or Minnie, come to visit as well, and the stories become very strange.

There are 3 floors in the dollhouse. The bottom floor has the kitchen, where there is a wooden table, a stove, a sink, and a set of shelves. There is a tiny TV and tiny speakers that fit perfectly into the shelves. Grandma sleeps on this floor, on a red couch. Upstairs is the kids’ room, where there are 2 beds that can be stacked on top of each other. Annie loves to put the tiny pillows on each of the beds, carefully arrange the kids in their beds, and cover them with the tiny blankets. Putting the kids in their bonk beds (or is it bunk beds? Annie says she is not quite sure) is one of Annie’s favorite things to do in the dollhouse.

On the third floor, the attic, Annie has arranged the bathroom since there is no room for it on the lower floors. There is a tiny wooden toilet, a shower, a bath, a vanity, and a sink. Annie often helps the doll children to use the toilet, and she makes sound effects to make it more realistic. The parents, who don’t have beds included in the dollhouse, sleep together in the bathtub in the attic.

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