Saturday, May 3, 2014

Romance Authors 'bear' Their Souls About Childhood Toys

by Joyce Lamb)

(Photo: Rhoda Baxter)

HEA asked some of our favorite romance authors to share their memories about favorite childhood toys. Check out earlier posts about authors and their favorite childhood toys here, here, here, here, and here.

Rhoda Baxter, author of Doctor January

One of my favourite dolls is a Jem/Jerrica doll (from Jem and the Holograms). My dad bought me this doll when we were in Palau, heading back home after six months living in Yap. My dad was staying behind to complete his work. He bought us kids one toy each to take with us. This was my present. I've moved house many times and thrown out lots of old stuff, but I couldn't bear to get rid of Jem. When I heard that they were going to make a Jem movie, I dug the doll out of the garage. My 5-year-old and I listened to the old tapes (I had to dig out an old tape player to do that!) and had a lot of fun playing with a doll that's over 25 years old. I sent my dad a photo of us and he said, "I remember when I bought you that." So do I, Dad. So do I.

Linda Grimes' (and daughter's) model horse barn built by her hubby.(Photo: Linda Grimes)

Linda Grimes, author of Quick Fix

For me, childhood was all about my love affair with horses. Horse books (the Walter Farley Black Stallion books and Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, in particular), riding lessons and shows, and, of course, my beloved Breyer horses. Those little plastic embodiments of the equine spirit fed my junior-equestrian soul. I never had a real horse of my own, but that almost (almost) didn't matter once my mom started a model horse collection for me. If I had to pick a favorite toy, it would be the bald-face, white-maned black horse that has one leg lifted as if in motion. I still have him — he lives in the barn my husband built for me (oh, all right — he actually made it for our daughter, who inherited my love of horsey things, but she left it here when she got married, so it's mine now, right?). Every now and then, I get Black Beauty out (along with his compatriots) and allow myself to get lost in the happy memories.

Alexa Grace, author of Profile of Evil

My favorite childhood dolls were my Barbie and Ken. My Barbie had a sleek, dark ponytail and Ken had a brown crew-cut. My sister and I made clothes for these dolls and played with them every chance we got.

At least we did until the abductions began. It was a dark day when someone (my little brother) kidnapped Barbie and wouldn't return her until he was paid handsomely with chocolate bars. No matter what we did to him, tickle his feet, etc., he would not return the doll until the ransom was paid.

This continued until the day we discovered how much he liked his G.I. Joe doll. The joy of abduction increases exponentially when the tables are turned.

Kathleen Eagle, author of Sunrise Song

I've been a doll fanatic forever. Here's a picture of little me with my brand new Toni doll. She came with a miniature home perm. From the bangs — Mama wanted that trim to last awhile — you can tell I have straight hair. Straight as a stick, Mama used to say. But little girls needed curls in those days, so I suffered through many a home perm. I can still smell the fumes. The Toni doll was a bribe, and I wish I still had the original. Regular moves result in frequent toy purges for an Air Force brat, but in recent years I've bought back my childhood. I have several Toni dolls and a huge collection of vintage Barbies. I love old toys, and I've devoted lots of space on to my collection. My granddaughters await their inheritance!

Alethea Williams, author of Walls for the Wind

I still have my favorite childhood toy, an Ideal boy toddler doll I named Jimmy Baby. Jimmy Baby is a "magic skin" latex-bodied doll. Magic skin turned out to be not so magic after all, it deteriorates badly from sunlight and exposure to oils — even those on a little girl's sticky fingers. Both of Jimmy Baby's arms tore at the shoulder many years ago, so he sports non-museum quality plaster casts under his little yellow polo shirt. Jimmy is lucky to be a boy: Born in 1951, Jimmy still has his original shirt, jacket, and pants. If he had been born a girl it's certain his clothes would have disappeared in favor of my little sister's dresses. Perhaps the only one of his kind in existence, Jimmy has been rated rare by a doll appraiser. But there was never any question that he's always been valuable to me!

Susan Vaughan, author of Twice a Target

My favorite toy was a plush black dog with floppy ears that I got when I was about 8. My family spent two weeks of summer at the beach — no idea what beach now — with my friend Connie's family. My mom and her mom bought us each the stuffed toy in a shop that also sold saltwater taffy, so for a long time the dog smelled like saltwater taffy. I slept with him, and carried him around pretending he was my real puppy. When I got older, my mom gave away a bunch of my toys, the dog among them. I've never forgiven her for that. To this day, when I smell saltwater taffy, it brings back the memory of that favorite toy.

Tara Mills, author of Caution: Filling is Hot

Dolls were my favorite toys, but not the baby variety. I've loved and doted on my Susie Sunshine since I was very young. She's my mini-me: same hair color, same green eyes, same light skin. I pierced her ears myself when I got my own done in fourth grade. I always imagined my little girl would look just like her. Of course I had three boys instead. Still, Susie made every move I've made as an adult and continues to sit prominently on my dresser wearing my pink Barbie tiara. She's wearing the pretty dress and lacy socks I bought while pregnant with my middle son too. At least I got some use out of that purchase. I still have Susie's original dress and apron in a box in my closet.

Patricia C. Lee, author of Destiny's Past and Destiny's Present

As unconventional as this sounds, the toy I played with most as a child was my Hot Wheels set. Yes, you read correctly — a racing set. Not saying I vied to be the first female race car driver, but I wasn't much for playing with dolls, although I did have a few that were handed down to me by friends. But when my parents scraped enough money together and got me the Hot Wheels, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Spent many an hour in my room, piecing together track, adding loops and constructing jumps with the use of the power house accessory. The best car in the series was the Fastback Mustang. As an adult now, I still drool over Mustangs, full size of course, and nothing can top a '66 Convertible. Look out, Danica Patrick, you may see me in your rearview mirror yet.

Judith Arnold's Slinky.(Photo: Judith Arnold)
Judith Arnold, author of Dead Ball

Slinky! I had lots of toys as a child, including some stuffed animals who have, alas, gone to that great stuffed menagerie in the sky. But I loved my Slinky. Back in the day, the Slinky was made of a flexible metal that sang when you shifted the coils from hand to hand or set a Slinky marching down the stairs. By the time my sons were born, the Slinky had been mutated; it was made of colorful plastic and it didn't make that eerie, beautiful singing sound. It also lacked the weight to descend a full flight of stairs. I guess someone thought plastic was safer. Or maybe cheaper. But the original Slinky was the best. I'm so glad I saved my Slinky so my sons could play with the real thing!

Teddy bear love. Aww.(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)