The first time I saw a toy come to life, I was eight years old. As a child, I was highly imaginative and extremely sensitive, and as such, I was certain my toys – especially the stuffed animals – were alive, had a complex range of emotions, and were simply waiting for the right time to reveal their true nature to me.
As I lay in bed one night, I detected motion in my peripheral vision, coming from the corner of the room where I kept my stuffed animals. My heart skipped a beat as I looked over and confirmed that, indeed, the animals were moving. Then, right before my mystified little eyes, my stuffed unicorn took a step forward! And my eight-year-old brain erupted.
OH WOW OH WOW MY TOYS ARE ALIVE I ALWAYS KNEW IT THIS IS SO AMAZING WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WILL THEY SPEAK TO ME DO I SPEAK TO THEM WHAT SHOULD I SAY?????
But before I had a chance to say anything, my cat Tory jumped out from behind the stuffed animals, sat down, and began licking a paw, casual as could be, as if she hadn’t just crushed a little girl’s dreams into dust.
The second time I saw a toy come to life was much later, when I was in my mid-20s and living in Santa Cruz, California. It was a weekend morning, and I was washing dishes and gazing out the window when I noticed some movement on the windowsill, where JR had arranged a bunch of action figures he’d recently purchased at a yard sale. I dropped my gaze and watched with wide, alarmed eyes as Darth Vader walked along the windowsill, then pitched himself over the edge and into the soapy water.
Since I was no longer eight years old, my initial reaction was more like: Am I drunk? No, I just woke up. What the hell was that? But beneath all the layers of cynicism I’d gathered since childhood, there was still a tiny part of me that gleefully squeaked, See? I always knew toys were alive!
Then JR’s voice shouted, “Get in the doorway, Sweetie!” and I spun around to see him braced in the kitchen door frame. Only then did I realize it was an earthquake, not a spark of life, that had sent Darth Vader bopping across the windowsill and into the sink.
So there ya have it, folks – two incidents in which my MAGIC IS REAL! bubble was inflated, then popped immediately by a hard dose of boring reality.
(Although I suppose earthquakes aren’t really that boring.)
(Also, I’m still pretty sure toys are alive.)