The topic of Day 5 of Ann Dee Ellis’s 8-Minute Memoir is “Write about something little that means a lot.”
Day 5: To infinity and Beyond
Somewhere where I can’t lay hands on it is a little thing my son made when he was six years old and in first grade. It is a drawing of Buzz Lightyear that he did for his kindergarten portfolio. The years have passed, and he is much older now, half a world away, living his own life, but that that age, Buzz was his favorite. Buss was everybody’s favorite at his age. Toy Story came out very late in 1995, and the DVD soon followed. By the time the next Fall rolled around, my son wanted Buzz Lightyear and Woody more than anything else in the world. He spent every day after school watching the DVD again and again and illustrating his favorite scenes and his favorite characters. Every day after school, he told me that Santa was going to bring him both Woody AND Buzz for Christmas.
News stations were already doing stories on how hot the toys were, even hotter than the infamous Cabbage Patch Kids had been. We tried steering him toward other things–maybe a bicycle, maybe a game, maybe a train set–but he wasn’t having it. I was in grad school at the time, and there was flexibility in my schedule, so each day when Toys-R-Us opened, I waited in line with other doting but panic-stricken parents for employees to open the door, and we began the mad dash to the back of the store where the tie-in merchandise was kept. In the Toy Story section, there were lots of Pigs, Mr. Potato Heads, Slinky Dogs, Little Bo Peeps, and LGMs. No Woody. No Buzz.
Till one day, when I cut through the bicycle rack, I arrived first to find three Woody dolls on the shelf–three solitary sheriffs surrounded by a vast emptiness of shelving. “Don’t take them all!” someone else screamed as she rushed up. I had no intention of denying another child a Christmas present, so I took my Woody and stepped out of her way. She snatched the remaining two.
The next couple of weeks were a blur of Christmas preparations and visits to the toy store, always coming up empty. The occasional single Woody appeared on the shelves, and the numbers of secondary toy story characters dwindled, all except Pig, who never seemed to go anywhere. Never once did a Buzz Lightyear appear, and a week before Christmas, it looked as if he wasn’t ever going to.
Thus began the kind parental words meant to soften the blow of the possibility of not receiving the one gift you wanted. The softening did not go well, as my son looked at me with pleading blue eyes that says, “Is Santa not going to bring me Buzz?”
So feeling the guilt that only an inadequate dad can feel, I drove back to the toy store and did something without feeling any moral quandary whatsoever: I found the guy in charge of the unloading the trucks, and I slipped him twenty bucks to set aside the next Buzz that came in. It wasn’t enough. I had to promise that a second twenty would be handed over when Buzz was handed over. He took my twenty, winked, and said to show up the next morning promptly at opening and may be I would get lucky.
So I did, and so I did, finding Unloading Guy not in the toy section but near the bicycles that I had several times hurtled. He slid open a door beneath the bike racks and pulled out the MacGuffin of all MaCGuffins. Buzz! It was banged up a little bit but still exactly what Santa was going to put in his bag for Christmas.
Over the years, Buzz and Woody followed the same track as their animation counterparts. They would much loved toys for years, but infinity can’t last forever. They were relegated to a bookshelf and eventually, to the high shelf in the bedroom closet to order to preserve them. But each time I looked at the high shelf, with the dust accumulating on them, I remembered that toys weren’t built to sit in closets.
Now Buzz and Woody work with me. Woody doesn’t have much to say anymore, and Buzz’s wings take some nudging to open, but they both stand tall among the bobble heads that adorn my desk, waiting for my son to return and maybe one day beyond, for his own children to ask Santa for a certain something for Christmas.