Giving My Childhood Away

For a time, the trunk of my car was filled with horses. Six plastic Breyer horses, from a box my mother gave me of childhood treasures. 

When I first got the box, I left it in the garage. I thought, What am I going to do with this? One of the lasting after-effects of resolving our infertility journey without children is this dilemma -- I have things that were mine as a child, and I have things that I bought or saved for my own children, that are left homeless. 

I know that having children doesn't necessarily mean that there will be willing recipients for your stuff. But, some of my childhood memories center on playing with my mom's old toys in the closet of her childhood room (the closet was huge, it's less weird than it sounds). Old dolls, old metal kitchen toys, that kind of thing. The select few things that are meaningful from childhood that you want to share with your future family. 

For me, my collection of Breyer horses fit into this category. I was obsessed with horses as a child, at least pictures and plastic models of horses. The IDEA of horses. My only real experience riding a horse came at a 12 year old birthday party for a friend of mine, where we all got put on a horse and went on a trail ride through the woods of a county park. Well, everyone else had an enjoyable ride; I couldn't get my horse to follow directions and I was also more than a little nervous at being so high up off the ground (who knew ACTUAL horses were so...large, so hairy, so reluctant to follow my orders?). I think the horse sensed my fear, and so I was constantly being left behind as the horse pretty much followed her own path and took her sweet time and the leader of the horse party had to keep coming back to tell me what to do like I hadn't already been trying to do just that, his exasperation clear. The kicker was when my horse did finally start moving and my sunglasses, my mirrored palm-tree sunglasses that I adored, trotted right off my face and under a hoof. Any desire to have my own horse, to go horse riding with my fictional waist-length hair streaming behind me on some coast somewhere, disappeared at that party. 

But, I loved those plastic horses. I kept them on a old dresser in my closet, lined up by size order. Again, my closet was big -- apparently houses from the 1920s enjoyed closets that turned a corner and had secret hideout spots that were great for playing in. My Barbies would ride the horses. They would go on adventures. And then their adventures led them to a cardboard box that was in storage for decades until my mom dropped it off for me to do...something with. 

In the past, this would have made me interminably sad. I would have mourned the loss of my mythical little girl who would have a play closet of her own and create adventures for my childhood horses. I had a brief moment of, "Well, this sucks." But, it was different, very different from the donating of our nursery or the donating of one last group of onesies and baby blankets almost two years after our decision to resolve.

After my sucky moment, it came to me -- I could find out who had horse-loving kids and were young enough to enjoy a good plastic horse model, and then gift my horses to them. I piled them up in my trunk (do you still call it a trunk when it's a hatchback situation?) and took them to school with me. 

Eventually, I had several takers (plastic is easy to sanitize in pandemic-times). One of my friends has two children, a girl and a boy, who enjoy imaginative play, and she took two horses for them. Apparently Breyer made the horses somewhat anatomically accurate as they had a long and hilarious conversation about whether the horses were girls or boys (one was MOST DEFINITELY a boy). I was left with four horses, which spent about a month rattling around in my trunk. Then, I asked my friend the school librarian, who has three little girls. She took all but the smallest horse, which I wanted to keep. Both of my friends sent me texts about how much their kids were enjoying the horses, which made my heart happy. 

It makes me insanely happy to know that my old toys that meant so much to me are making other children happy and enjoying new lives. It makes me more happy that they are in the hands of my friends' children than it makes me sad that my children didn't get to exist to play with them. I do regret not taking a picture of them, but that's okay. 

The last little horse I kept for my Dust Bowl demonstration, which I need to tweak for this year. I set up a popsicle-stick farmhouse, borrow a play fence from a friend, and put my plastic longhorn bull (that Bryce bought for some reason, unrelated to children, that DEFINITELY has balls) into a tub with Nesquik for dust, and then blow a hair dryer into it to show how the dust gets all drifty and sifts into the slats of the house. For good measure I knock the bull over and yell "DUST PNEUMONIA STRIKES AGAIN!" Having my own little horse for the tableau will make it even better. But also I have to figure out how not to get Nesquik into the hair dryer element, because I set it on fire last time and the classroom smelled like burnt chocolate for a week. Also, Nesquik is not gluten-free. Needs some work. 

The point of all this is, I am glad that these horses aren't rotting (if plastic rotted) in a sad, moldering cardboard box in a garage or attic for eternity, and that instead they will be played with. Not by my kids or grandchildren, but by SOMEONE'S. Of all the things I've given away, these are my favorite. So far. I still have a tub upstairs of things specifically for our baby, the things that were too painful to donate or give away. I might keep them, as a way of not erasing that moment in time. But, more and more of my things are going out into the world, to other people's children. It's a way of sending my childhood legacy out into the world. And a way for the things we bought for our FutureBaby that never got to be to have a new life, somewhere else. 


  1. This post is so relatable. And also hilarious. The fact that you liked "the IDEA of horses" cracks me up!

    I don't know what I'm going to do with all of my childhood things when I eventually get them out of storage. Sell what I can? Give stuff away? A friend of mine had a good idea to take pictures of my things if I was having a hard time getting rid of them. She said I could then make a memory book of my important objects, to help jog my nostalgia and memory, but that a photo book would take up much less space than all of my stuff. I kind of like that idea.

    Not the same, but when my dog crossed the rainbow bridge three years ago, I threw all of her stuffed toys in the washer and dryer, put them in grocery bags, and took them up to school and gave them all away to all of my friends who had dogs. Every single friend, without prompting, sent me a picture of their dog enjoying my dog's old toy. That definitely made me smile.

  2. "The IDEA of horses" -- lol. I never really liked horses -- our teacher read us read "Black Beauty" and all the Marguerite Henry books in grade school, but I always found them so sad. And my personal experiences with horses have also left something to be desired...! Your story about the birthday party reminds me of being in Jasper, Alberta ( = the Rockies) when I was about 14... my sister & best friend (whose family was travelling with us) saw an ad for horseback riding and nagged our parents until they took us. We had NO experience with riding, and my horse, like yours, turned out to be extremely balky. Plus there was a bee buzzing around his backside while we were riding along some pretty narrow trails, fairly high up. I was a nervous wreck by the time we got back to the car. Another time we went riding with a friend and we were crossing a creek when the saddle on the horse I was riding came loose and started sliding around. I wound up hanging upside down under the horse and then falling off into the creek (which was, fortunately, very shallow). I don't think I've been on a horse since then, lol.

    We did some cleaning in my parents' crawl space about 10 years ago & sent a lot of books, games and toys to the thrift shop. I couldn't part with my Barbie dolls just then, though. I do like your idea of passing them along to someone else's kids who might enjoy them. Parents' Neighbours' Daughter's two little girls weren't even born then, I think, but when they visit my parents, they do enjoy playing with some other dolls of ours that they found in a closet. They're almost past the doll stage these days, though...!

  3. I'm so glad the horses are happy in their new pastures.

    The Nesquik tableau is brilliant -- balls to the wall!