Sunday, February 1, 2009

Toot Toot, Quack Quack, Dolly

I started two new paintings this week – one that led me to reminisce back to my earliest memories as a child.

Take a minute. Think back to your childhood. We have all had favorite toys, those that became something more than just an item to play with: a trusted friend in the form of a stuffed animal or doll, a soft blanket, or even a Matchbox car.

I clearly remember the days when my kids had their own special companions. Laura had a blanket that she lugged everywhere; and Petie, a small, stuffed puppy that was loved so much that by the time he accompanied her away to college he had lost an eye and his brown coat was faded and thin. John’s buddy was a bear named Radar, whose scratched and bare red velvet heart shows the effects of living with the boy who loved him. Mike, our youngest, had both bear and blankie, but he abandoned them at an early age when Legos became his world.

When I was a small child, there were three toys that I slept with each night and took with me everywhere. I named each of them, and my mother liked to tell the story of how I cried out their names one-by-one for fear of leaving them behind. These old, faded, worn and loved treasures today occupy a shelf in our home, almost as a monument to my early childhood.

“Toot Toot” is a wooden choo-choo train engine, made by Fisher-Price in around 1952, and it looks that old. While it is missing one wheel and the cow catcher on the front, the friendly painted face still smiles at me as it sits haphazardly on the shelf.

Donald Duck is the driver and Pluto the passenger of “Quack Quack,” a dull red, rubber car with dingy white wheels. Oh, the miles the little bird must have driven, until he lost his noggin! Donald’s rotating head was lost sometime during those early years, when our family moved from house to house for various reasons. Neglected, he sat in a storage box for decades until we established his new resting place in our home. Then, through my wife’s investigative powers (and eBay), she surprised me a couple birthdays ago. She had found another old Quack Quack, the car in rough shape but with a well preserved Donald head. With some careful surgery, my beloved toy was restored.

And last, but the centerpiece of my friends, is Dolly. Today, everyone would recognize him as Raggedy Andy. What a special guy he was for me! His faded and stained fabric is an indicator of the adventures we went through together. He has about as much hair left on his head as I do. The black paint on his brass button eyes is worn away, and there is very little stuffing left to hug. But the memories remain, and he sits on the shelf with honor.

Back to my newest painting, a still-life, with my three special friends as subject. The 18 x 24 canvas has its first layer of oil paint applied, building the background and the bench that they all sit on. Some drying time is now needed before I continue with the bodies and faces of my little friends. I will share some progress photos in future posts.

This painting will not be for sale when it is finished, but perhaps it will inspire others to think back to their childhood and put together a grouping of their special toys. If you ever want a painting commissioned of those items, I would consider it an honor to do one for you.

Until later,


Dana Leigh said...

I used to have stuffed animal that was a black cat dressed in a tuxedo that I went to sleep with every night. I still have him packed away. His name was Blacky. How original!

CousinK said...

I can remember you walking around the house with Toot Toot and oh boy does this make me feel old.