Flatsy Dolls and Other Toys of Our Youth

img_2297At Christmas dinner this year, we somehow got on the conversation of toys from our childhoods — those things we loved to play with when we were eight or nine. My mom, who grew up in the ‘50s, said she loved playing with a baton. My dad mentioned playing with “fort” type characters and setting them up to fight each other. My sister-in-law, who grew up in the Philippines in the ’70s, said that electronic games were a big hit when she was a kid. My brother was a big Legos fan, and also had an elaborate train set (set up with my parents) that sat on top of a ping-pong table. (My parents and my brother made hills and valleys and trees and bridges and tunnels for it – then we’d stand in the den watch the thing go.)


I, however, had Flatsy dolls. I had lots of other fun toys, too, but Flatsies definitely stand out in my memory – probably because you can’t find them any more. (I heard they were only made until about 1973.) We had them in two sizes – big (about the size of an adult palm) or small (about 2 inches high). They were rubbery, like Gumby, and you could change their clothes, which all had that sort of Mod ‘60s look. I guess they’d be like what is today a Polly Pocket, but for some reason they were flat! We collected lots of them, in many colors, and had clothes for each one. Some of their names were “Trixie” and “Candy,” as I recall. (Although I don’t remember if we named them that or if that’s the name that was given to them.) When we were eight or nine, Ann Marie and I would play for hours with these dolls. We’d bounce them around the couch and the floor and make up elaborate soap-opera-type dramas that only an eight-year-old can concoct.


Interestingly, my mom kept a few (in the photo above). Maybe I’ll frame them. I wish I had their clothes, though!


What toys do you remember playing with most when you were eight or nine? Do you still have any of them?




“Wow,” says my little guy as I come downstairs, “you look be-yoo-ti-ful, Mom.”

I clonk down the last few steps in my high heels. Adjust my work blouse. Blush. “Thank you,” I tell him. And then I go in the kitchen and calmly revel.

My son just turned nine, although he’s very small and I think of him as younger. Plus he’s the youngest child, which sticks him with a certain “baby-state” status, I suppose.

I listen as he goes back to his morning program – Full House or something – and stir my oatmeal. I add the blueberries in. Put down my spoon. Revel again.


Deep sigh. …

I figure I have another five or six months of such gushing. Maybe eight, maybe nine. I recall fifth grade as being a huge turning point with my older son, so I’ve got about eight months until then.

My oldest son used to think I looked like the Columbia Pictures icon. When he was about three, we’d all be sitting on the couch, watching City Slickers or some such thing, and the Columbia music would come on. The iconic goddess would fall into her place – looking a little like the Statue of Liberty, or something, only with redder hair. Now I guess this would be a good place to mention that I – under no circumstances whatsoever – look like any kind of goddess, red hair or otherwise. I don’t have stature. I don’t wear robes. I don’t carry a torch. And yet, to a 3-year-old who loved me, I guess I did. “It’s Mommy,” he would say, pointing to the screen, looking to his father for verification. My husband always had the decency not to laugh.

So this morning I make oatmeal, stirring the blueberries in. And I think about my boys, and how I get to be a goddess for a few short years – maybe eight, maybe nine. …

You spend all of your teens, and even some of your 20s, hoping a handsome man will tell you that you look beautiful. But no one tells you that the comment you’ll hang onto forever – the one you’ll start to mourn – is the unsolicited one coming from your little guys, four feet tall, when they’re missing eyeteeth and have cowlicks in their hair. …

Blogs for the Person Who Loves To Read

I want to just give out a little link-love today. (Today is Saturday, a gorgeous almost-70-degrees-and-not-even-11a.m.-yet, and I have a million chores to do. So I’m just going to throw open the windows, do the boring chores, then try to get out of the house for some of the day! Oh, and write fiction. …)

Anyway, I want to give a little link-love to a writer friend in Switzerland who has an outstanding blog about books called Incurable Logophilia. She’s been keeping it up for years, and she’s written some great essays/reviews on many of the books we’ve read in our book club (The Life of Pi, The Bluest Eye, The Sparrow, The Known World, Middlesex, Madame Bovary, to name a few). She’s on holiday right now, but look under “Book Lists and Reviews” at the top, and you’ll see a long list of all the books she’s covered. If you love to read, browse around in her blog and look up all your favorites. You’ll get her take on them and see others’ comments, as well. Great fun. I have her in my blogroll, too, if you want to find her in the future.

And for my romance-reading friends, my favorite blog of all time is Romancing the Blog. A wonderful grouping of writers and readers, all coming together to discuss what makes a great hero, whether the heroine needs to have a best friend, how realistic you really want that historical novel to be, and other fun topics. The comment discussion is often as entertaining as the post itself, and Nora Roberts even pops in from time to time to leave a comment. It’s a lot of fun if you’re in the world of writing or reading romances. …

Have a great Saturday!

Favorite First Lines

So my writer friend Sharon and I were talking about great first lines of novels. This is a common topic among writers, because we’re always trying to come up with the greatest “hook,” or line, for our books. But she pointed out that every time she researches first lines (or famous first lines, hooks, etc.), it always lists the same ones, over and over. But surely fiction has some new ones! I’ll bet at least one book you read recently had a terrific first line. What are some of your favorites?

Sharon said this would be her submission:

“At this point in the story, Packard had never fallen in love, and didn’t trust what he’d heard of the lingo (forever, my darling, with all my heart, till the end of time, more than life itself, with every fiber of my being, oh my darling Clementine, etc.)  It sounded out of control to him, and messy.”


— “Train” by Pete Dexter


Love it.


I like some of the humorous ones I always remember. Love Susan Elizabeth Phillips:


“Phoebe Somerville outraged everyone by bringing a French poodle and a Hungarian lover to her father’s funeral.”


— “It Had To Be You,” Susan Elizabeth Phillips






What are some of your favorite first lines?

Married to Superman

101_0770I’m married to Superman.

It’s been a secret, in our neighborhood (although a few people have noted that I have a couple of Lois Ann Lane’s initials, and her chosen career), but for the most part, the secret’s been well kept. But I thought I’d share it with you, Blogosphere, because I’m tired of keeping the secret.

I first found out I was married to Superman when I went to a little “internship” for spouses and fiancées of soon-to-be cops. (I was a fiancée at the time. Chris was the soon-to-be cop, attending the police academy.) They told us soon-to-be spouses that there were several things we’d need to know about our husbands, the cops. The speaker said that most people go into law enforcement for one of two reasons: either they want to boss people around (these are the jerky cops) or they want to be Superman. And either reason will probably cause them some grief down the road.

I realized, then, that Chris fell into the Superman category. These were the cops who truly wanted to help everyone – wanted to save the day – and truly thought they could. They were the types who would pull over and help stranded motorists; the types who would pay someone’s toll if they didn’t have the money; the types who would make sure a stranded woman got to a phone to call for help.

This is Chris.

Of course, the second part of the “internship” was about how we had to be there when they realized they weren’t Superman. The speaker said this is a rude awakening for many men (and women) in law enforcement, and it can send them into somewhat of a downward spiral of cynicism if they’re not ready for it. So we were supposed to help.

I’d have to say, Chris hit that wall – he went into juvenile probation for many years, thinking he could “save” these kids, but realized, after more than 10 years (and shootings, and arrests, and fights, and abandonment) that that wasn’t going to happen. He realized he wasn’t Superman.

But he still is to me.

He still pulls over and helps stranded motorists (pushing cars up hills in the middle of the night). He still pays someone’s toll if they can’t. He still makes sure stranded individuals have a ride before he’ll leave them further stranded.

He does fall a little short on the flying thing. And he looks the same with or without the glasses. But he looks pretty good in the blue underwear. …

I’m married to Superman.


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