The red fire truck.

I was watching TV one night recently and, as the holidays are nearing,  commercials are littered with gift ideas and other holiday themes. For some reason, the channel I was watching threw a commercial for Barbies into the mix (no, I wasn’t watching a kid’s channel), and it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen commercials for children’s toys in a very long time.  Not having kids will do that, I guess.

Anyway, it dawned on me that, as a girl, while I didn’t dislike girl toys, like barbies — I had my fair share of them, believe-you me– or the Easy Bake Oven — I think I actually had two of those, but I got much more excited over toy cars (Hot Wheels), LEGO, G.I. Joes, He-Man toys, almost more than anything.

Which brings me to the red fire truck — my most prized-possession as a child.

It has a crack on the front window. It’s chipped on the sides. The wheels haven’t fallen off, though, and I can still run it across the table or on the floor if I’m in the mood (I’m not, but it’s nice to know the option is there. These days it’s more of a keepsake than a toy).  The colour’s probably faded some over the years, but it’s still my red fire truck, and I’ve somehow managed to hold on to it all these years.

I don’t remember when I got it — I must’ve been maybe four or five — and I don’t remember much about actually receiving it, but I do remember I’d sleep with it, under my pillow, every night because, well, because I could.  I did this with many things the first day I got them.  I remember stuffing a new pair of white running shoes under my pillow and I was too excited to sleep because I was absolutely beside myself about having a new pair of running shoes and I wanted them with me just in case they ran off somewhere.

I was an odd duck though, but I suppose all kids are a little weird and my weirdness has probably stuck with me through to adulthood.  (And by probably I mean it 100% has stuck with me, who are we kidding here.)

I held it on a pedestal above all my other toys and it never strayed far from me; having it close to me was like some sort of safety net for me for no other reason other than I loved it for what it was.  It’s not fancy, it doesn’t do any cool tricks, you can’t put anything inside it, it’s just the dingy little red fire truck that means the world to me and I can’t even begin to tell you why. My love for the colour red evidently goes back a few years.

I don’t really like to use the term ‘Tom boy’ because I’m of the view that girls and boys should be able to play with whatever toy they want to play with, do whatever they want (I was a girl, other than figure skating, I played a lot of sports growing up, like baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball), without being labelled for doing so.  But, because I was born in the 80’s, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be called a Tom boy for the things I did, the toys I played with and the friends I chose (I hung out with a lot of boys when I was a child.) I’m fine with that and I don’t see it as a bad thing — rather, I think the ones doing the labeling see it as bad more than anything.

Toys came and went, and we weren’t super well off, so most of the time I made do with what we had and I was fine with it. Our simple life taught me to appreciate things more, however big or small, and while we live in a technology-obsessed world these days and I’m writing this on a laptop with my iPhone sitting on my knee, I’d like to think I still appreciate — mostly — simple things. I don’t need much and I don’t ask for much.

I’ve moved a lot over the years — from Victoria to Merritt, to a 9 month stint in Alberta, back to Merritt, to Kamloops and, finally, my current city, Vancouver.  The red fire truck has managed to follow me from place to place growing up, which I can’t say about many things that I own.  I still have a few old teddy bears in my bedroom that I’ve had since I was a child, too. I’m not getting rid of those no matter how old I get.

When I dug some stuff out of my storage room recently (yearbooks, childhood diaries, a bunch of old photos — the epitome of a Throwback Thursday right here), seeing large parts of my childhood made me happy, but nothing made me feel quite as nostalgic as seeing the red fire truck. I felt like the kid all over again who looked forward to bed every night so she could tuck it under pillow.  Seeing it again, looking the same as it did it 25 years ago,  choked me up.

It sits on my coffee table now. I may not sleep with it under my pillow at night, but it’s nice to know that it’s there.

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Author: Jocelyn Aspa

early 30-something. journalist. sports fan. puns. cats. mental health advocate. not taking myself seriously (most of the time)

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