Toy Plane

March 31, 2010

My brother gave me this toy airplane on my fortieth birthday. This is the same as the toy we both played with when we were children. What became of the actual toy? Lost, turned to dust, destroyed in the consuming play of little boys. A tiny red toy plane. Two and one half inches long. Made to resemble a 1918 Fokker Dr I fighter plane. This is a scale model. My big fingers. Had I grown so large, or had this toy shrunk? This tiny airplane has traveled a long distance in time; thirty or more years flying through time. What shoe boxes, closets, warehouses had it moved through?

This toy came in its original package, mint in the box, as collectors would say, safe in its vacuum formed plastic cocoon. The toy suspended beneath a clear plastic pane, is given the look of a relic or a butterfly specimen. Framed and held by a cardboard box that is embellished by printed graphics. These graphics, so simple in the style of their time, have yellowed; whereas the plastic toy and it’s plastic packaging has not appeared any worse with age. When I first received this gift, I pulled open a flap of the box and held it up to my nose. No smell. Time had neutralized any odors. Ungraspable phantom memories point to this absent scent. No aromatic trace of plastic, paint, printers ink. An artificial flower.

To carefully remove the toy from it’s box and hold it between thumb and index finger was to set in motion feelings infantile and shameful, sweetly sad and tender. Was this the real gift my brother had intended? Was it intended as an aid to re-imagine an already imaginary family past? What was it that the child I had once been gained by the possession of this thing? Why had it been made into this miniature? To make quaint the obsolete technologies of war? Past horrors to be reduced in scale. The bloody Red Baron in plastic formed into the plastic cockpit. Baron Manfred von Richthofen the chivalrous knight of the air. A fetish, to activate an imaginary narrative, some fictive history, and now was it not doing the same thing again? This time with a longing that hurt more than it pleased.

One fragment of memory after another visit me. All these memories seemingly converging on this small artifact. Red felt stockings, tinsel in Samantha the cats’ vomit – musty books read in the grammar school library, Rickover, Richthofen. All that I believe I know about my childhood, my family, and my cultural history; jumbled and rearranged. But the patterns don’t surprise, nothing new, no break – out or through. Unless it is to be discovered in the growing dullness and indifference. These states being the true measure of this great distance. I look out as if from a great height over the shifting past-scape. When I raise my hand as if to wave good bye I find the little airplane between my big fingers.

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