Saturday, May 26, 2012

Childhood Memories: Pantyhose Rocket Ship

So, my wife Mary and I were talking just this morning about our paternal grandmothers, and how much they were alike in many ways. If they'd ever known each other -- which they didn't, since they'd always lived nearly three hours away from each other -- they would likely have been BFF's. Nanny Cobb (Mary's grandma) was an avid gardener, adept at country cooking, and her home was Ground Zero for all things in the Cobb family. My Grandma Hill also liked to work in her yard, loved to cook, and her home was a gathering place for the Hill family. It was also a great place to hang out during the summer when I was out of school and my parents were at work.

Up until the time she passed away when I was thirteen years old, my Grandma Hill was my closest family member outside of my parents. In truth, she was probably my best friend -- no exaggeration. I have many fond memories of spending the summers with her. Being an only child, I had my share of toys and books and other things that interested me. I wasn't spoiled, mind you, but I was far from destitute. Often, I would take my favorite toys or gadgets or whatever to Grandma's house so we could play together. She wasn't a stuffed-shirt granny, the kind that pats you on the head, maybe even gives you a hug, but won't get down in the floor in the middle of the living room and play with you. She'd do that in a heartbeat. But when I would stay at her house, whether for the afternoon, all day, or occasionally overnight (her house was right behind my parents' house, so sleepovers weren't quite as common), we didn't really get around to playing with my toys all that much.

You see, my Grandma Hill was the creative type. Why play with a toy you can buy when you can make a toy you can play with? Why settle for the toy your parents bought you, when you can add to it and make it even better? That was her style, and when I hung out at her house, that was my style too. Her playful, inventive nature probably contributed to my already creative instincts, and helped shape me into the creative person I am today.

One of the most inventive things we ever created was a L'eggs Eggs rocket ship. Remember these?

The hosiery was packed inside a plastic egg which sat in a little cardboard box. The eggs came in a variety of colors, depending (I suppose) on what color the pantyhose were. My grandma must have been wearing these things for years, because she had tons of empty L'eggs Eggs under the sink in her bathroom. When you took the egg apart and turned the bottom part in on the top part, they stacked quite nicely.

One day, in search of a new toy to play with, I started stacking the eggs haphazardly till I'd formed a wobbly plastic tower, of sorts. When my grandma saw what I had done, I thought she might be a little annoyed with me for messing around with her Eggs without asking. But, as usual, she was not. Instead, she suggested that we keep going.

A lot of the L'eggs Eggs that she had were silver in color. Their shiny, reflective surfaces would make a great rocket ship, she suggested. Being a wannabe astronaut as I was, I thought that this was an excellent plan. But keeping the Eggs together was a bit challenging. Nothing a little duct tape couldn't fix, my grandma said. (She was well ahead of her time. Nowadays it's well-known that duct tape can hold the entire world together if you need it to.) Plus, with the duct tape being a silvery color itself, it would match well with the silver-colored eggs.

It worked! When we were done, we had made a L'eggs Eggs rocket ship that must have been all of three or four feet tall (which is saying something considering a complete egg is only about four or five inches high by itself.) The finished product looked great, but wasn't all that practical as a toy. When you tried to lift it to carry it somewhere, even with the duct tape securing it, it tended to wobble. You certainly couldn't blast the rocket ship off into outer space by attaching fireworks to the bottom of it. I suggested this as a possible option, but Grandma rebuffed this suggestion. She was creative, not reckless.

So there it sat in the middle of the bathroom floor. Later, we carried to the middle of the living room floor where any and all visitors could more easily admire it. All who saw it -- which probably only included my parents, Grandma's two sisters who visited often, and maybe my uncle, aunt, and cousins -- were duly impressed. This was just one of the many inventive toys we made out of whatever was lying around.

At the end of our toil and play, Grandma would reward us both with a couple of mini Snickers bars that she always kept in the refrigerator. Those little things were hard as bricks when you first took them out of the fridge, but you couldn't help but try to bite into them anyway. After a few minutes, they were a little softer -- if you hadn't eaten them already.

They probably don't even make these L'eggs Eggs anymore, and that's a shame. Because thousands of kids everywhere are missing out on a wonderful, if totally impractical toy. I sure loved the one my Grandma and I made.

There will likely be more of these "Childhood Memories" to come. Mary will probably be contributing some of her own memories, in her own words, here in the coming days and weeks as well.

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