The vintage toy stash has been uncovered.
Deep in the recesses of a closet at my parents’ house is a collection of bins containing ’80s- and ’90s-era toys. As half of a sister duo, I’m talking lots of Barbies, Cabbage Patch dolls and pretend makeup. We found the Power Ranger gloves I begged my mom for at a drugstore, back when there was no such thing as online shopping. When Amazon, nascent as it was, only peddled books.
Born in 1985, I’m technically a member of the “millennial” cohort ... but maintain that I’m an “old millennial,” as I clearly remember life before the internet — a dividing line between, say, myself and a much younger cousin (also technically a millennial). I remember my parents discussing AOL and Dad agreeing to let me use his email address to contact friends. Sometime in high school, my sister and I were permitted to get our own accounts. I felt extremely sophisticated with “glitterandglam” — an ironic pick given that, at age 14-ish, I was far from glittery or glamorous. Guess we really do project better images of ourselves online.
For how clearly I remember this cultural transformation, it’s fun to think about the “before” and “after” shifts of the late ’90s and early ’00s. I like asking my parents about ye olden days, too. It was a strange sliver of a time to be coming of age — though I’m sure every generation can say that, really. Despite being 34 and a married mom myself, I still feel “in between” at times. And I can only imagine describing VHS tapes someday to my smartphone-swiping toddlers.
Going through toy bins recently, Mom and I were chatting as Hadley and Oliver pawed through the “play people” my sister and I collected throughout childhood. I noticed how many duplicates we had: two Jasmines from “Aladdin,” two glamorous Barbies ready for the Oscars, two Strawberry Shortcakes. I remember that we would squabble if one had something the other did not . . . a trend that has arguably continued (our boyfriends each proposed on the same day, after all).
I had to explain the duplicates to Ollie, who just kept asking where the “boy toys” were. The question gave me pause because — as a millennial, perhaps? — I’ve tried not to assign gender to anything with which the kids want to play. My daughter and son play “trucks” together. They fight over stuffed animals and doll babies sometimes, too.
Regardless, there are few “boy toys” at Nana and Grandpa’s. Katie and I were firmly in the girly-girl category. So while her brother was unimpressed, Hadley loved all the little people and examined them with delight. I was surprised by their great condition . . . and how quickly I remembered each figure, along with the elaborate storylines that Katie and I created around their characters.
There’s a warm rush of remembrance when I hold these things, thinking of how Kate and I imagined our own “houses” for Jasmine, Aladdin and Rajah the tiger out of the cubes of the family room wall unit. It’s strange and fulfilling to see my daughter and niece with these toys — a full-circle experience that makes my heart happy at the symmetry of it all.
Katie and I were often treated like twins growing up, inseparable, and now our girls — born just eight weeks apart — are mistaken for twins everywhere we go. Autumn and Hadley fight like sisters, then come together like sisters. They’re cousins and, I hope, bonded for life.
And so the double Barbies ride their matching bikes once again. None of us imagined the new lives they’d have in the hands of these little ladies . . . but maybe some things are just meant to be.