A huge toybox sat in the 3-to-5-year-old Sunday school room, stuffed to the gills with an assortment of donated toys. Our church was small and funding for toys was rather low on the list, so a good number of the toys were either missing pieces or broken. Us kids were pretty rough on ’em.
Most of the kids in my Sunday school class gravitated toward the new and shiny toys, the freshly-donated toys whose stickers hadn’t worn off, whose colors were still bright and whose plastic pieces were unscratched. In typical childlike behavior, those were the toys that got played with the most; the ones missing pieces, the ones whose joints had fallen apart and whose screws poked out, were buried in the toy coffin–I mean, the toybox.
Mine were the only little hands to delve into that graveyard of toys and dig out the broken ones.
Every Sunday I found a new “project” to work on, every time our teacher was finished with the Bible lesson and let us play a little while. One Sunday it was a jointed doll whose leg had fallen off; I found the doll’s leg stuffed inside a jack-in-the-box, and reattached it by the end of Sunday School that day. Another Sunday it was a cardboard religious puzzle set, with one piece torn in half. With a few strips of tape on the back, I fixed the torn piece so that I could put the whole picture together again.
Being such a bringer of chaos as I was then (I could un-straighten a room in 5 seconds, given a free moment with an open toybox), this was inexplicable, that I should want to fix broken toys rather than play with shiny new ones. But I followed the same practice at home, fixing up the toys I accidentally broke in too-zealous play, even if they sometimes ended up in a wad of scotch tape or rubber bands. I just hated the sight of a broken toy–it made me horribly sad, even at a young age.
I don’t really know why I have always been drawn to broken toys, and drawn to fix them in particular. After all, I’m not much of a handywoman, nor do I own a set of tools. My fixes weren’t always the most professional-looking, either. (LOL) Maybe it’s because a broken toy feels like a visual representation of lost childhood, lost innocence, broken childlike trust. Something twists, in emotional pain, when I see a broken toy, and I long to fix it so that everything is “right” again. Seeing a fixed toy, seeing it work like it’s supposed to again, always made me irrepressibly happy–I’d usually jump around and do some kind of happydance when everything was “back to normal” again.
Fixing the Broken World: Too Idealistic, or Someday Possible?
These days, I wish the world could be fixed with such simple implements as tape, rubber bands, and glue. It makes me just as sad to see others arrayed against each other in violence and hatred, leaving broken humans in their wake. Since I was a child, I’ve often thought of playing my music and reading my writing to the world, to help put back together what has been shattered so often. People have told me that my writing and music brings peace to them, and it certainly has brought that to me over the years as I created it.
It would be wonderful if the same art that has lifted me up and kept me going could someday keep others going, too; it wouldn’t be just an ego boost, but a true life’s purpose for me. Who knows, maybe the idle dream of making everybody feel better through my writing and music is too childlike, best left with the Barbies and Legos. But perhaps I’m still in the business of fixing broken toys–maybe I’m just aiming for slightly bigger toys, now.