If I were a kid again,
I’d ask for an electric train,
erector sets and building blocks,
a cane to take along on walks
for fending off mean dogs and snakes,
a little oven that really bakes,
decoder rings and magic sets,
ant farms and bug-collecting nets,
a chart for looking up the stars,
paraffin and jelly jars.
The main thing that I’d want, you see,
are more forms of activity:
canvas, paints and wood or clay
to help me pass the time of day.
Instead, adventure came in books–
days spent in armchairs or in nooks
and crannies of our lawn or house,
curled up like a little mouse,
reading of the far-off places,
imaginary deeds and faces.
But I would rather have been doing–
drawing, cutting, building, gluing.
Instead I spent my days in dreams,
filling up my mind with schemes
of what I’d do when I was older–
taller, smarter, braver, bolder.
When we are young, if no one shows us,
takes the trouble to expose us
to the world of creativity,
we may never really see
all the ways that there might be
to set imagination free.
It was plain that an erector set
was not a toy I’d ever get.
With “Hello boys,” written on the front,
the message was both clear and blunt.
Girls did not ask for toys like this.
I had no inkling of what I’d miss.
Creativity was slow to dawn.
For years, I simply played the pawn,
doing what others asked of me,
waiting until I was free
to find a path I’d never seen
caught up in the small town machine.
When I was freed into the world,
a whole new universe unfurled
undivided into girls or boys.
I finally learned to choose the toys
I really wanted: saws and pliers,
sheets of silver, silver wires,
drill presses and dapping blocks,
glues and solder guns and caulks.
I finally have the toys I want–
not toys to look at or to flaunt,
but toys to make things with and do
–things that help me build anew
each day into whate’er I wish:
a paper lamp, a silver fish.
My story boxes tell the story
of all those years in purgatory
before I learned what else there was
to make my life take off and buzz
with focus and activity–
to fill my days and set me free.
Somehow I just got off the track
before I made my own way back,
but If I did it over again,
I’d ask for that electric train.
Around the track, I’d watch it curl–
a perfect pastime for a girl!!!