So whether by accident or design, my son’s action figure collection is gaining legitimacy (the “Galactic Heroes” line of Star Wars figures. PERFECT for a 2-year-old. More on that later). My own action figure collecting credentials are beyond dispute. After being in the action figure game litterally for decades I have made the observation that there is a definite spectrum progression in the mindset of an action figure collector as he/she matures.
We start out loving our action figures – by that I mean taking them in the bath, burrying them in the backyard… It’s the sort of “loving” that blurs the line between 1st, 2nd and 3rd person (my sister says I’m exercising my inner English major with this blog. She may be right). It’s the sort of “loving” that makes childhood wonderful. It’s pure, wreckless fantasy. It’s the sort of “loving” that rubs the paint off, loses the accessories, loosens joints and removes plastic limb from plastic torso. It’s a wonderful sort of “loving” that makes for fantastic childhood memories, and forges an Andy/Woody bond between child and plaything.
As Woody and Buzz will tell you, things change as the child gets older. We still love our toys, but it’s the sort of “loving” that you find at the absolute other extreme of the spectrum. It’s the sort of “loving” that keeps the figures safely sealed in their original packages. It’s the sort of “loving” that drives us to spend countless hours on Ebay looking for that limited edition, Wall*mart-exclusive only, rare blue-colored variation of the now mass-produced green-colored figure. It’s the sort of “loving” that puts the figures meticulously on display in chronological order of production on the wall in your man-cave (which is the same sort that would display them in the living room for everyone to see if our wives would only let us).
We’ve spent this weekend at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and my son got a hefty addition to his action-figure collection to keep him entertained (bribed? manipulated?), and the culture clash between the two extremes on the spectrum have never been more apparant. He’s spent the time playing fiercely with his new toys. Not 24 hours out of the box and the 2-year-old has already distributed them evenly across Grandma and Grandpa’s 2-acre property at least 3 times. On the opposite end of the spectrum the 37-year-old has followed him around like a mother hen, gathering up the far-flung action figures, bringing them all back together in a neat pile safely centrally located in the house, and thinking thoughts like “OMG… you can’t just play with those like that. You’ll lose one of them. Oh my, that mark is never going to come off.”
I want my child to be normal, so of course I don’t communicate any of those thoughts to my boy. But regardless, I can’t help myself thinking them. For my part, in my entire life I’ve never ever lost an action figure – I think more out of fortunate hapenstance rather than by a concerted effort on my part. I expect my son will develop along the spectrum of action-figure collecting as I did. I hope he does it not because “they’ll be worth so much money when it’s time for college” (I disillusioned myself of that notion many, many years ago. For the record, action figure collecting has a very poor return on investment). Instead I hope he finds his way to my end of the spectrum because it adds another layer of enjoyment to collecting action figures — and because it’s something he and I will be able to share for as long as we’re both around. Imagine the fun he and I will have together hunting down the illusive “Yack Face” from the original Power Of The Force line of Star Wars action figures 20 years from now when the remaining figures themselves are more than 50 years old.
So if you have a “Dork-Daddy” in your life, and you happen to notice him conspicuously watching a young child playing with a potentially collectable toy, pitty him. Not the child. Pitty the Dork-Daddy, and the fact that he is mentally torn between “loving” the toys as only a child can, and “loving” the toys as only an adult can.