Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Treasure in the Basement, Part 1

I wasn't as close to my grandma on my mom's side as I was the one on my dad's side, but she gave me what was probably the best birthday present a boy could ever want in 1975. Yes, that's the Six Million Dollar Man action figure. Do you remember this fine piece of action figure technology? You could look through a viewfinder in the back of Steve Austin's head so you could get the POV from his bionic eye (doodoodoodoodoo...). You could roll up the plastic skin on his bionic arm to reveal removable modules. If you turned his head and pressed the lever in his back, his arm would lift a plastic engine block to demonstrate his superior strength. This toy gave me hours and hours and hours of fun when I was 11. I never got any of the other figures or outfits or accessories, but this one was plenty.

My stepfather would never allow me to play with action figures without merciless comments about how effeminate it was for a boy to play with dolls. Never mind that every kid in the neighborhood had multiple GI Joes and Mego superheroes. The same grandma bought me a Mego Superman for Christmas in 1973. It was funny because when the rest of my third grade classmates where playing with their 12" GI Joes in the classroom, I had my 8" Mego Superman. He naturally became Superboy because of the relative sizes. We had a two-shelf cross-section submarine in our classroom, which was the setting of many of our adventures. Superboy was the one figure who could get to the surface without a wetsuit.

Whenever we visited my grandmother, I knew I was safe from ridicule. My stepfather wouldn't dare say a word in front of her when she was the one who bought me the toys.

My grandma would have been 88 yesterday, and if she were here today, I would thank her all over again for some of my favorite toys.


Wendy said...

I dont quite understand why you say you were so critized for having an action figure. Your brother Jeff had a LOT of action figures when he was a kid. I know because I used to play with them with him and dad never called him names for it. He had all kinds of star wars, superman, batman, etc action figures. I wonder why you felt you were so picked on during the 4 years you lived with dad? Didnt the rest of your life have more of an impact than those 4 years? Just wondering.

Jim McClain said...

I suppose that Mom letting me go live with my father had something to do with that. For example, I'm sure you were allowed to sit on the furniture after I left, too. When I lived there, "Animals aren't supposed to sit on furniture," was the reasoning. It wasn't four years, by the way, it was five. From October, 1971 to December, 1976.

You wonder why I felt picked on? Well, your father did stuff like pulling off my fingernail with a pair of pliers to avoid taking me to the doctor. I'd say that goes beyond being "picked on." The verbal abuse was pretty bad, too. I'll tell you about it if you really want to hear it.

Jeff said...

Wow. I'm at a loss. There are so many things I could go into in response to this. I can't do it though. Wendy, there is nothing that we can say that will ever be able to accurately convey to you what it is like to live and grow up that way. You will never know what it is like to be constantly reminded that you are despised and worthless in every way, and always will be. I'm glad that you won't. I'm glad your parents cared about you and loved you.

I do have to say though that your memory is not accurate. I didn't have all kinds of action figures (I don't remember ever having any at all), and I got called every name you can imagine for less than that--every day--for 16 years. It happened.

I don't have a scar on my right eye from having my glasses broken by being punched in the face by your father when I was 9 because I was "picked on". You were standing right beside me when he did it.He knocked me out in the kitchen when I was 11 the same way. I can't imagine why these types of things would have such an impact on us. Your father punched mom in the face when you were 16 and she tried to leave our old house after talking to him. Do you think she felt "picked on"? Do you honestly think that we don't understand your father? If he would like to discuss what he actually did to Jim or me when we were growing up, I would be more than happy to explain it to him.

We weren't allowed to sit on the furniture after you left, Jim. Grandma bought me a footstool for Christmas once so that I would have something to sit on, I think I was about 8. Wendy was allowed to sit on the furniture when she turned 12 I think. I believe I was 15.