Tuesday, July 31, 2012


About two years ago, I retrieved my old collection of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars from my parents’ attic. They'd been up there for more than 30 years, but I thought I might want to pass them on to my son someday, so I brought them home and stored them in a safe place until the day came when I thought he might be old enough to enjoy them. And though I didn’t think that day might come for another year or two, it ended up being yesterday.

Here’s how it all went down:

On Sunday afternoon, I watched with amusement as my daughter, Mary Ann, who is 5, and son, A.J., who is 3, played with their collection of miniature cars. They're really my son's cars, but they both play with them. They keep them in a nice Hot Wheels case and they have about 25. And though they’ve had the cars for a while, they seemed to be getting a little more attention this week. For some reason, they’ve moved up a few notches in stature amid their room full of toys and have been played with quite often. Intrigued - and simply in the mood to play with my kids - I sat down on the floor beside them and asked what they were doing.

And, for the most part, I was ignored.

My daughter briefly explained what they were doing with the cars - something about how all of the cars were "getting ready for school" - but as I sat down on the floor with them and looked on, they paid me little attention. And that’s when I got the idea:

It was time to unveil my old collection of Hot Wheels and Matchboxes.

I left the room, went down to the basement, and casually returned with my old car carrying case, full of vintage ‘70s-era Hot Wheels and Matchboxes. (And hey, let’s face it: the cars from back then were much cooler-looking than the cars of today.) I didn’t make a big deal about my return to the scene of where the two were playing. They were still absorbed and engaged in their own play, so I just nonchalantly sat down a few feet away with my old cars in tow.

“That’s OK you guys,” I said. “I don’t need to play with you. I have my own cars.”

This, as you’d imagine, got their attention. And they pretty much snapped out. They came rushing over, awestruck at what old Dad had just plopped on the floor.

My old carrying case was in great shape, as were some of the cars. Inside was an old ranking sheet that I had made as a child which told how fast each car was. This was once used as a guide for when we raced our cars on a speed track at my friend's house. Also inside was an American flag “Free The Hostages” sticker. These items had no meaning to my kids, but they were pretty transfixed by the coolness of the cars themselves. And why wouldn’t they be? One old blue pick-up truck, the “Baja Bruiser,” was still in racing shape. And my personal favorite, the 1957 Chevy, was completely intact.

Simply put: Daddy’s cars were cooler than their cars.

And I was no longer being ignored.

My daughter, who is very organized and thoughtful, began introducing “their cars” to “Daddy’s cars” and seemed to enjoy bringing the two eras of Hot Wheels together. My son seemed to be very respectful of the fact that the old cars were mine, and though he loved playing with them, he liked to keep them separate.

I simply got a kick out of the whole thing.

Later, when I was leaving and had some errands to run, I began to think that while it was fun to show them my old cars, they still might be too young to have them as their own. Some of them, after all, were 40 years old and I’d had them my whole life. Kids their age are not always careful with their toys, and I really didn't want to see the wheels being ripped off of these old gems. But when I packed them back up and was about to put them away, my son looked very sad. He wanted to keep playing with “Daddy’s cars.” And so, of course, I let him. And now I guess the torch – and the cars – have officially been passed on. When I was leaving for work this morning, both Mary Ann and A.J. were once again playing with “Daddy’s cars,” and as I walked out the door, I looked at them and said, “You know, those cars really aren’t mine.”

“Whose are they?” asked Mary Ann.

“Yours,” I replied.

Wait until they see my old Star Wars stuff ....