A Motor Toy Car in 1938

I started to read the autobiography of the Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, In Search of Memory. As like many other Holocaust survivors, his memory starts with a violent banging on their door in their Viennese home, when he was only 9 years old. He just received a birthday gift, "a battery-operated, remote-controlled model car". The Nazi police told them to stay in another family for a few days and take only things needed. When young Eric came back a few days later, his shiny toy car was already taken. This became Kandel’s never forgetting memory and even seventy years later, as he manifested, he still remembers vividly the banging on their door, the beautiful model car, and its loss.

I could not help asking myself, did I ever have a toy car? Or something similar?

Sadly, after searching my memory again and again, I could not find something even close to that. I even did not see any battery-operated, remote-controlled toy car in my first 9 years. Boys at that time played with mud and paper, cigarette packages, and fist fought each other. It might be that time that I first saw a TV set, the only one of almost a hundred homes. It might be the next year, when another family moved into the neighborhood, that I had the chance to see, and luckily to play for a few times, some of the toys.

I did not realize the huge contrast in civilization between my childhood and the Western society until I came to USA and paid a visit to the kindergarten as requested by a psychological course. The kids were just playing all the time, they had every kind of toys imaginable, they could do whatever they wanted to do, nobody would ever talk loud to them, they were taught with good manner, they were developing good communication abilities… All in all, these kids in America are enjoying their time when they should not worry about anything. It was that time that I understood why America is called the children’s heaven. I like those kids in the playground, and I want to have some fun time with them. Looking at them in play, it was as if I could travel in the time and go back to my childhood and start to enjoy the time in a more civilized way.

Things in China have changed just so fast. Nowadays, my niece is enjoying her childhood almost similar to that of an American kid. She has a whole room of toys and the number of them keeps increasing. I am guessing that she will not have a specific memory of one toy car, or a toy bear, just because she has so many, and will have more.

It may be this dream to go back to the childhood and enjoy the worry-free time that I have the obsession of collecting games, though I don’t have time to play.


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