Texas. 1963. I was five years old, wore cowboy shirts with pearl snap buttons, cowboy boots and a red cowboy hat. The big kids in the subdivision tried to feed me cat turds because I was a “Yankee” and they were “Rebels.” JFK was shot in Dallas but we lived in Houston in a house with a checkerboard linoleum floor and a treehouse built on top of a phone pole because there weren’t any trees and my father decided his sons needed a tree house. The Mercury program was putting men into space and Houston had a NASA space center which made me obsessed with John Glenn. I played in a rocket ship at a playground near the Houston Ship Canal. My little brother rubbed a beached Portugese Man-O-War on his chest, went into shock and was placed in a bathtub full of ice at a Corpus Christi emergency room.
There were snakes in the back yard. We owned two Siamese cats. We had art on the walls that I have seen on the walls of rooms in Mad Men.
I was given a Kenner Car Plane because I learned how to read from Dr. Seuss and traffic signs.
I loved my Car Plane. It was installed in the back seat of the Ford station wagon to keep me occupied during the long trip from Houston to Cape Cod when it was time to leave Texas and return to Massachusetts where my father was going to take over the family business. I flew it through Mississippi which scared me from the television news. I flew the plane past the Iwo Jima monument in Washington DC at five in the morning. And I flew it down the Mid-Cape highway, fighting for the right to play with it with my brother Tom.
It was the coolest thing I owned. I loved it. I mean I really, really loved my Kenner Car Plane. It was my Rosebud. The toy I’ve never forgotten.
And then it got smashed by an over-exuberant cousin whom I have never really forgiven.