Growing up, my older sister, brother and I would play Thundercats (my younger sister was still in diapers and didn’t quite get the concept of fighting Mumm-Ra and his villain lackeys until later). As the kid with no seniority, I was usually relegated to play Snarf, the goody two-shoes who tagged along and tried to protect Lion-O. We spent hours running around, protecting Third Earth and its berbils.
Years and years later, Cartoon Network began showing reruns of the 80s cartoon. I rushed home every day after school, popped a blank tape in the VCR and hit record with the opening song. We copied every episode.
Flash forward again. My brother recently cleaned out a storage unit when he moved back to Oregon. Among the boxes of books, old furniture and high school yearbooks he unearthed two child-sized suitcases of action figures and Matchbox cars.
“I’m not sure if Peeper will like them,” he began when he brought everything over one night and trailed off.
But he needn’t have worried. The moment Peeper laid eyes on the treasures, she was smitten.
Ever since, she spends hours playing with “Mama’s old toys.” She has learned most of the names of the Thundercats and the Batman villains who live alongside them in the suitcase. She scolds Batman for not wearing a helmet on his “bike” (aka Batcycle). She brings Kit to the grocery store and dentist, and she clutches tiny trucks and racecars to her chest when I read books to her. “Fast car read a book, too!” she’ll say.
She has never seen an episode of Thundercats or Batman, but that doesn’t stop her from imaginative play. “Touchdown!” she whispered the other day when playing with Jaga, his arms raised in the air.
Watching her reminds me of the countless hours I spent sprawled on the carpet, directing miniature dramas between He-Man and Barbie or Panthro and Pretty Ponies, and of the breathless play with my siblings and the rest of the neighborhood kids. We’ll see if she loses interest in the toys or if, like me, she’ll foster a lifelong love of snappy cartoons and their memorable characters.
Of course I hope for the latter. After all, I want to play, too. She’d just better not make me be Snarf.