For 14 1/2 years, I carried a loaded trunk full of toys and materials for speech-language therapy home visits. The rotation was constant. With the exception of family trips to the mall, zoo and grandma and grandpa’s house, the stuff was always there. Neighing horses and beeping timers sounded at every bump.
But now, once and for all, it’s time to unload the trunk. It’s time to bring it back in. It’s time to bid farewell to friends who stood the test of time. The great ones, the loved ones, the classics, the ones that worked for every kid regardless of their disorder or delay. It’s time to say good bye.
Dearest toys and materials, I’ve known you all too well. What works, what doesn’t, the words I’ll need, the response I’ll receive. I’ve loved you, grown fond of you, and relied on you. It’s been a good ride, friends, but it’s time to say good bye. Perhaps later we’ll play. Perhaps later we’ll learn together. Perhaps later we’ll grow together. But for now? You’re heading back to the closet.
Hopping Frogs, you always served me well a minute or two. Hop goes the frog across to the log. Green frog or pink frog, which do you choose? Mom’s turn or Sam’s turn, which will it be?
Stringing fruit (a.k.a. beads disguised as fruit), you’ve seen your days. The frayed edges of your box prove you were well loved. Yes, your fruit shape distinguished you as most clever, most interesting to toddlers and preschoolers. Swooshing down the line to mom or dad, and swaying in the breeze were your specialities.
Oh train. I can’t bear to throw you away. You were tried and true for so many years. Your $10 price tag was long ago worth it. And now, you barely move. New batteries won’t do a thing for you, Mr. Train. I’m so sorry. I’m not sure what to do. So there you go, back in your closet where you’re free to stay a lil’ while longer.
Sweet Nestle Quik boxes, I never really knew your name. Who knew you’d be a hit?! The kids did, that’s for sure. Pull, pull. Up, up. Then shake those eggs and wave those scarves. Your simplicity was golden. Your fray-edged ribbons show your wear. Good bye, dear one. Good bye.
Seek-n-Find puzzle, you were amazing. Absolutely amazing! You were, without a doubt, a tried and true. Your box is held together with layers of clear packing tape. I put together your edges, corners, and middle pieces countless times. Out of your 24 pieces, only 1 wasn’t optimal for speech and language. That means you’re reliable, Mr. Puzzle. You’re dandy. There’s no way I’m getting rid of you.
Dear picture cards, this is just the beginning of your collection. How many times we flipped through, set up, chose which ones we were going to do. I have a hunch you’re becoming obsolete, but to me, you made life complete. You’re as good as a guarantee to me. Pair you with any game, and we are good to go.
Magnetic ice cream and cutting fruit and veggies, you’re awesome, a wooden delight for all ages. You were so useful, I bought four versions of your Melissa & Doug goodness. Thank you for the days of velcro-ing, cutting, and velcro-ing some more.
Lids ‘n Lizards, Jeepers Peepers, and Grammar Gumballs. Who knew you’d be so popular? Who would’ve ever guessed? Super Duper knew what they were doing when they made you. Your catchy rhyme-y names suggest your creators were speech therapists, proving simple + clever is definitely best.
Oh tried and true board games. You’re my faves. Your boxes are torn, taped and ripped to shreds. Zingo, Don’t Break the Ice, Caribou and Counting Cakes. We’ll never forget you, Bunny Hop. You were the fave of the faves, the best of all, my most prized possession as a speech therapist, the toy that worked for everyone, every time. Those bunnies, they never stopped surprising. Rest in peace for now, dear friends. You played well.
Little bears, oh how I loved and hated you. One thing’s for sure, you made my job a lot easier when it came to following directions. Who knew tiny colored bears would do the trick? But you ticked me off more than once when you fell out of the trunk onto the icy, snowy ground and spilled all over driveways. Oh, how you ticked me off. I knew that was it, once and for all, when that box of yours broke into tiny pieces, strewn all over a driveway on the coldest of winter days. Oh, how I hated you then. I didn’t hold my tongue as well as I should have when I went into that house. “Oh, what a blessing it is for you to come so families don’t have to travel in this cold.” But my mind kept spiraling back to that icy driveway and how naughty you’d been just minutes ago.
You’re a little bruised, too, gears. Your corner broke off when you slipped out of the trunk onto the cold, icy driveway. My use of you waxed and waned, but only because you were so good. I used you so much that I fatigued of you. I simply had to get a break. I didn’t bring you much those final days. Your C batteries were all used up. I intended to refill you for sweet “T’s” play, but never got you back for that one last day.
Oh, Fisher Price Loving Family and Snap ‘n Play babies, dogs and dolls. I bought up every Snap ‘n Play before you left stores. You were so good, oh so good. Every mama and grandma wanted to know where I got you. Who knew you were a great gift, too?! But I was never sure of you, Fisher Price Loving Family. You were hit or miss, never in-between. So you came out and stayed to play, or got put away right away. Good bye friends, I’ll bring you back out for the grandkids.
Random bag of trinkets, nobody told me about you in grad school! Who knew these tiny treasures could entertain for 45 or 60 minutes? I wanted to buy more of you on eBay, but never got to it. I just kept on collecting you, one by one, until you added up to two bags full. I’ll never forget the seconds of fun you brought to the tabletop.
And then there’s you, oh you. Connect 4. Deluxe Version. How many times did we play? You never got old, you never wore thin. Never. Ever. We could’ve played all day. You served as a distraction between bouts of super hard work, a reminder that we’re human, a reminder that kids who have speech and language delays possess certain brilliance beyond measure of standardized tests. Connect 4, you’re perhaps the most memorable, impactful of all games, toys, and materials. Because you showed me that these special kiddos are more than their speech, more than their language. They’re human. They want to win the game of life, too.
He won nearly every time. I had to concentrate hard to win. It was clear he was genius with his hands and just about anything visual-spatial.
That last day, I lifted Connect 4 out of the bag and sat it on the table along with some picture cards.
We were about to start playing and drilling one last time, but tears welled big in my eyes.
I told him I was proud. He’d worked so hard. He’d come so far. We’d done this together.
Then, after we played, after we drilled, after we worked hard all over again…
Back in the bag you went, back in the trunk, then back in the closet.
I packed you all nice and tight. I’m closing the closet. For now, good night.
With gratitude and love,