I grew up in a dream world. My basic needs of food and shelter were always taken care of. My family wasn't rich, but I had just about anything I wanted if I begged for it hard enough. This basic security freed me to let my imagination run wild. My mother would boast that she didn't have to entertain me as a child. I was quite content to play by myself with all my imaginary friends and their imaginary worlds.

From a young age I enjoyed playing with my sister's dolls and pretty quickly got my own: G.I. Joe, of course. My growing interest in comic books introduced me to the world of super heroes. These characters were not dolls. They were action figures!

Day after day I would play out life's scenarios in the back yard, at friends' houses, down by the river, and on camping trips (who needs to catch a fish when I can play with action figures). The more exotic the terrain, the more exciting the adventures my little friends and I would have.

My playing was an all inclusive experience. Any slytly-sculpted bit of plastic could join in the fun. I'd incorporate Barbie dolls, little green army men, bendable figures, like Major Matt Mason, even crudely-cast seven dwarves that sat upon my fifth birthday cake were included (which I still have thanks to my parents saving them). Whatever I was given - boxes, styrofoam packing blocks, leftover wood from my dad's workshop - could be incorporated into buildings, forts and spaceships. For a while, dad worked at an electronics assembly and repair service for the military, and he occasionally brought home rejected parts that had switches, buttons and circuitry that made outstanding control panels, super-powered equipment and artillery.

When I was very young, I found this smooth, white "bazooka" in my mom's bathroom garbage can. It was great because it expanded to double its length. When my mom saw what I was playing with, I could tell something was wrong. With controlled panic she took it away and gently told me not to play with it - it was her tampon insertion device!

When I turned thirteen my parents gave me the last official doll, er..."Action Figure" as a birthday gift. My Jr. High Sunday school teacher had an odd look on his face when I opened the package, but he held back any commentary. I knew I was growing up.

What can I say. I still play with dolls today. Of course it is now in the legitimate context of buying "collectibles." Last count I have around two hundred various characters, that's not including the boxes of stuffed animals in the attic. They each take their turn sitting on top of my computer, and during the holiday season, the house is literally invaded by them scampering about - at least it looks that way. I don't just buy them willy-nilly, mind you. I am pretty picky about who I add to the membership - really!

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