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Growing up Geek: The Origin Story

At the still young age of 26 I have been increasingly reflective of my childhood years and trying to figure out what has influenced me the most. How did I become so interested in fantasy, science fiction, and feminism? My earliest memories are of living on the Fort Hamilton military base in Brooklyn, New York. My father was an army bandsman (a basoonist actually) and my mother ran a small daycare out of our apartment. My memories fixate on big events, such as birthdays, moving, holidays, and even bad dreams. Each year my birthday cakes were lovingly decorated by my mom with Disney play sets, which cultivated a love of miniature figures that I still have today.

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My awesome mom gave me my first play set on top of a birthday cake

Those play sets sparked my imagination like nothing else I owned. I would sit and play with them for hours. As I got older and accumulated more of them the stories became more elaborate. The figures became a motley collection of Burger King toys, McDonald’s toys, Disney figurines, WonderBall prizes, My Little Pony, and other miscellaneous characters. When I was in 6th grade and allowed to walk home from school, I’d stop at the local Goodwill to check out the toy bin. For ten cents I could sometimes snag something really cool to add to my collection. I was also able to warm my hands during those cold, iron range Minnesota winters. The collection grew until I acquired a town’s worth of citizens, and setting up to play took as much time as playing itself.

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The general store.

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All the town’s bachelors (and widowers) live in the gatehouse.

My town was ruled by the monarch Princess Jasmine. In the beginning of my collection she had been too tall compared to the other figures, making her that much more fit for the throne. The stories I played out were fantastical sagas, involving dragons and magical swans, as well as mundane dramas of middle school. My Barbie figures sometimes fretted about their hair and meeting the prince at the ball. Mayhem was caused by the raucous household of the Megara triplets when they were mean to Belle. Or there was that one time when Gaston was exiled for being a rapist. Yeah, I’m serious. I don’t think I really knew yet what a rapist was, but I knew enough from half paying attention to CSI and Law & Order episodes to know Gaston seemed like one. I played with my collection until I was 12, and that’s when I started writing my  own stories instead.

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Jasmine’s five sons all take after their father in appearance. Raja and “Dad Aladdin” (the one with the turban) keep them in line so that Jasmine can see to running the town!

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Pocahontas, my second favorite character to play with, frequently played ambassador for the village’s interaction with the nearby animal kingdom.

There is another story within this story though. For a brief period of time I had a friend who played with me. She loved it, and even went so far as to accompany me to Goodwill looking for figures. We started writing our own book, in which a girl is transported to another world when she puts on a dress at a thrift shop. Sadly we never finished it. My friend started having trouble in school and she started dressing different. In hindsight I understand now that she was caving into cultural pressures to be more adult than she was ready for. She hung out with people that I was quite frankly afraid of. Then one day her mom called my mom asking to verify that my friend had been at our house that afternoon. My friend had not been at my house, and I couldn’t lie about it. I told her mom I hadn’t seen her all day, and after that we never spoke again. Other than her, no one else ever set foot into my imaginative world, and I mourned her loss. I wonder if she ever thinks about the time we spent world building.

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The ponies and non-Lion King animals lived on the lakefront property.

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Just pretend the wood flooring is a majestic, crystal clear lake.

Before I stopped playing “make believe” I used to fantasize about growing up, getting a house, and dedicating an entire room to the collection. I envisioned floating shelves for winged dragons, pegasuses (pegasi?), and swans. I would paint the sky blue, and put landscapes on the walls. The floor would be green and blue for grass and water. Multicolored bins would help me sort the figures by type, movie, genre, and likelihood of being evil. Someday I may yet build such a room, but not for myself. I want my children to have the opportunity to create their own universes, or act out their problems, and find solutions to them that help them deal with reality.  I look back at those precious hours spent as being immensely important to growing a healthy imagination. What inspired you when you were younger?

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Me basking in all the feels of childhood re-emerging from this photo shoot!

 

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15 Comments »

  1. What a sweet post! I used to have a whole bunch of Polly Pockets (back when they were actually tiny and not the weirdness they are now) and I was OBSESSED with them as a kid! I still have some of them, but I haven’t figured out what to do with them yet. I don’t plan on having any kids of my own, but I’d like to pass them on to someone eventually!

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  2. I was inspired by video games & Cardcaptor Sakura. It was the first show I saw where I totally engaged with all of the story, and Sakura was the first protagonist I really looked up to.

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  3. Great article. You know me though, I love Sailor Moon and was really into it at a young age, so I guess I can say that’s what really inspired me in the younger years. Through time though, different toys (like Barbie, LEGO, and Disney, like you), movies, and books did the same thing and really helped meld my mind. I do have to say though, if you still have all those toys from your childhood, it will be great to have those for when you and your Green Lantern start having kids; those will be great things to share with them as they grow up! 😉

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  4. Let’s see, I suppose it really started taking off when I started reading fantasy books, and watching period/adventure type movies like Pirates of The Caribbean, when I watched Lord of The Rings for the first few hundred times… Seeing somebody else’s vision come to life via movies. I wanted to be an elf, I also got into some kind of spiritual quest as well… and I started believing elves and other magical creatures existed so I started writing about it and trying to talk to them!

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    • Speaking of elves, I vividly remember coating my face with green eyeshadow in order to look like one… suffice to say it didn’t quite turn out the way I thought it would, lol

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  5. Oh wow, that’s amazing! It’s great you have those memories!!!! I wish I could remember that much detail from my childhood! Excellent work!

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  6. Lindsey, I loved reading this. I often read that children’s imaginations are being diminished be media, but I have to say that some of my best imaginative times came from spinning off Hanna Barbera sci-fi cartoons and other tv shows in my mind. Could not get enough of making up my own stories extending from what I’d seen. Eventually started writing my own stories.

    My Barbies, on the other hand, all got shots. With thumb tacks. In their faces.

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  7. This was so much fun to read. I think I may have had some of those figurines as a child. I loved Disney!

    Mostly, I played with Barbies and LEGOs though. I made towns out of LEGOS and made different groups of LEGO Minis go to war against each other 😛 But I’ve always been a child of geekdom. My mom has been collecting Star Wars since she was 13, so I was surrounded by her collection. She took my to my first Dragon Con when I was 7. I think that love of fantasy and sci-fi and world-building is somewhat inherant.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! Wow, sounds like your mom really indoctrinated you into full geekhood from a young age ^_^ I sometimes played with my brother’s LEGOS too, but I never received any as a gift so that’s probably why I gravitated more towards the figurines.

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