“Through a Glass Darkly” column for Jan. 23, 2013

What was your favorite toy when you were a child?

I asked that to my writing class at LSU last week.

On the first day of each semester I ask them to introduce themselves by answering a series of questions. After the serious questions I have them answer one that is just fun.

Often that one reveals the most about their personalities and acts as an icebreaker for the whole class, setting a tone for free discussions.

We had fun with the toy question.

I wasn’t surprised by how different the answers of most of the young men were from the young women.

What intrigued me were the similarities and a few marked differences that between the answers of this generation compared to the answers that would have come from the kids with whom I grew up.

The predominant toys of choice for the young women were dolls, much as I suspect they would have for a large percentage of girls of my generation. Naturally some of the students’ dolls had grown more sophisticated, but they were still dolls.

I realized that the few toys I have from my mother, who would be more than 100 years old now, are also dolls.

A couple of the guys in class answered with action figures. Those are a natural progression of the toy rubber and plastic soldiers I played with as a kid.

One answered Legos, which were the favorite of my younger son, who is a few years older than the students.

Legos are an updated version of the white blocks with green windows and doors that I fit together to build forts for my army men.

As I suspected, the biggest difference between my students’ generation and mine was the electronic games that were the joy of some of my students when they were children.

One of my students, who may do well as an inquiring journalist, then turned the question on me.

The first thing that came to mind was my red tractor that was a wee step up from a tricycle. One of the big differences of which I was quite proud was that it had a real steering wheel rather than handle bars.

Made of metal it looked to me a lot like the tractor of my neighbor, who sometimes let me sit on his lap and drive as he plowed his field.

The only thing I wanted to add to my tractor was a plow. It had a detachable wagon, but I usually removed that to make it go faster.

I wish now it had been equipped with an odometer, so I would know how many miles I drove it back and forth across the walkway from our back porch to the wash shed. I could just get up to full speed before I had to stop and turn around.

I was a little surprised that none of my students mentioned a similar toy or even a bicycle.

Those vehicles provided such independence.

On my tractor I could run away from home, even if I could only get 100 feet.

Contact Bob Anderson by email at banderson@the
advocate.com.