What are tactile memories?

What are tactile memories?

Several years ago now, I was talking over childhood memories with my soon-to-be husband, Michael.  I don’t really remember how we got there, but we started talking about childhood toys.  Suddenly, I had a vivid memory of a favorite and long forgotten toy, a small plastic bird with long hair, and little plastic feet that would cling to your finger like a real bird.

I could feel the hard feet and its slightly rough mold lines pinching my pointer finger.  I could smell the plastic and see the chartreuse hairs in the multi-colored tail.  I could also recall the feel of brushing the long hair and the softness of the furred breast of the little bird. A tactile memory.

This was huge for me.  My childhood was somewhat rocky when I was small, and I don’t have a lot of memories of those times.  In particular I don’t have too many clear memories, and timelines and details are fuzzy and almost impossible for me to recall.  But I could remember this little bird.  I could feel it in my hands again and how beautiful my small self found it. My face and voice changed as I described it to Michael.  We were near a computer, and I had to try to find them.

At the time I had no knowledge of the toy collecting community at all.  I wasn’t even sure I would be able to find them, didn’t consider there would be any for sale-I just wanted to know their names, see a picture of them again to lock in that startling, vivid childhood recollection.  But, thanks to living in the age of the internet I did indeed find them again, along with a whole world of toys from my past.  As I browsed pictures and community forums memories came back to me of the toys I had, and the surrounding memories-who I was with, where I was, sharpened accordingly.

Some of these toys were for sale!  Some were even worth…well, more than I had imagined a little plastic item from the 80’s could ever be.  And there were people who proudly owned them, collected them, displayed them, sold them, shared their knowledge in communities full of more people who also liked these toys.  I was tentative a first- a purchase or two on Ebay of a most beloved bird or pony; a membership on a collecting forum where I mostly lurked.  But as time passed I realized how happy these items made me, and my hobby was born.

Over the last few years it has expanded to include toys I never had a child, toys from other generations, and even other items from the past that evoke a feeling in me of beauty or pleasure or cleverness at the making of them. Eyecatching colors, pleasing textures, and unnoticed quality have all become reasons for me to pick up an item and occasionally take it home or pass it along to someone I know will love it.   I have found and learned from wonderful collectors who help unloved toys shine again and discovered another love in cleaning and restoration.

Now, I wish to share the knowledge I have gained and have conversations about these vintage items and the memories they invoke.  I hope this site will serve as a resource and inspiration for others to find those things that will spark your tactile memories and help you find the same pleasure I have in seeing and perhaps owning them again.

And for those of you who were wondering, that little bird was a Fairy Tails bird from Hasbro.

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