Back in the 80s, one Christmas, my parents bought me a toy that was unparalleled in it’s greatness… A toy that I loved, played with until the 6 huge batteries ran out and I had to shove more of them in… And then played with it some more.

It was called a Big Trak.

Big Trak
This was a six-wheel-drive toy that could be programmed on a keypad to go forward and backward, turn, pause, and fire a light bulb “laser”.  My grandparents separately bought me a transport trailer that hitched on the back and could be made to dump its contents on command… It was brilliant.

Funny how that stuff sticks in your mind.

With Christmas coming up, getting all my shopping done, as I buy stuff for my mieces and nephews and godchildren, I wonder if they’ll have the same memories and whether the sheer levels of abundance (you should see the mountains of presents they all get!) diminishes the specialness of it all, or not.

All that said, the year I got the BIG Trak was only matched by the year I got my first BMX… A Night Burner, I had no idea I would ever get such a great gift… In fact, my parents had told me that because we were not that well off that year, we would just have to settle for the fruit in our stockings from Santa… And I believed them.

On Christmas morning, I was asked to go and grab the food basket out of the garage and bring it in so we could prepare for lunch… And there it was… A night burner BMX bike… I was BM EX-cited… I think my parents saw me for 10 minutes that entire Christmas… Here is what they looked like (this is not the actual one):

Night Burner

I thought they were so goddam cool…

Now these were two Christmas toys that stand out and make me remember marvellous times… Yet there was something else that was really a much better toy that was invented and created by none other than my own Mum…

At the far end of our garden was a huge tree stump left from a tree that had grown too big and whose roots were becoming too menacing for the neighbours houses… It was immovable and would be moved in it’s entireity one day according to my parents.

Now instead of moaning about the space it occupied in the corner of our garden, my mum turned this very large tree stump into a pedestal of thinking. Yes, whenever we complained of boredom, or when I started becoming a handful (I was very often a handful): “Why don’t you go sit on the tree stump and think.” She told me – and I believed – that when you sat on the rock and really tried hard, great thoughts came into your head and that would relieve the boredom.

I get the impression my Mum enjoyed watching us out of the back room window as we scrunched up our noses and squinted our eyes – something we instinctively believed pushed those intelligent thoughts to the top of our heads…. But probably made the neighbours think we had an outdoor toilet…  Not sure if I really had any eureka moments, but I can remember sitting on that stump and believing myself to be capable. I remember how important it made me feel also. And
I remember exactly what it looked like. I had counted the rings on that tree stump to see how old the tree was…

Sure, I played football until dark on the streets and playing fields with my friends, sure we needed trips out from time to time, sure I loved programming my Big Trak and doing bunny hops on my BMX night burner… From time to time we also needed time alone. Time to think. Time to make sense of the world around us. That tree stump was the best toy, if you’d really classify it as such.

That is where I became self-aware… I am sure that is where self-hypnosis was happening without me even knowing it… Where we learned to be creative from time to time too… And heck, my Mum got some peace from time to time…