Blue Siku Porsche

In the late 1970's, my dad took a second job working at JFK airport. He washed pots and pans in the food service department for Lufthansa.

As a little girl, no more than 4 years old, I recall going to visit my dad to take him lunch or pick him up from work. He always brought me around to his co workers in the other departments to show me off.

One department that always fascinated me was what I called the goodies section. This was the department where they kept the cases of little bags of peanuts, sodas, mini liquor bottles, wing pins and anything else they would stock on the airplane for passengers. This was a giant cage full of colorful boxes, which we could not enter. Instead, we would walk to a little window and speak to a little man on the other side. This man was Edwin, and he was my dad's best friend.

 If a case came damaged, they had to discard it completely, so Edwin would tell my dad to stop by with me if they had any opened cases. He always had goodies waiting for me when we'd arrive. Sometimes it was little bags of peanuts. Other times it was little bags of Haribo Gold gummy bears. I loved those best.

On one such visit I was greeted with a major surprise. Seems like Lufthansa had some kind of promotion with a toy company in Germany called Siku. Siku produced a bunch of diecast cars and little planes to give to children traveling on their planes, much like the pilot wing pins usually seen. So that night, I came home with an armful of little blue Porsche cars.

The cars were wider than your typical Matchbox or Hotwheels car, but they were relatively the same length.  An added feature: the doors opened. 

Like many children of the 70's, I had a vast collection of cheap giant plastic trucks and cars, but these little blue cars were small, heavy and rolled like a dream. I spent many an afternoon racing those little blue cars on kitchen linoleum, living room plush carpeting, and freshly laid sidewalk cement by myself. They were the first metal toy cars I ever owned, and I loved them.

As I got older and started playing with other children close to my age, I would bring them out. No one ever seemed impressed by them. In the sea of brightly colored Hotwheels and stylish Matchbox cars, a fleet of light blue wide porches that were an off-brand (by American childhood standards) was something to be ridiculed for.

After a while I stopped bringing them out to play. They languished under my bed like exiles, only to see the light of day when I was forced to clean my room.

One solitary car survived the many purges of childhood... with rust stains, paint chipped, wobbly wheels, and cracked windshield. Much like a real neglected car from the 70's. 


Match Box Dolls

I've mentioned in passing how as a child, my parents and I would routinely visit our extended family in South America. It seemed to me that we would visit every two years or so, during the holidays. It made some sense, as my mother's birthday was in late December, my birthday was in the first week of January, and in between we had Christmas and New Year's. It also helped that it was summer in Montevideo, Uruguay at that time of the year, and it allowed us a reprieve from New York winter.

Every time we would go, most of the space our suitcases was taken up with various gifts and goodies for our family. My mother used the excuse of Christmas, but in reality it was a way of sharing our good fortune with family and friends in South America that had much less. Clothing for the women, electronics for the men (which always necessitated a trip to Manhattan to my father's chagrin, to find the proper voltage) and for the children, toys.

What there wasn't room for in our baggage, was for my toys. My mom would say I shouldn't bring my toys since it may be viewed as showing off to my cousins. I didn't want my cousins to feel bad, so I usually agreed. I mean, I had Christmas and my birthday to look forward to.

Christmas in Montevideo was slow torture for a child accustomed to Americanized holiday customs. Christmas, in my Wishy-washy Catholic extended family was neither super religious or highly secular, but certain customs were adhered to. Christmas Eve was the big family dinner followed by watching the telecast of the Pope's midnight Christmas mass and card playing. Christmas Day was a big family lunch/dinner get together. 

No gifts were exchanged on either day.

It was explained to me in the simplest terms possible: Jesus didn't get his gifts on Christmas. He had to wait for the Three Kings to show up. So YOU have to wait until Three Kings Day. 

Three Kings Day is January 6. That's TWO whole weeks after Christmas. It was a good thing that my birthday was a little before that, otherwise I believe I would have exploded every visit.

It was 1982 when I first became aware of the grueling passage of time that occurred during those two never ending weeks. Since I had not brought any toys with me, I had to make do with whatever was available to me. I learned to make great mudpies, bounce a soccer ball on my knees, and how to play marbles. It didn't help that I had only one cousin my age, and he had his own friends. Don't get me wrong, I had a blast with him, but he wasn't always available to keep me entertained. 

My birthday brought with it many pieces of clothing and other nice things, that didn't lend themselves to solo play. My parents assured me I had other presents waiting for me back home, awaiting me in NY. That didn't necessarily endear me to our visit.

Three Kings Day finally came, and I received the same thing from every family member as did every other girl in my family it seemed. I received little match boxes.

Now, I don't mean the little cars, I mean cardboard little boxes that usually house matches you use to light the BBQ or birthday candle. I stood there confused staring at this mountain of boxes as the rest of the girls let out excited squeals.

I didn't get it.

And then the heavens parted.

One of my older cousins took one of my boxes and slid it open. Inside was a tiny doll. The body was cloth filled with beans or sand, the head was plastic, and it had colored stones for eyes. I opened the rest of them, and each was different.

I was told they were Fofoletes from Brazil.

They were a craze and impossible to find during that holiday season, so one of my uncles who ran the neighborhood boliche (small grocery store) with my grandmother had a contact in Brazil who was able to secure a case. Instead of placing them for sale to the public, my uncles and my dad went in on it together and divided them up equally for all the girls in the family. 

Every dad and uncle was a hero that year.

I wasn't aware of the work that went into it at the time. I wasn't even aware how popular the dolls were. I was just happy to have small little dolls that could fit in my pocket so I could play with them. Like  a sip of water to a thirsty man in a desert, I was elated. 

The rest of my time in Montevideo went by quickly. I played with my army of match box dolls, and even traded some with the neighborhood kids that would visit my grandmother's boliche.

had a handful of little dolls and I was happy. I didn't even remember the gifts awaiting me back home. I didn't need them.

I still have one of my childhood Fofoletes. A red and black one, with blue eyes. She's survived childhood, transcontinental travels, moves, college, marriage and she sits on my entertainment system. And to this day, she still makes me happy.