Toy Soldiers

 green army man with a bazooka 
I had been struck down with the chicken pox in first grade. I was miserable.

My father popped into my bedroom before he left for work one morning. It was still dark outside.

“I’ll bring you a present. What would you like?” he asked.

“Toy soldiers,” was my sleepy reply.

I had in my mind those straight and tall tin men with their red coats and shiny black shoes and tall black hats with a gun slung over their shoulder, ready to march.

I could see the doubt in his eyes.

What the hell did a little girl want with toy soldiers anyway?

I could not tell him why. 

It was a secret. 

They were strong and silent and brave and protected you. I wanted someone to protect me. AND in The Nutcracker one came alive and defeated the mouse king and took the little girl away to a magical kingdom…

All day the excitement built. I could not wait from him to get home that night. He had never brought me a present before. 

This was going to be so amazing!

When he finally arrived, my father proudly presented to me a bag of green plastic army men. Some were crawling on the ground. Some were kneeling with a bazooka at the ready. Some were aiming their machine guns at the unseen enemy. 

Not what I had envisioned at all.

I was crushed. 

I had not realized that there was more than one kind of toy soldier. The proverbial wish gone awry. 

Be careful what you wish for. 

In fact, it was the allegory for life itself… nothing ever quite ends up the way you imagined it. Ever. Sometimes it is better. Often it is worse. 

Much, much worse.

My father was not at fault. I knew this. I had not been specific. I had not contemplated and addressed all of the possible permutations. I only had myself to blame. 

I should have known!

I fought back the hot tears and the lump in my throat, pretending to play with and thoroughly enjoy my soldiers so I would not hurt his feelings. Maybe if I made him feel loved and appreciated enough, someday soon he would want to bring me something else? Then, by golly, I would be much more specific.

He never did. My one chance at magic, wasted. Damn it.


117 thoughts on “Toy Soldiers

  1. Beautiful story and I can relate well to it as I was fond of brave soldiers when young as much as I was willing to go to army. My parents checked my enthusiasm and persuaded me to join police and then it kept changing. A long story.

    Thanks for sharing this,

    Anand 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You should have read this poem:

    The Land of Counterpane
    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    When I was sick and lay a-bed,
    I had two pillows at my head,
    And all my toys beside me lay,
    To keep me happy all the day.

    And sometimes for an hour or so
    I watched my leaden soldiers go,
    With different uniforms and drills,
    Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

    And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
    All up and down among the sheets;
    Or brought my trees and houses out,
    And planted cities all about.

    I was the giant great and still
    That sits upon the pillow-hill,
    And sees before him, dale and plain,
    The pleasant land of counterpane

    Liked by 9 people

  3. This is bitter sweet and a great message. My father used to bring me the soap from hotel rooms when he was traveling. I never knew they were free. I collected them for years and when I was in my twenties, I have a huge box of them. I donated them all to the Ronald McDonald House here and they were very grateful. There were years worth. You never know what a gift can do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I was little, I sooo wanted a pony, but Mom and Dad kept telling me there was no room in the back yard (it sure looked big enough to me!). My dad, who was a contractor, was in the kitchen with my mom one night, and I heard him refer to “Charlie Horse.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think you got the magic…just not the one you had expected. The magic lesson that parents are not all-knowing. The magic lesson that we have to be more specific in life. The magic lesson that we don’t always get what we want!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I can relate to your disappointment, but when I read of your relationship with your dad it is so very different to what I knew and I hurt for you.
    On the soldier front my brothers had hundreds of different soldiers and cowboys and indians and we had hours of fun setting them up in two groups and then rolling marbles through them. Happy days.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Awww Doc….part of me wants to say something I’m not reading from the others but I will go with it because it was my first reaction to your post. You asked for ‘toy soldiers’ and to be honest my thoughts immediately went to the green guys. Now, I know and understand that as a child you were devastated. But maybe now you can retroactively reclaim that magic. Because, you asked for toy soldiers, and whether he understood what you meant or not he indeed got you toy soldiers. Because you wanted them. Looking back now, as an adult, maybe “now” you can have that magic. Where he never asked you before what he could do for you…he did that day, he wanted to make you feel better. And he did what he told you he would do. Maybe, after all, that gift is really something you can have now.

    I hope that doesn’t seem insensitive to your story. Because as a child I fully understand how you felt. But maybe now….you can reclaim it and it can be a different kind of gift. I hope so. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I had to smile when I read your story. It happens all the time with my Dad, even now. I learnt not to expect anything close to what I would have wished for and simply praise his efforts. I have such a collection of ugly things, from porcelain dolls (I’ve always dreaded them) to the most terrible clothes. I used to cry when I was a kid each time I had to open a present. Then it became a practical joke with my brothers. And at the end of the day, we are old enough to understand that what matter is the intention.
    Good I learnt the lesson, because my husband is not better. But at least I can still educate him by showing clear pictures of what I would expect. And he is so pragmatic that he understood that a couple of flowers would do the trick anyhow 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a lovely story. You tell it with such poignancy. Thank you for your genuineness and your sharing. I remember the Christmas I got a whole lot of games and I had no one to play them with because my siblings were all very young and my parents were both very busy with them and life in general. I had no friends to speak of, living in a country house without neighbors. Then there was the time my uncle brought me a beautiful huge blimp balloon and and set it on the radiator in the hall. There was a loud bang and all that remained was the lovely big red bow that he had tied around it and a bit of rubber. Sigh. Children’s sorrows lead to grown up lessons one day, thanks for yours, Warm wishes, Tasha

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is probably better to have these little lessons in the somewhat controlled environment of childhood to make us stronger rather than the bigger versions as adults, crumbling under the weight. 🙂


    • Those are nifty snow globes! A friend was talking about their toy soldier collection (nifty old ones posed in famous battle scenes) which got me thinking about writing this story down. I get a charge out of looking at them but I have never bought one of those soldiers for myself. Seems like it would be wrong somehow now….


  10. I had a sack of green toy soldiers when I was a kid. I loved them. I would have hated the pretty red kind. It’s too bad, though, that you didn’t know how to tell him what you really wanted without fear of never getting another gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. When I was a kid, I didn’t ask for much, that’s probably why when I did, my mother tried. I do remember asking for a toy telephone only to receive a rubber toy bear that made sounds when you squeezed it. I was told she couldn’t find what I wanted. Not sure if she told me the truth or she just didn’t buy any because maybe it cost much back then. I was disappointed because I really wanted a toy phone and couldn’t do much with the toy bear, but I just accepted. I did learn to love that cute bear a bit especially because it was bought for me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh I remeber so well the disappointment of not really getting what one had dreamed of. But now that I am myself a mother I realise how incredibly hard it is to get the “right” present for your children. I am sure my children, in spite all my efforts will endure many disappointments!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Aww, for me, I had relatives give weird,thoughtless gifts – like toys for 4 year olds when I was 12. I eventually told my parents to tell them “No presents, please.”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: My Article Read (9-2-2015) | My Daily Musing

  15. At least you had a small army. Sure they were not life sized like the Chinese emperor had them. But an imaginary invasion could have been repelled. Now we know better. Soldiers do the work governments tell them to do.

    It also makes you think. From childish expectation to the world today. We all implicitly wish for Utopia yet even Thomas Moore had to include a real army/defence force. Pacifism is not about total peace but the avoidance of war.

    Thing is, unrealistic expectations are the driving force behind many things. Without some imagination we might as well give up on progress…

    Liked by 1 person

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