Toys are the first friends you can choose for yourself. Your siblings and pets are already affixed in the family dynamic upon your arrival, but a trip down the toy aisle is your chance. I took a stroll through the Meatpacking District and into an art activation out of my childhood dreams, a New York City bodega housing 9,000 items hand-made of felt by Lucy Sparrow. The exhibit at The Standard, High Line, titled 8 'till late, houses everything from cigarettes, women's hygiene and Heinz ketchup to a slop bucket, frozen food section, and a soft pretzel carousel. A butcher counter with dangling meats, mix tapes, and handles of Campari: literally every detail down to the cash register and the ATM sign is accounted for. It is thoughtful, in every way.
As a kid I had an affinity for cash registers actually. From a Pink Barbie one that scanned tags, I matured into an actual register my mom got from Staples. In it I kept dollar bills and coins I accumulated from selling animals made out of beads and painted rocks at the town pool. At one point I had a Cabbage Patch Doll that swallowed plastic celery and pretzel sticks, which was captured in her backpack so that the process could continue, the hum of the mechanical swallowing still fresh in my mind. She was taken off the market because she ate one too many mouthfuls of children's hair. I had short hair, and I loved her.
As my eyes darted around the bodega I was filled with childhood nostalgia around the rituals we cherished. Campbell's tomato soup with white rice and grilled cheese on snowy days was one of my favorites. Today some scoff at packaged foods, but I ate my fair share of them and I was a happy camper. If my sister and I were especially behaved we were allowed to eat Swanson meals, that came partitioned in a little microwaveable tray. I was always bewildered how the tiny brownie cooked to perfection in its designated section, in no time at all. I loved those brownies. Chips Deluxe too.
Back in the bodega, all of the felt creations are for sale. The cashier rattles off to us the items that flew off the shelves already- Wonder Bread, Spam, Brillo Pads, and Peanut butter. A simple people we are. Wonder bread and peanut butter. I picked up a pack of Tic tacs for myself, a reminder of another ritual from my high school days. For whatever reason, I had a difficult time residing in the present, but rather anxiously worried about the future. My beloved guidance counselor would buy me packages of Tic Tacs as a reminder to pop the cap and take a breath when anxiety threatened my peace.
My mother tells me I carried around a wicker basket filled with soaps in the shape of nursery rhyme characters. They had personalities and I spoke to them. When I didn't give them adequate face time, guilt washed over me. Eventually they were replaced by an American girl doll I named Sarah. To be young and worry about such things again. Art and play are critical; my afternoon at the bodega reaquainted me with both.