D spotted it, on the pages of a local online forum. It was going for a tenner; a bargain, we reckoned, considering the toy was in good condition, and the hours of delight that would unfold after it was opened.
Gwen and Austin have recently taken to playing ‘brothers and sisters’. This seems to consist, on the whole, of them putting soft toys to bed on cushions, with blankets on top. These ‘beds’ are snaffled from the downstairs sofas; on the evenings when the toys have a mass sleepover, D and I often have to make do with one shared cushion between us, while the toys lounge in luxury upstairs. The knowledge that there would be histrionics the next morning stops us from relocating the cushion-beds back to the sofa.
Less-than-comfortable tv viewing aside, it’s delightful to see our four- and two-year old play together so harmoniously. So, with that in mind, I set off westwards in our car one evening, to pick up the toy bed from its former home.
I’ve found that people advertising on this particular forum are fond of a natter when you turn up to collect the item you’re purchasing. On the whole, the people who buy stuff this way are looking for good-quality items that they and their families can enjoy. So, for the sellers, it’s not just a means of making small amounts of cash: it’s a good way to pass on something that was once treasured, to a person who is likely to give it similar care and attention.
When I arrived at the couple’s house, they invited me in to their plush-but-bohemian house (typical of that part of London). And, sure enough, they were keen to tell me about the bed’s history. It used to belong to their only daughter, who is now fourteen. They’d had a huge clear-out in the loft, because they needed the extra space. Around the dining table were a load of different boxed-up toys, and the man gestured towards a huge mound of tiny lego pieces, heaped on the living room floor ready for sorting.
‘And,’, he said, ‘we have a bonus for you. Would you like to take this, too, for free?’
He brought out a large box with a picture of a Sylvanian Families horsebox on the side.
‘It’s got all the pieces, but the roof doesn’t stay on properly. So we can’t sell it.’
His partner stood, awkwardly, by his side. ‘Hang on a minute’ she interjected. How old’s your daughter?’
‘She’ll be two on her birthday.’
‘Then this is too old for her.’ The woman turned to the man, a flash of triumph in her eyes.
Undeterred, he carried on, looking at me. ‘Please, you should still take it. You could keep it for her until she’s older, or do you know anyone else who might want it…..?’
‘My niece LOVES these. And it’s her birthday tomorrow, as it happens. She’ll be turning nine’ I directed this at the woman, whose gaze dropped down to the floor.
‘Thank you so much for the lovely bed’, I continued. ‘My daughter will be thrilled with it; putting babies to sleep is one of her favourite games at the moment. And my niece is massively into Sylvanian Families. When they stayed with us over Christmas, all she did was play with her new camper van. This one will be going to a really good home.’
The woman shot a glance up at me, eyes glistening.
‘It’s really hard to get rid of things, isn’t it? I said. ‘I’ve even hung on to a load of grubby babygros from when my two came out of hospital, because there’s no way I could give them away just yet. I expect I’ll have to one day, but I’ll be in floods of tears when that happens.’
‘I know,’ she said. This has all been really hard.’
The man thrust the Sylvanian Families box into my arms, and plopped the wooden bed on top.
It was time for me to leave.
This post is part of Our Time of Gifts, my year-long adventure in sharing. Each week, I’ll loan or giving something away, then see what the universe brings to my doorstep.
Click here to find out more about Our Time of Gifts.
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