My fourth birthday was at an indoor playground. After eating our burgers and fries, I opened up my birthday presents. The heavens parted and the sun shone down on my paper-crowned head as I opened a package, and inside… was a Popple. For those of you who are unaware of Popples, they are stuffed animals that roll into their own pouch. Here’s a commercial from 1986 that shows them in their full glory.
These Popples are a little gargantuan. I remember mine being much smaller.
I loved that Popple like a tiny child. It was off to play, and I took mine with me to jump into the ball pit. At this time in my life (and until I hit 13), I was really short for my age. Always the smallest kid in class. Lola is 4’10″, so I’ll just attribute all of this to her genes, but I caught up and I’m a very average 5’4″ now. Anyway, I hugged my Popple tight and cannonballed into the ball pit. And I kept sinking. And I kept sinking. By the time my feet touched the bottom, I was completely buried beneath plastic balls and – if all of those email fwds are true – used syringes.
I’m not one of those people that has all of these early memories (I don’t remember anything before the age of 4, to be honest), but I remember this moment so clearly. I started panicking. My face was covered, and I was having a hard time breathing. I jumped, but I couldn’t get my head above the surface. My Popple in my right hand, my left hand flailing wildly, hoping to get the attention of a grown-up.
Goodbye, sweet world. We had a good run. Bury me with my Popple and make sure I’m wearing jelly shoes.
I don’t remember who pulled me out, but someone pulled me out, and my friend’s mom said, “She shouldn’t be in there. She’s shorter than the ball pit.”
YEA I KNOW THAT NOW, THANKS, MRS. CARR, NICE EMBELLISHED SWEATER.
I had that Popple until I was in my late teens, when our house caught on fire (a story for another time), and thinking about that pink and purple ball of fluff always makes me a little nostalgic for the scent of plastic and ketchup.
I found it on eBay. Used, they run around $20. Brand new in box? Like, $300. I started an eBay collection of toy nostalgia.
Sorry if the above graphic is assailing your eyes. I may have gone a little overboard with the Lisa Frank inspiration. Lite Brite! TMNT Pizza Shooter! I’ve previously written about Cricket (top center), every suburban elementary school kid’s dream, who I loved and cherished until my demon-cat mauled it (RIP Cricket). And 8 bit Nintendo? I’d work you at Dr. Mario all day. Allllll dayyyyyyyy. Boop beep beep boop.
Disclosure: This post is part of a campaign with eBay as one of their influencers. All opinions and bad graphics (but not Popples… sad) are my own.