When my daughter was seven, she loved to trade things with her friends. I first wrote about her obsession in my weekly newspaper column, “homegrown treasures”.
The column “Trade Ya”, written in 1987, morphed many years later into Edward G. and the Beautiful Pink Hairbow.
Can you find similarities between the column and the story?
There was no warning in our neighborhood. One day they were perfectly content with their own rooms, their own clothes, their own toys. The next, there were enclaves of children huddled throughout our homes, haggling over charms and stickers, bangle bracelets and baseball cards.
It seemed to begin with the six through eight set, but soon the craze had spread to the fives and fours and even the innocent threes. The frenzy at times rivaled that of the New York Stock Exchange. The kids were trading everything. It was all fair game—comic books, Hot Wheels, used chewing gum, puzzle pieces.
The appearance of this new game took me by surprise. It was a while before I realized that trade laws would have to be established. My first clue was the so-called Teddy Bear Trade.
My four-year-old was not about to let his older sister and neighbor have a run on the market, so he offered up his Winnie the Pooh bear on the main trading floor. He thought he got a good deal. I wasn’t so sure. The bear looked a bit raggedy to me and he needed a good washing. The real problem was that I’d grown more attached to Winnie than my four-year-old had. My sense of loss as Winnie and the neighbor waved goodbye was overwhelming.
Next came the infamous “Made ‘Specially for You, With Love” trade. Just how do you explain to a devoted grandmother the appearance of a one-of-a-kind hand-knit sweater on a strange child at the school picnic?
Then appeared the precocious child who brought money—yes, cold hard cash—onto the trade floor. Actually, the child didn’t bring the money. He demanded money in all his trade agreements. Luckily, I found my seven-year-old pulling a $5 bill from the family’s “Hawaii Jar” in time. A few days later and our vacation dream would have been as empty as the jar.
So, trade rules were established on the Arnold trading floor. The first rule was that anyone found trading with greenbacks would be banished from the floor permanently.
The second rule was that all items to be traded must pass parental inspection. The only exemptions from this rule were items bought with the child’s own money, items pulled from the depths of a cereal box, and items previously traded on the floor.
The third rule was that no matter how much pleading took place, family pets and little brothers would forever remain non-tradable items.
I felt certain these rules would settle all problems and allow trade to continue in an orderly and civilized fashion. But since their institution, trade activity has been severely constrained in our household.
The game just isn’t the same anymore. Not the same as when anything was fair game and nothing was sacred. Not the same as when the excitement of it all would carry you away and you’d find yourself trading your best scratch and sniff sticker for a used Kleenex. Not the same as when you had to decide for yourself whether a Barbie coloring book was a good enough trade for your little brother.