Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
- Community Blog
Growing up in Ramona, I spent a great deal of my time thinking about things I could never have. Television helped me to achieve my sense of endless longing. Toys, candy, soda pop, and sweetened breakfast cereals, I wanted them all. Most of these things continue to stand out in my mind as clearly as they did when I first wished for them. There are, however, a few things that persist in my mind as all but forgotten shadows or fog beckoning to me from my youth. I’ve used the Internet to help me pinpoint and clarify some of these memories.
One of these memories was a toy called Oobi. Actually, to label Oobi a toy is misleading. He was really more of an informal postal tool. Oobi was a flattish red plastic oval about the size of one of those plastic change purses with a slit up one of its sides. Oobi had large sympathetic eyes that gazed pleadingly up at you. You were supposed to put a secret note inside Oobi and then place him in a conspicuous spot for that special someone to find. If at school you were lucky enough to have somebody leave an Oobi for you to find, perhaps on your bicycle seat or on the bench you always sat at to eat lunch, your pulse would quicken because you knew Oobi harbored a message inside him that was guaranteed to bring you joy or at least intrigue. Though it was never said, Oobi seemed to be marketed for girls to put messages of love in. But I didn’t care. My gender aside, I wanted an Oobi, anyway, even at the risk of being ridiculed by my male friends.
If I had an Oobi, I might work up the courage to put an anonymous love note inside him and leave him in Sabrina Blair’s desk at Ramona Elementary. Then I could observe her reaction from a safe distance. After reading my note, would she smile secretly and look around the class wondering who admired her from afar, or would she crumble the note up in disgust and then throw it and Oobi away in the wastepaper basket? If she chose the latter, I’d want to save Oobi from the trash, but then Sabrina would know it was me who had put Oobi in her desk. Oobi would have to remain in the trash until it was safe for me to rescue him without anyone noticing. He would peer up from the bottom of the wastepaper basket with his big passionate eyes and wonder why he had been thrown away when all he’d wanted to do was bring a little love into the world. And while he rested there in his nest of crumbled up scratch paper, pink wads of bubble gum, and pencil sharpener shavings there was always the chance that someone else would notice him and then claim Oobi as his own. Or worse yet, our third grade teacher, Mrs. Trumblebottom, would find him. She’d fish him out of the trash, walk purposefully to the front of the classroom, and then say in a loud voice, "Did anyone in class happen to lose—this!" Then she’d pull Oobi from behind her back and hold him above her head for everyone to see; she would perform this task with dramatic flair, as if she had just completed a successful magic trick. Everyone would look at Oobi in Mrs. Trumblebottom’s hand, and then, collectively, they’d say, "Oooh!" as they glanced around at each other and nodded their heads with knowing smiles. Sabrina Blair would blush. I would too, hoping that no one would notice.
Maybe if I ever did get an Oobi, I thought, it would be better if I just kept him at home and imagined him helping me deliver my message to Sabrina Blair. I’d write my love letter to her, fold it carefully, and then put it inside of Oobi’s smooth interior. Oobi would keep my words of love safe from the world. Oobi and I would share my private crush with no one. It would remain our secret forever, and sometimes I would imagine Oobi winking at me with one of his big dark eyes.