Sunday, May 23, 2004

Farewell to the Forest 

Yes, it has been a long time since I've made an entry here. One would think that I had a child who is a senior in high school who needed to be whisked around the country in search of a college or something... April was indeed a lost month.

I am sorry that the event that finally compels me to sit down and write is the loss of another New York toy institution; the Enchanted Forest in Soho. After twenty years (can it really be that long?) they have closed their doors, and I am sad to have missed the farewell party held today in New York.

David Wallace, the king of the forest, is a dear friend of mine from college. When he started the Forest, I was a bearmaker. But we had followed very different paths to our destinies in toys. The only toy connection we had was in the form of a rubber ducky that he says I gave him for Christmas his freshman year. That was the year that I snuck into all the rooms of my boyfriend's dorm (dorms being gender segregated in those days)to steal a single sock. One upper classman in the dorm (who grew up to be a famous producer) didn't have a single clean sock in his drawers and I had to substitute one of my boyfriend's socks to carry out my plan. On the day before we were all leaving for Christmas vacation, I filled about 20 socks with nuts, oranges, chocolate and a single toy. When I thought everyone was asleep (around 3 AM) I crept out of bed to arrange all the socks under a makeshift Christmas tree we had set up in the dorm.

Mind you, we were the only dorm to have our own Christmas tree. We went up into the mountains behind the college and chopped a scraggly pinon down with a hand axe. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a trunk to anchor it to a stand, so we hung it from a wire attached to the ceiling. Anyway, when I arrived at the tree, there were two freshman from another dorm lying in the hallway and gazing at our tree. At first I suspected that some combination of drugs and alcohol led them to take refuge in the wrong dorm, but it seemed that they had just heard about our tree and had come to capture a wistful holiday moment. I enlisted them as my fellow elves and we set to placing the socks in a radial pattern around the base of the tree.

The memory of a bunch of groggy-headed, neo-adult males being delighted by the surprise in the morning brings me almost as much warmth and pleasure as my own child's early Christmas mornings...when she was old enough to have that heady anticipation. I have a photo of a lanky Texan in his underwear playing with a yo-yo, while others search around the base of the tree searching for familiar socks.

David says that his sock held a rubber duck that squeaked, and that when he opened his toy store, he searched all over to find the same duck to carry in the Forest.

I visited the Forest last year during the great blizzard of '03 - but didn't get to see David because he was busy organizing the peace rally being held that weekend. It sounded as if his life had taken him into many new directions, although he didn't indicate that he would be closing the Forest at the time. It was only my third visit, but it felt comforting and full of treasures - some familiar and some completely new. I'm glad that I was able to visit, but am sad that I didn't get to say good-bye.

(If any of you remember the Forest and have stories to share about it, please email them to latda@latdamuseum.org)

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