Ecstatically opening a package from her sister, senior Laura Rodriguez finds a light brown teddy bear and handwritten letter inside. Her sister, Sam Rodriguez, had mailed it from Chicago, where she was stationed for the Navy. She begins reading the letter, starting at the words “Laurita, I really, really, really miss you, I hope you’re doing good in school…” and ending with “I love you so, so, so, so much. XOXO, Sam.”
Rodriguez began collecting vintage toys when she was between the ages of eight to 10 because of encouragement and support from her family. Knowing this, her sister mails a teddy bear and souvenirs to her whenever she is stationed in a new location.
“My sister is my best friend,” Rodriguez said. “I love her to death. When she sends me teddy bears, it’s like she sends me a part of her. It was hard watching her leave to join the Navy, but I know she is okay.”
Holding nearly 700 pieces in her Troll doll collection alone, Rodriguez collects multiple types of toys, including collections of vintage Strawberry Shortcake objects, ‘80s Trolls, vintage Disney and Barbie cards, original Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, and modern Build-a-Bear plushies.
“I helped pay for my first 100 Troll dolls,” Rodriguez said. “I remember having to go pick them up from this random guy who had them in trash bags in his attic. I had to learn how to restore and take care of them.”
Collecting toys is a common interest among Rodriguez and her family members. It has brought Rodriguez a lot of joy, as her vintage toys have helped her to breach the emotional gap between her and her sister.
“My sister and I have a four-year age gap, so we never really bonded, but she collects stuff as well,” Rodriguez said. “She collects vintage Furbies and Snoopy dolls, so that kind of built a bridge between us. Somehow, the distance has brought us closer and allowed us to bond over our shared hobby.”
Rodriguez’s mother is a large part of the reason why she collects vintage toys. Because her father did not play an active part in her life growing up, Rodriguez was always close with her mother. Her mother encourages her to collect toys because she grew up in Guatemala and had toys similar to the ones Rodriguez collects today, such as teddy bears.
“My mom bought me my first toy because it reminded her of one she had in Guatemala,” Rodriguez said. “From there, we kind of just went crazy and talked about her childhood more often. She told me that she keeps a few toys because they are nostalgic for her and are similar to the ones she lost after moving to the U.S.”
Before Rodriguez goes to college, she is considering donating the toys to an orphanage and school in Guatemala. She wants the children to feel the same love and enjoyment that she felt when she first got her toys.
“I chose to donate to Guatemala because I was born there, and for my family and I, it is very important that we give back since we have so much to be thankful for,” Rodriguez said. “Everyone should be given the chance to be able to play, have toys, and imagine.”