You’re never too old to be a kid

Doug Gulasy

David Bracken is 43 years old, but he has the biggest toy collection of its kind in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Bracken has about 9,000 McDonald’s collectibles stored in his Lower Burrell, Pa., house, including between 7,000 and 7,500 Happy Meal toys.

Is it odd? Maybe. But Bracken doesn’t see it that way.

“When I collect the toys, it brings me back with the youth,” he says. “It brings me back to when you were carefree.

” . There’s always something good about it. It’s sort of like a memory. Like when you take a vacation, you have a memory – when I collect this stuff, it’s a memory of something that happened.”

I met Bracken this past week while covering a story for the Valley News Dispatch, where I’m interning this summer. When I first got the assignment, I thought many of the same things you’re probably thinking now: “What kind of 43-year-old man collects Happy Meal toys? Why is he doing this? Doesn’t he have anything better to do?”

When I met him, my questions were answered. Bracken’s not a weirdo. He’s your average 43-year-old man, a guy with a wife and three kids.

He doesn’t collect the McDonald’s items to eventually sell them; he collects them because he enjoys it and because he enjoys reminiscing about his own childhood.

It was enough to make me wonder why more people aren’t like him. This Thursday, I’ll be turning 21 years old, officially ending a months-long countdown I’ve had going in my head. It’s a birthday I’ve been awaiting for quite some time because to me, it signifies the last step on the path toward adulthood. Once you turn 21, you’re not a kid anymore. I couldn’t wait for that. I was tired of feeling like a kid.

Then I met Bracken, and my perspective changed. I’ve begun to think that maybe I was too eager to throw aside the shackles of childhood and move into the freer realm of adulthood. It’s not that I’m suddenly wishing to go back in age a la Benjamin Button, but I’m starting to think Bracken has the right idea about life.

Why not do something that makes you happy? I’m not saying you have to start collecting Happy Meal toys, but there’s something out there for everybody – a slice of childhood, if you will.

It doesn’t mean you have to regress into a child. You can still live a productive adult life by going to work every day and bringing home a steady paycheck. You’ll still have to pay bills, buy food and deal with all the other rigors of adulthood . but maybe you’ll be happier if you have that special something to come home to.

Allow me to use myself as an example. I once had a fairly significant collection of baseball cards, but then I “outgrew” them. Even though I loved collecting baseball cards, I convinced myself I was too old to do it anymore . so I got rid of them.

Two days after meeting Bracken, I was feeling nostalgic about my own childhood, so I went to the store. I came home with a few brand-new packs of baseball cards. Now I’m collecting again.

You only live once, after all. Why not be happy doing it?

Doug Gulasy is a senior newspaper journalism major and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].