I hesitated, one finger hovering over my mouse's left button. My laptop monitor glowed softly in the dimly-lit hotel room. The eBay listing on the screen before me had a "Buy It Now" option for $60. But $60 was so expensive. It wasn't as if the listing was for electronics, or nice jewelry — things that an average person wouldn't hesitate to pay $60 for.
This listing was for a toy. A toy from the 1980s My Little Pony line called "Oakley Moose." As the name implied, it was a plastic moose with a lavender body, pink eyes, and blue hair. It was adorable. When I looked at Oakley Moose, I felt the same delighted desire I'd felt as a kid, whenever I found a toy I wanted.
Cook posing with one of her prized ponies | (Carly Secrest/Courtesy Narratively)
I couldn't help myself. I clicked the "Buy It Now" button, and had Oakley Moose shipped to my apartment back in the States.
Up to that point, 2013 had not been a happy year for me. Shortly before I was scheduled to go on a writing retreat in Chamonix, France, for my Creative Writing MFA program, my beloved grandfather passed away. His funeral was held just days before I left for my trip.
A collection of ponies in Cook's home | (Carly Secrest/Courtesy Narratively)
I tried to make the best of things and enjoy myself — the food was great and workshops with my classmates were fun — but I didn't share the close bonds of friendship that my fellow MFAers did. I'd always had difficulty making friends.
At the time, I was 25 and had been married for two years. Until then, my husband and I hadn't been apart from each other for more than a weekend. I wasn't devastated to be separated from him for three weeks, but I did miss him, which added to my loneliness.
By my second week in France, I was feeling quite homesick. One night, while my classmates were out socializing, I stayed in, hoping to get some extra writing done. That's how I ended up on eBay, comforting myself by doing one of my favorite things — looking at listings for vintage toys.
I've always loved toys. The year before my trip, I'd taught myself to sew and opened an Etsy shop selling stuffed animals. I had a shelf on my desk back home full of cute figurines, from old Polly Pockets to Pokemon. I would have had even more toys, except I didn't want my husband to think of me as one of "those people" (the kind from shows like "My Strange Obsession.")
When I returned home from my trip, my husband, Kyu (pronounced "Q," just like the letter), gave me a good-natured laugh.
"Even when you're in another country, toys still show up for you!" he said.
I laughed with him, but internally I was mortified. From then on, I vowed, I wouldn't buy any more My Little Pony toys. If I was curious about them, I would simply do research and learn more.
Read the rest of this story at Narratively.