More than a few of us Canadian young-uns had Tickle Trunks of our own. Part junk box for our parents’ fancy castaways, part magical imagination station, we’d plunge our little arms in, rummaging around for feather boas, wobbly heels and plastic stethoscopes. The joy of the Tickle Trunk was never knowing what you’d find – the constant replenishment from our parents meant each playdate was an opportunity for something new. Some objects were a mystery – a tiara pilfered from a friend, a sisterhood of the travelling evening gown. And this is what made it so special: a sharing economy, bolstered by the humble Trunk.
These hodge-podged costumes formed the basis for hours of imaginative play: from retellings of Cinderella in old wedding shoes and a torn veil, to impassioned Little Mermaid arias, complete with velvet green evening gown fashioned as a tail. Police helmets were props in high-speed Big Brother chases and used to torment the suspect du jour (usually the cat), while gaudy costume jewelry served as both pirate’s booty and the finest crown jewels.
While we may not have had TV magic to serve up the perfectly timed costume, it often felt like we did. Each time we opened the trunk, some hidden prop seemed to have risen to the top. While kids all over the world over certainly had versions of this – dress up box, mom’s closet, the rummage store down the street – there was something uniquely Canadian about the Tickle Trunk: the ability to make something out of nothing, to harness magic through sheer willpower, using only what was at hand.