I had a real thing for toy “friends” when I was around 10 or 11. I wanted an E.T. I wanted a Gizmo. I wanted a Rub-a-Dub Doggie. I wanted a Fizzgig (even though I’m not sure one was ever made). I wanted all these toy characters not just because they were popular items at the time but because I really thought they would be friends. I thought if I got an E.T. or Gizmo, it would talk with me, pal around with me, maybe even lead me on grand adventures. It was inevitable, then, that I would want a Magic Wiggly Worm as soon as I saw one by the check-out counter of our local drug store.
Magic Wiggly Worms went by all sorts of names (as you can see in the picture above, which calls it a “Magic Twisty Worm”), but they were all the same basic toy: a colored piece of soft pipe cleaner fabric (Hot Pink Heather says it is chenille) with two eyes and a long nose. Pretty un-special. What made it so enticing, though, was the packaging’s promise that it would slither all over my hands and arms. Why would it slither? Because it was sentient, of course! It was self-aware! It had intelligence! And that meant it could be a friend, the kind of friend I was always searching the toy aisles for.
As it turns out, the Magic Wiggly Worm wasn’t sentient at all. It just had a piece of fishing line attached to its snout. That line was nearly invisible, so you could pull it around your fingers to make it look as though the worm were moving. I was pretty disappointed to discover that. I was even more disappointed by the fact that I could never master it. I could never make the worm move around my fingers or anything else. I could only drag him across the floor.
So the Magic Wiggly Worm was yet another in a long series of unfriendly friend toys. But that didn’t keep him from find some small place in my life. I carried him to school for awhile in my backpack, and I’d play with him every so often. No, he didn’t have the magic or the sentience I thought he would, but he did have something I found lovable. Maybe it was the eyes.