When I was just shy of 3 1/2, I went before the omnipotent Santa to plead my case. I had been a very, very good boy, and all I wanted for Christmas was-
Santa's eyes glazed over.
"A doll?" In all fairness, maybe he was just a slow processor. But even at three years old, I noticed he could no longer make eye contact with me. Was I supposed to say something else? In defiance of the laws of nature, the pause did indeed grow...
Finally, at some point he felt the need to heal me.
"How about a football?"
"No, thank you. I just want a doll like grandma's."
"Are you sure you don't want a football?"
I stood my ground. I got my doll. Now, more than 50 years and a black eye (for the doll) later, my son has that doll. It's wearing sailor outfit, custom-made by my mom. So back off, y'all; it may be a doll, but it's also a sailor with a black eye.
So, I have no problem with Jay playing with dolls, or with a doll house. So goes our story for today...
We took Jay to another visit at Stuntman School (tumbling class) today. He did great. He was a fanatical volunteer every time Miss Candace needed to demonstrate a new move (God help the child that tries to get in front of him for that job). He mostly waited his turn at the stations, and bounced and bounced and had a blast. We went to Friendly's for lunch where the bouncing continued. Eighty percent of the table was cleared, blocked off, and declared a tremor zone. We escaped with minimal damage, and went in search of another outlet for his energy. The bouncy house place at the mall was closed (seriously? on a Wednesday afternoon?). So we headed into downtown Rutland (VT) in hopes of visiting the children's museum. It, too, was closed. It was cold and blustery outside, the streets and sidewalks had a bit of ice and snow, and crutching back uphill to our parking spot was not an inviting proposition. We ducked into a toy store to warm up.
My friend Donna recently posted a meme on my Facebook timeline that said, "A toddler is like having a blender without a lid." If that's true (and I'm here to tell you it is), I'm thinking a toddler in a toy store is like a Tasmanian devil with a lawnmower.
Jay started by emptying the basket of balls onto the floor. There were fourteen balls. I know because "Help us count them and put them back" failed completely, pathetically.
He found a play house set with lots of colorful-looking parts pictured on the side of the box. He dragged the box like a wrecking ball down the aisle. Laura asked him if he wanted it. I think she's been wanting to give him a doll house for quite a while.
Jay said "YES!!!" He threw the box her way and moved on.
He moved a Bruder truck aside to pull out the bunny rabbit play house. He played with the demo set, pulling out all of the little drawers and overturning all of the furniture. There were wounded and distressed bunnies everywhere, lying face down and in other less-than-natural postures. He moved on to paint sets, trying to rip out particular colors ("I want PURPLE!"), dragging a box of gouache tubes and one of my crutches down the center aisle of the store. I hopped and staggered behind.
He stopped. "Sorry, Daddy." He handed me my crutch.
And bolted again. But, he wanted to play fair. Bless his manic little heart.
At the back of the store, a blue cloud arose. At least I knew where to find him. Little pink dresses wilted, plastic bunnies cried out, then melted. My dear boy continued running until he found a rubber bouncy horse. What does one do with a rubber bouncy horse?
Mount up and bounce. Bouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncybouncy...
...the blue cloud thickened.
He dismounted, grabbed a couple of toys off the shelf and bolted for the front door. When Jay reached the cashier stand, he noticed something in the front window.
"Clifford!" There was a Clifford the Big Red Dog something-or-other in the window. It stopped him. Laura handed me the diaper bag. The shop owner that yes, they had a bathroom and changing table in the back, but could we please be sure to take out our stinkies? Jay and I were led through the curtain to the back of the shop, and into the bathroom.
I closed the door, and began laying out the things I would need- pad to cover the store's changing pad, a diaper, wipes (LOTS of wipes), and a plastic bag to haul off The Offensives. I turned around and Jay was washing his hands.
In the toilet.
Thankfully I was able to convey, through my best OMFG countenance, that he should just submit and lie quietly on the table. The diaper change was epic (remember the rubber bouncy horse?). Words fail me. Of course, Jay found a way to break the mood. He began singing one of the more obscure songs on his favorite Ozomatli CD.
"We are the OZO Kids,
And we came here to ROCK with YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU".
I didn't even know he knew that song. Nestled between favorites "Moose on the Loose" and "Germs" on the CD, he never wanted to listen to it all the way through. Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay...I joined in. We are the OZO kids...
I finished and put him down. He pulled out a step stool (which I hadn't even seen), climbed onto it, and said, "I need to wash my hands." GOD I love that boy. We both washed our hands with extra soap, extra water, and extra scrubbing.
I was putting everything back into the diaper bag when the bathroom door flew open, and he was loose in the BACK of the toy store. Between me and him were two askew crutches and a half-filled diaper bag, with the shoulder strap tangled in a crutch. There, just outside the door, was a tall stack of rubber bouncy horses in boxes. He grabbed the bottom box. "Daddy! I want it!" I got a hand on the bottom box and another on the top, and squeezed. The stack stayed together, and I returned it to its vertical state. He shrieked, and grabbed again and again. The Kitchen-Do maneuvers I've been practicing came in handy as I blocked move after move. He stopped and shifted to a new attack.
"Okay, how about THIS?" He began dismantling a play kitchen set. I picked him up with my left arm, threw both crutches under my right arm, and turned him away. I set him back down, and asked him to go through the curtain and find Mommy. Thankfully, and for no rhyme or reason, he did. She was at the cashier stand, where she had purchased the doll house. It had one hundred and thirty-nine pieces, over a hundred of which are choking hazards.
Jay was so frantic to get to his new toy that he could barely get into his car seat. I finally strapped him in, and plopped the box onto his lap. He was thrilled. I truly think the box was gift enough. The unopened box held the fantasy of play yet to come, the promise of adventures yet to unfold. His right hand moved over the top to death-grip the handle; his left pulled it securely to his chest. As he fell asleep, the box began to slip. His last flickers of consciousness were spent trying desperately to hold on. Finally slumber and gravity reigned, as they always do.
When we got home, Laura decided all of the parts should come out. She and Jay set up the house. They lovingly, tenderly, put together the parts, and decorated the house. They fed the dolls pretend turkey, they gave them pretend baths, and rocked the baby in the cradle. Then Jay provided them with pretend terror, rocking the house in classic 1970's disaster-movie fashion. The doll house, designed to fold neatly together for carrying, came apart at the hinges. Furniture and bodies poured out onto the floor. Choking hazards were scattered to the winds.
Jayzilla hath wrought his havoc.
Eventually order was restored, and the house was rebuilt so well I could feel the collective shudder of All-State agents from all over the country. Policies were re-written; I'm sorry sir/ ma'am, but Jayzilla insurance is not available in your area.
Jay was tired, finally, and it was time for milk and stories.
I felt like I'd spent my entire day in a blender. Little did I know I was just getting started.