Tuesday, July 21, 2009

If You Want to Be Starting Something

Once upon a Presidents' Weekend time, we drove up to the Bay Area to visit some good friends and their kids. These road-trip visits, where you sleep over two nights at one house and two more at another's, are kind of a dream for small children in that they are a tour, in effect, of Other Kids' Toys.

I have always marveled at the ease with which children acclimate to others' homes. They dig right in to the toys and ransack cupboards, flinging items behind them like someone looking through the dryer for a wayward sock. It's overwhelming, the number of gadgets and gizmos to inspect in the limited amount of time the average playdate provides, so there's a certain frantic pace to the playing, especially at an unfamiliar home.

All this Toy Envy begets borrowing, and, well, pilfering, necessitating parents frisking their own children before they head out the door, like security guards when the alarm goes off at Target.

I try to imagine an adult version of this kind of home invasion, which would look like, I think, either a rather vicious ransacking of one's friends' home, or a more benign but blatant and compulsive inventory of their CD collection, bookshelves, refrigerator, and liquor and medicine cabinets, commenced immediately after an obligatory hello to the host at the door.

Our Presidents' Weekend Tour of Toys began at the home of some friends with two daughters our daughters' ages. And it was only a matter of minutes before the quartet had begun assessing and admiring one another's Polly Pockets, Pet Shops, and Ponies. Among our Northern Friends' cherished Plastic Playthings were some Barbie dolls.

These were not just any old Barbies; these high-heeled hobblers had the added virtue of singing songs (from the complementary movies!) with just the push of buttons disguised as a necklaces. Maybe not the most annoying toys, but certainly not the ones you want your child to take to bed with her or find first thing in the morning, before you've had your coffee.

This particular weekend, however, Island Princess Barbie and her friend Diamond Castle Princess Barbie had worn out their welcome at the Master's house. Dad was DONE. Each time he observed our three-year-old toting one of the temptresses, he threatened to give her to us. He even told his wife of his plan to send us home with both Singing Barbies. "Oh, honey," she warned him, "You'll break our own three-year-old's heart."

Undaunted, he waited till we were safely several miles away en route to our next destination before he texted me that a little gift for our daughters was hidden in our car. One pit stop later, and our preschooler was the triumphant new owner of Island Princess herself.

"If you keep her dress on," our kindergartner helpfully noted, "she doesn't sing as loudly, Mom and Dad."

Fast forward to summer, now, when this very same family returned the favor and visited us. Out of our daughters' bedroom emerged their three-year-old yesterday, Island Princess Barbie in hand and sad expression on wee face. "I useded to have a Barbie like this, but I can't finded it..." She shook her head and looked lovingly at the doll.

"That IS your Barbie," my first grader confessed. "Your dad gave it to us!"

"But it's mine now!" wailed my three-year-old.

And what came next is not worth recording play by play, except to note that the two three-year-olds had a good old-fashioned throwdown over the chanteuse, which required the two moms to caucus and sequester Island Princess in an Undisclosed Location.

But when we all loaded up in our vans for a trip to Sea World, I ran back into the house for Barbie, wrapped her in a plastic bag, and shoved her into the unsuspecting hands of my good friend. "Imagine the joy your daughter will feel when on your long car ride home she rediscovers her long-lost toy!" I offered rapturously.

She was skeptical. I was resolute. I was imagining her husband's face when Island Princess broke into song for the first time from the back of the van.

And so Island Princess makes the journey back to her original home. I suspect, however, that she will reappear.

Maybe because of two messages I received from my buddy, father of two sweet little Bay Area girls. One said something to the effect of, "I'm pissed," and the other: "It's ON."


steve jones said...

way too funny!!! i bet that doll will travel the state many times over the next few years...

Mama Deb said...

Love this!! And so grateful to have boys so that I don't ever have the chance of encountering Island Barbie:)

We had a similar, fun escapade with some friends way-back-when that involved Billy the Big Mouth Trout. You know, the one who sings 'Don't Worry, Be Happy?!'

Kris said...

These Barbies are such ho-bags anymore!

Heather P. C. said...

I followed the link to "most annoying toys ever" and read the break-up letters, both Missy's to the puppy and yours to pregnancy. I loved them! Not only was yours hilarious (as was Missy's), but it was also extremely touching...I don't know why, maybe because there's something inherently sad and wonderful about saying good-bye to a pregnancy. I shall most definitely be assigning this task (the letter, not a pregnancy--ack, no!) to future students.