Jack Butler: [Trying to get Kenny to give up his security blanket] I understand that you little guys start out with your woobies and you think they're great… and they are, they are terrific. But pretty soon, a woobie isn't enough. You're out on the street trying to score an electric blanket, or maybe a quilt. And the next thing you know, you're strung out on bedspreads, Ken. And that's serious.
—Mr. Mom (1983)
I actually got to do a paper on the film Mr. Mom when I was in college. Being a Communications student was a riot.
When I was a kid, my little brother had a stuffed monkey. This thing followed him everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE: to the table at meals, to the bathroom, in the car, they slept in the same bed together…I’m sure you know the drill. Either you had this kind of attachment to something, or one of your siblings did, or you’re a parent and know the score. You don’t mess with the monkey.
My neighbor S is returning to China sometime tomorrow to finish out her year of International Law study. For whatever reason, the plane she’s taking is leaving out of Newark Airport, so they decided to pack up her stuff early and then she, and her husband B, and their two kids would ride up to Newark and just be in town in plenty of time to catch her plane. The kids, both girls, are (almost) three and six years old. The three-year-old is also going to China. And yes, she’s bilingual now, although she only speaks Chinese to the Chinese people and only English to the Americans. So if you want her to tell you the Chinese word for something, you have to ask her, “What does Ayi [the nanny] call it?”
This morning, a few of us put together a Farewell Brunch which I hosted: French Toast, Bacon, Sausage, Eggs, assorted pastries from Woodlea Bakery (Fenwick’s is closed on Sundays, and that’s a whole nother blog post), and mimosas or hot beverage. S & B asked a small favor of us: their teenage son has a test tomorrow at school, so he couldn’t go to Newark with them. He’s going to stay at the house, so could we pop in on him and make sure he’s OK? Certainly, we said.
Since the rest of the afternoon promised to be pretty crazy, we said our goodbyes then and there, and they went back home. We kept the boy behind and dragooned him into helping us clean up around the house, which was fine by his parents. After dinner we sent him to his house and made sure that he was well-armed with the usual warnings.
At a little after 9:00, the phone rang. It was S, asking me if we were still awake. Of course we are, it’s not that late. Apparently there was a crisis. I looked out the window to see if their house was still there. It was, and it wasn’t even on fire. That wasn’t the problem.
The problem was that the three-year-old had left her stuffed Piggy back at home. Piggy, of course, is her version of my brother’s Monkey: it goes pretty much everywhere. So here are her parents, who were moments from entering the New Jersey Turnpike, realizing that they have to turn around and go back to Baltimore because there’s no way that S is going to get on a plane for sixteen hours with a kid going through Piggy Withdrawal. So she called me to let me know that they’re already heading back, and would I do them the huge favor of meeting them partway with Piggy? Of course, I said. I dispatched Wife to get Piggy from next door, while I put on my shoes.
Into the car, fired up the iPod, and…crap. I need to get gas. OK, detour to the Texaco station around the corner and now I’m ready to hit the road.
About thirty minutes later I pulled into the Maryland House, somewhere around Mile Marker 81. I did a quick sweep of the parking lot but I didn’t see their car. Then I realized that Maryland House has two lots, each one used primarily by drivers going in a specific direction. I was in the Northbound drivers’ lot. I worked my way around the building and looked again. Sure enough, their car was in the second lot, the one for Southbounders. B was in the building, presumably in the rest room, but he was emerging as I crossed from my car to theirs. S was dozing in the passenger seat but brightened as soon as she saw me. She got out of the car and they both gave me Thank You hugs & kisses. Then S said, “You’re going to blog this, aren’t you.”
“Of course I am,” I said. “I had Wife take pictures before I left so I’d have artwork for the post.”
As a gesture of gratitude, B offered me a fifth of whatever I wanted when he got back from Newark. I declined the offer.
Because this is what you do sometimes. And you don’t mess with a kid’s Monkey. Or their Piggy.