Saturday, March 30, 2013

Simulacra


My husband showed me photos of our son climbing ("kime-nin" in toddler-speak) like a fox upon fallen limbs. Our son loves the "whootsz" - the woods. He's so easy and agile, ready to clamber down any eroded stream bank, plunge his finger deep into any rotten log to make a home for "ahntsz" - ants.

Show him a pile of plastic debris and he'll play with that, too. Kitchen sets. Play houses. Slides.

Shame on you, toy manufacturers of the 1970s that remain in business today... As a child, I loved your, well, plastic, toys, but they had details, angles, edges. They were better than the bloated, featureless blobs that we give our kids to play with in 2013.

Notably, those bloated blob toys look so much like the bloated blob cars that fill up the dealership lots. Many adults like those blobs.

Let's do a side by side comparison:

Chevy Chevelle. My parents drove a Chevelle until a drunk cracked it up. He drove up our lawn, knocked over our lamp post, and totaled this beauty as it sat parked in our driveway. I cried over it because my mother cried. 

 I played with this Fisher-Price barn. Then my brother did. And now, my son does. YOU COULD KILL A MAN WITH THOSE HARD EDGES. NOT SAFE.

I would never drive a Chey Cruz. The styling is awful. Non-existant. I bet a collision with white tailed deer fawn would crunch this thing. I hope none of my friends or family, current or future, drive a Chevy Cruz and are offended by my comments. But this car looks like it was built from Legos and then superheated to smooth the edges. Confession - I do drive a Toyota RAV4 as does half of New Jersey drivers. It has poor styling, too, but I can get out of mud, snow, and the pot holes on my lane.

 Unlike the vintage Fisher Price barn, no child or man or mother will be impaled to death by this toy. All edges are rounded. So much so that you may not even recognize that it is, in fact, a barn. Luckily, it's red. In college I learned about signs and simulacra by reading Jean Baudrillard's work, so I know red building + animals = barn.

I do know that I will be bored to death by the animals that are stuck in place (if they were removable, it would be a CHOKING HAZARD). Wait, the sheep slides back and forth, offering realistic dynamism akin to a barnyard. "During 2003--2007, deaths occurring in the production of crops and animals in the United States totaled 2,334; of these, 108 (5%) involved cattle as either the primary or secondary cause." To read more, visit the CDC website.

***

Recently, Beren and I made yet another failed attempt to meet other mothers and kids his age. We arrived at the play group location. The building was dark and the door locked. We were let in by the fellow who has mopping the floors. "Changed that group to Tuesdays, I believe," he told me. Two kids ran around the darkened play area, observed by their childcare provider.  "Oh,"I said.

"Do you want to play with these kids, Beren?" I asked. "Looks like fun." He nuzzled his head into my neck. Reeling from the smell of Clean Green, we exited to the courtyard which was filled with big plastic stuff.



"Monkey, monkey," Beren repeated as he pulled at the animals on one toy. I couldn't be sure, but he seemed confident. Toy manufacturers not only make hideous, mostly featureless animal figurines, when animals are given features, those features are stupid. Truly stupid-looking. I have taken permanent marker to multiple toys to repair cross-eyed pigs, cows, and leopards. 

 Beren began to pick up handfuls of rocks, so I suggested we fill up the bizarre tube with the stones. He  added stalks of plants. The plant world and the plastic world cannot live side by side. The weeds looked so out of place - organic, brittle, with the possibility of becoming wet and softened - changing once again.

Once a plastic thing is done honking, twirling, and lighting up, it cracks and fades. That's it. And that is why this toy, an indoor toy, was abandoned outside to deteriorate - no one would want to keep this toy around and pass it on to their future grandchildren. It's too ugly. It's garbage.

Beren and I played in the courtyard for forty-five minutes. The sun was pleasant. Running from plastic junk-bucket to featureless blob, I could see my son was enjoying himself. I can rip it apart long after my son has gone to sleep for the night, but while he's awake, I won't be a killjoy.

 After our failed playgroup attempt, I checked the time. My perfectly planned day - playgroup, picnic lunch, and then an appointment with our accountant (a generous man, who said "Ok to bring the baby.  A little noise may be a nice change." Of course, Beren was absolutely silent.) was rearranged.

Stupidly, I opted to go to Nassau Park Boulevard shopping malls to try to find Beren rain boots that actually fit. His current boots are two sizes too large. Draw some cross eyes on me - we should have walked along the Canal.

From Kohl's to Dick's to Famous Footwear to Target (their stance on GMO labeling - they don't want the labels - makes me hate the idea of shopping there) to Babies R Us. I explained to Beren, who was a great sport, "Your boots are too big. You like to run. It's tough to run in big boots." When I asked how many stores we had been to, he replied, "Ahnudah."

From then on, each time I mentioned "shoes" or "shoe store", he corrected me, "Bhootsz,"he'd say. We found one pair of red Mickey Mouse boots for boys at Babies R Us, our last stop. We tried them on. He pointed to the girl's magenta boots with polka dots, "Spots, spots." I wavered, and decided on neither. Too short. We like deep puddles, was my excuse for not obliging my son's wish for magenta polka dotted boots.

We stood in line for a pair of red sunglasses I had selected for my fair son. We were behind a tired, hungry kid who demanded Reese's Peanut Butter Cups of his mother and her companion. C'mon store merchandisers...what does crummy chocolate have to do with cribs and breast pumps?

"Candy is after lunch. You can have almond butter and crackers for lunch," the companion replied. "NO NO NO. Just crackers," wailed the boy. Beren clung to my side. It was 2 p.m., way past lunchtime. Don't let me get too uppity because on the following day, the afternoon sped by, and I fed my own tired, hungry son lunch at 2 p.m.

Candy was tossed into their cart. I felt a light tug at my hand. I let Beren guide me to the candy. He lifted and placed my hand on the Reese's bag. I felt my heart soften, but said "No, I'm sorry, bub, that belongs to the store, not us."

The companion heard me. I felt bad. I felt like I had showed off a little and should have whispered to Beren. I felt bad for her, the mother, the boy. I wondered, about myself, a mother at the cusp of her child realizing that certain items come home with us, what I would do. My son, tired and hungry, myself, tired and hungry, at the end of a shopping trip, faced with an aisle of candy. And, my son does love chocolate. "Tawh-kit."
Parked outside the accountant's office. How did, when did you get so big? Will you finally fit into your big boots once I finally find you a another pair? 

We emerged from the store with sunglasses I could not be sure that my son would wear. In the car, I nursed him and watched his eyelids become heavy. I buckled him into the carseat. Down the road, he demanded his sippy cup and fell silent. I looked back, and he was asleep. Worn out from a day negotiating plastic debris.

Once we arrived at the accountant's office, I let him sleep a little longer. When I pulled him from the car, I pointed out the puddles in the parking lot. He's typically difficult to wake and difficult upon waking, but instead he strode to the puddles and began to splash.

"We have an appointment with Ed, our accountant," I told Beren, thinking the big words would express gravitas - this will be an experience of the boring, inexplicable adult world in which a child is required to behave well.

"Poynment," Beren replied. "Did you just say 'appointment'?' I asked. Back to the puddles.

1 comment:

  1. this is such a great post. one of my favorite cars is the 1986 Nissan Pulsar...you know what else i have noticed? if you see an old "deer crossing" sign with the leaping deer from 10-20 years ago, the deer is thinner and more muscular. the new recent ones have a fatter deer. i'm not kidding. at least that's how they look to me. i chalk it all up to a fattening and dumbing down of americ....well you know where this is going so i better stop xo. e

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