Uncle Jeff (my husband's brother) lives with his wife and two children in Germany. He is the kindest Uncle anyone could ever wish for and since he has fond memories of his own boyhood days, he always knows just what toys will be appreciated here at Christmas. A box from him is sure to bring smiles all around. This year he sent the boys a beautiful set of wooden blocks designed to be a marble run, complete with a little dinging bell that hangs from a red-and-white striped string and rings when the marbles pass-- down the inclines, through the shoots and around the bends. This marked the first entry of marbles into our house... and I had a feeling it might end badly. There are just too many possibilities for disaster...
But, you see, at the ripe old age of thirty-three, I have already begun to suffer somewhat from a syndrome commonly found in older mothers-- a syndrome marked by unexplainable acceptance of things previously deemed unacceptable. I don't mean really bad things. I mean things like sugary cereal, plastic toys, singing purple dinosaurs, and--in this house anyway-- marbles. I wouldn't want to give you the impression that I have thrown in the towel, given up all but the most strictly necessary standards, or that I am letting my household run amok. Neither am I regretting any standards I may have set for myself and my family in the past. If one does not have standards, what does one relax? And if one does not have rules, how does one make exception? Rather, imagine a kind of softening-- a sort of mellowing-- or aging, like a fine wine. OK, maybe more like a stick of butter left out on the counter.
In any case, I am surprised to find that this softening is not due so much to being tired and worn thin as it is the result of a certain growing realization that these children will not be little forever, and if they don't have marbles now...when will they? And if they don't eat the occasional Pop Tart or Hostess cupcake now-- when they don't have to fret about their health or weight quite to the degree we do -- when will they? And if that less-than-sightly toy gives them many hours of constructive play... why throw it away after they have gone to bed?
But it wasn't long after these gracious thoughts that I found myself fishing a marble out of a toilet bowl and it was shortly after that, that I found one in the garbage disposal. It wasn't until my washing machine started rattling when it was in the spin cycle, however, that I declared war on those colorful little balls of glass.
"It sounds like something is rolling around in there," said the appliance repair man.
"Like a marble." I replied with audible certainty.
"I don't know M'am, we'll see."
"You were right," he said later (surprised) handing me the marble.
"Uh-hu." I said (not-surprised) writing him a check for $75.00
I put that marble away in a safe place and hunted for the others. I found all but two and squirreled these away from the children, keeping watch-- always-- for those missing two.
Now enter (stage left) the irresistible Nicholas Justin. He is twenty-two months and brimming with personality, just now showing itself in all its complexity and endearing all those who know him. Though he speaks quite well, there are three phrases that he uses most often...
'Pen de doora: "Open the the door." Derived-- obviously and brilliantly-- from the way an open door opens possibilities. If he wants a jar open he says, 'Pen de dorra. If he wants the television on he asks, 'Pen de doora?
Ook-a-me: "Look at me." Often uttered when he puts something on his head, usually underwear.
I-ya-you: "I love you." This one kills me. Absolutely kills me. It turns me to jelly and when he says it in that sweet sing-y voice of his, I will 'pen nearly any doora he asks for.
And thus it happened. Nicholas came running to to me shouting 'Pen de doora, 'Pen de doora. I did not understand. OOk-a me, he said and I followed him. He led me upstairs and into the big boys' room still shouting in distress. 'Pen de doora. He crawled up onto Simeon's bed and showed me.
There, in the bed post where there is a hole for the wooden peg that would hold the bunks together,were they bunked, were the two missing marbles. They had been dropped inside and were beyond reach.
'Pen de dorra, 'Pen de doora. Nicholas begged.
First, I tried reaching them with a pen. The pen was too wide. I found an exacto-knife and tried to pry them out, but the angle was wrong. Next, I tried a butter knife, but that didn't work either...
Pen de doora, Pen de doora Nicholas cried, and I thought a moment. Then, Nicholas reached in with his finger and the top marble stuck to his finger for moment... before it fell back onto the other. That's it, I realized, we need something sticky to get them out. I found some putty and stuck it to the end of a pencil. I lowered it into the bed post and stuck it to the topmost marble. It stuck. I lifted it out. It worked! I retrieved the second marble in the same way and Nicholas watched me all the while with glee.
When I finally removed the second marble he was clapping and shouting with joy. He took them both and headed out the door.
"Wait," I called, wondering if I shouldn't take them from him on the spot. "What do you say?"
"I-ya-you," he said in that sweet sing-songy voice and that was enough. I was satisfied. He was gone.
...Well, it was partly my fault that that marble got stuck in the washing machine pump anyway, I thought to myself. I should have checked pockets more carefully...
I know...I know...I have to get them back.