Most of us remember that one special toy we had when we were little that bordered on being an imaginary friend. Mine was a plushie dinosaur I named Scary because my parents told me that “Dino” wasn’t creative enough. (He’s still around, in fact. They knew how to make toys in the 80’s.)
When Aurie, my oldest, was about two, she fixated on a giant pink hippo chair that she named Spiderman:
Giant pink hippo Spiderman’s demise had less to do with a manufacturing error and more to do with a feline companion we had at the time. Kitty, being a cat and thus evil as the nine hells, deluged sloppy turds, turds that smelled like week-old garbage tossed in salmon and expired mayo, all over Spiderman’s poor plushie lap. (Right about where that kid is, actually…)
It was a horrific end even Stan Lee couldn’t have seen coming.
I remember sneaking out in the middle of the night and hauling Spiderman’s big, dead, pink hippo ass to one of the apartment complex’s industrial sized dumpsters. The only onlookers at his interment were drug dealers and college students right out of a Kevin Smith movie, and these trenchcoated denizens of the ghetto regarded me strangely as I committed the atrocious act of consigning my daughter’s most prized possession to oblivion. So much shame.
Then, in the morning, came the inevitable question.
“Daddy? Where’s Spiderman?”
So Daddy (hey, that’s me!) went out and bought little Aurie a real Spiderman chair! Spiderman chair 2.0 said all kinds of interesting phrases when you sat down… in his lap. -.-
Little Aurie pretended to be happy, but it wasn’t really the same. Em and I, of course, were traumatized by this toy (he kept talking about his web balls!) that at first seemed like a viable replacement for pink hippo Spiderman but later reminded us of the kind of thing you’d see in the bargain section of a Fascinations Sensual Superstore.
A few months later, we moved out of the ghetto. Spiderman stayed there to “clean up the neighborhood”, and Aurie eventually forgot about him.
It was about this time that we bought Mr. Quack Quack. Aurie didn’t initially have that much of a connection to the toy, but Em and I pushed it. Em was afraid she was going to be into boys too early. I, ever the pragmatist, was more afraid that she was never going to find out that Spiderman is a total dweeb compared to Wolverine and Thor.
And so it soon came to pass that Aurie had a Mrs. Quack Quack. And, for Easter, a Baby Quack Quack. A whole gaggle of Quack Quacks. She played house with them. A few years passed, and Kiera began to play with them too. Then came Mr. Gram, our Golden Retriever who made it his mission in life to misappropriate these beloved iconic family trophies for chew toys. Em patched a seam here, they went through the wash a few times, and Baby Quack Quack lost an eye to the dogs, but overall, I thought the Quack Quack family was a happy family.
Then, almost overnight, there were no more Quack Quacks about.
The other day, I heard from Em that Aurie, who is now in third grade, has a crush on some boy in her class. Apparently, he “makes her heart flutter”. That’s right. You heard me. Flutter.
This came a couple months after Aurie’s birthday, on which her grandmother gave her deodorant and a training bra. That’s right. You heard me. Deodorant and a training bra.
So, in what was probably a subconscious effort to ignore the real issue, I asked Aurie why I didn’t see her hanging out with Mr. Quack Quack anymore. Her answer astounded me, and I hope to God it isn’t some metaphor for how she sees our family life.
Aurie: Mr. Quack Quack? I go over to his house all the time, but he has plans.
Aurie: Yeah, that’s what he tells me. He always has plans. The last time I was there, he yelled at me in the Quack Quack language and chased me out with a mop!
Me: That wasn’t very nice of him, was it?
Aurie: It’s not his fault though, Daddy! Mr. Quack Quack is stressed. He has a hard life.
(At this point, I looked over at the plushie on the nightstand, and he appeared to be brooding… very Twilight Zone.)
Me: Umm… So, what’s so hard about Mr. Quack Quack’s life?
Aurie: It’s his situation, Daddy. He can’t find a job because he doesn’t speak English. All he can say is, “Quack quack!” No one understands him but Mrs. Quack Quack–he tells her things, and then she has to explain everything for him. But she can’t go to his job interviews with him because she works all day and all night at a taco stand to pay the bills. They never see each other.
Me: Wait a minute! The Quack Quacks have bills?
Aurie: Yeah, they rent. They all live in a beaver damn with holes in it, and Mr. Quack Quack is always mopping. He needs a job really badly, but he can’t get one because all he can say is, “Quack quack!” Plus, he has to take care of his baby all day. Baby Quack Quack should be in kindergarten already, but they can’t afford it because he needs to go to a special school.
Me: Why does Baby Quack Quack need to go to a special school?
Aurie: (as if addressing the biggest idiot in existence) Because he doesn’t have eyes, Daddy. He needs to go to a special school like Helen Keller. Don’t you remember when we read about Helen Keller?
Aurie: Mr. Quack Quack just needs some space right now. Besides, he’s a lousy cook. All he knows how to make are fishsticks and fish rolls, and Baby Quack Quack can’t stand them, but Baby Quack Quack can’t tell him because he doesn’t understand the Quack Quack language. Those mean beavers are probably going to make him a hobo soon, anyway. They’re going to break down his house with big logs because he can’t pay his bills.
Me: It sounds to me like Mr. Quack Quack needs to find a high paying gig so Mrs. Quack Quack can quit her job and take care of the baby. Couldn’t he interview at some place where the boss speaks the Quack Quack language?
Aurie: He tried that, but his car broke down on the way to the job. His car is a death trap.
Me: (curiously, and a little afraid) What’s wrong with his car?
Aurie: (after describing my p.o.s down to the last nut and bolt) So when his car broke down, everybody in traffic got mad at him. He shook his fist and yelled, “Quack quack! Quack quack! Quack quack!” But nobody understood him. Then the cops came and took him to jail. Mrs. Quack Quack had to leave the taco stand to bail him out, and that cost even more money. They didn’t even pay her in dollars that week. Just gross fish tacos. Baby Quack Quack pretended to eat them and then put them in the toilet…
This went on for another 20 minutes or so before I put Aurie to bed. I had been worried about training bras, deodorant, and a silly third grade crush. Apparently, I’d missed immigration, the recession, special education reform, kids not being able to communicate with their parents, and some really pissed off mafia beaver land lords.
Fat pink hippo Spiderman chair, wherever you are, I’m so sorry. There are no words. Please come back! :-((((