We have these friends Craig and Tricia who have three girls. Girl One is a tween (let’s all pause in prayer for their future sanity, shall we?) and the twins are in the first grade.
There is a lot about parenting that is not gender-specific. I don’t care whether you have boys or girls or a mix, there’s a certain amount of puking and whining and don’t-make-me-tell-you-again that can’t be avoided. There are differences, though. I’ve never yet found a naked Barbie on the floor in my own house. No one has ever spilled nail polish on the carpet. (Not even me, which is saying something.) So while I despair of ever, ever, ever in my life teaching my little darlings to take some care in the bathroom and not spray like roving tomcats, a lot of things are easier, like clothes.
This will undoubtedly change at some point, but currently my children care very little about their clothes. They would prefer if possible never to wear any, and the fact that they’ve had almost no new clothing since they grew out of the stuff we got at the baby shower (I love hand-me-downs so much we’re thinking of running away to Vegas together) … well, they haven’t even noticed.
And so it is that while Tricia and I both consider the shopping mall one of Dante’s circles of hell, only she has to pass through the gates of the doomed to go shopping for Easter dresses every year. A couple of years ago, the twins’ preschool teachers thought it would be hilarious to make sure this was even harder by sending Pinky the Pig home with one of the twins that week*. Pinky, see, was the classroom stuffed pig, and she got to spend a week at home with each member of the class. During that week, the kid in question is charged with creating a photo documentary of Pinky’s adventures and bringing a scrapbook page back to school.
You may have cottoned on to the fact that I am not a Pinterest Mom. I am terrible at cute projects. Terrible. I hosted a stuffed Minion in my home for several days recently under circumstances similar to those of Pinky, and I mostly just tried to keep the boys from actually removing the stuffing. (Success!) Tricia – and this may be a factor in our friendship – is much the same. Pinky did not visit a model of the Eiffel Tower while wearing a jaunty beret. She did not pose in a chef’s hat while making child-shaped cut out cookies. Pinky went Easter dress shopping. Because that’s what was happening anyway. Get with the program, Pinky. Off they all went, Tricia and her mother-in-law and three girls and the pig, to the
torture chamber mall.
Pinky was causing some problems. It’s rough with twins sometimes, because maybe even more than other siblings, they want everything to be faaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiir. And like other siblings, fair is subjective and mostly unrelated to historical fact. So time with the pig was an issue. And, as it turns out, it is not okay to leave a stuffed pig in the car. (I couldn’t find a statute on the books for this, and I’m not convinced one exists, but the girls seemed pretty sure at the time, I guess.)
Tricia, like any mother who has ever ending up carrying all the stuff everybody else dragged along, did not want the pig to come in, but was worn down by the opposition. “FINE!” she said, “Whatever. But YOU are carrying Pinky, and YOU are responsible for her.”
Clothes shopping with kids went the way clothes shopping with kids goes, which is to say something between waterboarding and a root canal. You can’t be hungry, we just had lunch. PUT THAT DOWN! Not that one, your father would have a stroke. No, I don’t have any snacks. Stop swinging the pig; you’re going to hit someone. I know you think the neck will itch, but just try it on. I’m begging you. Oh, for Pete’s sake, we ate half an hour ago! Stop swinging the pig, I said!!
So there was definitely a headache brewing but things were survivable. Then they went back into the dressing room to try on another dress, and the girl currently holding the pig took one more big forbidden swing, and accidentally let go.
And Pinky disappeared.
Poof. Gone. She rose up, up, up, in an arc toward the ceiling, and never came down.
After a short, stunned silence, panic set in. This was not just a toy, my friends, this was Pinky the Pig. All the hopes and dreams and joys of a classroom full of preschool scholars was riding on this pig. And the Keeper of the Pig sat down on the floor and cried her little heart out, because it was all her fault.
At this point, there are a number of things vying for space in any parent’s head.
- It. Is. Just. A. Toy. Pull yourself together, child.
- Poor kid. What if she has to go back to school and say she lost the pig?
- I really do not need this right now.
- How does a pig DISAPPEAR?
- Really, really don’t need this.
- WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT SWINGING THE $&#*# PIG?
- Seriously, what on earth? It can’t actually be gone.
So they looked everywhere in that little dressing room. They looked in the dressing rooms on either side. They looked in the hall. They looked on the ceiling. They may have tried to take the mirror off the wall and check behind it; I’m not sure. Luckily, they were the only ones in the dressing room, but it wasn’t long before a saleswoman walked back and said, hesitantly, “Ehrm … can I help you with anything, ladies?”
And that is how it came about that my friend was standing in the dressing room at Dillard’s explaining that they were fine but a pig had disappeared, and hoping that the saleswoman wasn’t going to ask if she’d like to be fitted for a nice comfortable straitjacket in a spring color.
She didn’t mention straitjackets, fortunately. Moved by experience with children or compassion for the heartbroken little waif on the floor or just really excellent customer service training, she joined the search. No pig. She pulled in a coworker to help. No pig.
So she called maintenance. And again, parental brain space was torn between competing thoughts:
- Why is this happening to me? Why am I here? Why did I want these children?
- They are being really nice. Now we have to get the dresses here.
- Pinky the Pig can go to the devil.
After some time, the maintenance man strolled up and asked what the problem was. “I bet I know what happened,” he said. It turns out that the tops of those walls in dressing rooms aren’t solid. So it would be possible to throw something up in the air and have it come down between the walls of the dressing rooms. Things were not looking good for Pinky, and an atmosphere of gloom descended.
But the maintenance man went and got a ladder and hauled himself up there. And laughed.
The open-top construction of the walls included places where the rods crossed each other. And in a corner forming a triangle, there was Pinky, perched on top, in a hidden corner behind the wall.
The hero of the day got hugs from little girls and a nutty story to tell his dinner companions. The saleswoman got the business. Pinky got a stand-out page in her photo documentary. Tricia got a very large margarita**.
Best of all, the next time we were together, we all got a retelling of the adventures of Pinky the Pig that took us to what my friend Steph has identified as the perfect point of laughter. Right where you can’t stop laughing, have trouble breathing, have to wipe your eyes, and you go right to the edge (but not over) of literally wetting your pants.
Oh, Pinky. If you’re still circulating, I hope you get to go shopping again soon.
*Yes, I know it wasn’t on purpose. It just seemed that way. We love you, teachers. We do.
** I made that last one up. I have no idea if she got a margarita. It just sounded good there.