Last night we were driving home from a fairly late dinner with friends and their son when our car - which, poor thing, has so many problems, not the least of which is a failing transmission system we have been too broke to replace - started sounding even more pathetic than usual. We had just gotten on the expressway and we were about forty-five minutes from home, when it started to sound like there was a jet tailgating us, then it quickly became wobbly, and it's been many years since I slept through a Driver's Ed class, but still I know that you can't or at the very least shouldn't drive too long while wobbly, so we moved onto the shoulder of the road. John went out to inspect and you know that things are scary with your car when you're hoping for a flat tire versus some other, more sinister sight. Well, we got what was behind Curtain Number Two and that was a brake pad that had dissolved like a sugar cube with hot bits of sharp metal all around the back tire in its wake. Luckily, a helpful state trooper in a very reassuring trooper-y hat pulled over and called a tow truck for us, which apparently means that assistance has to arrive within thirty minutes as opposed to if we just called, which would have the sort of commanding effect of a meek, "Um, hey. Could, like, someone help me and my family out when you get a spare minute? Yeah, I'll just be hanging out." So, anyway, the state trooper called for us, a tow truck arrived about a half hour later, a really nice guy got our car all hooked up and he drove us all back home. We didn't get home and to sleep until after midnight.
I woke up like a shot this morning at 6:30 because my son had his cousin's birthday party in a distant suburb (the moral here, one that I already knew, is that the distant suburbs are Satan's Playgrounds, clearly) at the suitably ungodly hour of 10:30 and it's too painful to relive the chain of events that finally conspired to transport us there, but I will say that it involved an ill-fated, haphazard taxi ride part of the way to Union Station and another ride an hour later to said distant suburb that cost $90.00. Right after paying $175 for a tow. Oh and purchasing three tickets for a bombastic animatronic dinosaur show for another $175 because we were feeling flush at that brief moment before everything started collapsing around us. This damn show better help my son become the best paid paleontologist in the world, that's all I have to say. In the meantime, there are always lemonade stands and random, idle conversations about the Paleozoic era.
So, bringing us all back to the title, my sweet little niece turned four today so, almost inevitably, she has cotton candy-scented, bubble gum pink blood coursing in her veins and Cinderella on the brain. Disney has received a full access pass to this girl and her imagination, and it shows. She talks non-stop about princesses and castles, glitter sparkling and falling around her, like a pixilated little woodland nymph. Today, she received Barbie movies, Beauty and The Beast dress up stuff, Dora the Explorer pajamas, books featuring Cinderella. I think that our gift, a child's picnic basket and supplies, was the only non-pink, non-corporate-be-logo'ed item purchased for my niece this year. (Not that we're perfect by any stretch: this was the same gift we'd gotten her last year but mistakenly repurchased. Exchanging that will be another errand to remember.) During the gift opening, all I could do is all I usually do during the frenzy of shredded wrapping paper and discarded ribbons, which is to just sit and stare, an ersatz Margaret Mead, agitated about the narratives corporations are feeding the girls of today and our complicity in it, our raising the spoons to their mouths. Honestly, I am so grateful to have grown up in the much more gender-neutral 1970s, when we all wore GrrAnimals and the word princess was used as an insult, not something one aspired to become one day. We were too busy inventing things, creating stories, getting dirty. You cannot climb an oak tree in pink, plastic slippers, that much I know.
Another thing I know is that I am deeply grateful to have a child who is besotted with dinosaurs
and has only expressed deep apprehension about the purple corporate one. He creates elaborate stories about coelophysises and postasuchuses and bambiraptors without any interference and I'd like to keep it that way as long as possible. I am not a puritan but I can't really see any true benefits to giving corporations access to my child's imagination. There may very well come a day when he resents that he didn't spend more of his childhood with Spongebob, but for now, I'll keep my kid logo-free and independent in thought and spirit. He can go to therapy later.