alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,

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Inflatable Salvation

Welcome to the readers who have joined me due to the Real LJ Idol competition. When I'm not participating in a challenge, here's what I normally write about: on Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays, I write about whatever happened over the weekend. Because I work at home and talk to practically nobody but my pets and my husband during the week, my weekend life provides more interesting material. If I go away (or do something else worth writing about) for several days, I usually take just as many days to write about it fully.

When American Idol is running, I write about that the day after it airs. Lately, I've been writing a series of reviews of all the films that won the Oscar for Best Picture, which normally run on Wednesdays or Thursdays. In addition, I might write about other movies or TV shows, or share my musings on various topics. On Fridays, I often share found objects, which are typically items I find while walking my dog. Interestingly enough, I just found another one as I said that, a personal note. I dictate most of my entries into a mini-tape recorder while walking my dog.

I've begun putting together an index called Essential Musings, which will be a guide to the most interesting entries on my original journal, Musings, of which this is a mirror. I started Musings five and a half years ago, and as I've reviewed early entries, I remembered that I gave myself a lot of creative license. I hope to return to that spirit, recapturing the fun.

On Saturday, we knew we were at the right house in the suburban development north of Philadelphia, because we recognized the Tech Guru's car. Well, at least The Gryphon did. I'm terrible with cars. I'm lucky I can recognize my own.

We were there for a barbecue she was holding, a long overdue housewarming. Because of her job, she travels all over the world, sometimes staying overseas for months. Only relatively recently she found a permanent place near us.

Black Cat (Click to enlarge)

One of the Tech Guru's cats hides from visitors

As we neared the door, we heard something we didn't expect: the squealing of a gaggle of children. As it turned out it was only seven children, six of whom were old enough to run around with feathered toys, trying to find the household cats. The seventh child was an infant girl, in her mother's arms, and therefore could not participate (although I'm sure that if someone had brought a cat close enough, she would have agreeable chewed on its tail).

The kids gave The Tech Guru a report. "The black one's hiding," a blonde boy of about 6 reported. He was one of a set of fraternal triplets: with an auburn-haired brother and a curly-haired auburn sister.

"The white one scratched him," a brunette girl of about 7 reported. Her chestnut hair was pulled into a long ponytail, and she sported a pink T-shirt with a heart on it, the picture of innocence. Although if you asked the cat, the story would probably go, "They ganged up on me, poking me with a weapon shapes like a feathered stick. I had to protect myself."

The other black cat — Jillian, I believe — whom the children called "the mean one" had wedged herself into the house-shaped portion of her scratching tree. This might have been a good place to hid except that there were holes on all four sides, allowing easy access for little hands.

The Tech Guru spoke up for her hapless felines: "Maybe you should leave them alone right now. They're old and cranky." I believe that, as she said that, I think I heard Jillian sniff loudly, as if to say, "Yeah, leave us alone. We're old and... hey!"

She dug out a handheld video game for the blonde boy and let the other boys open some GI Joe action figures she'd bought for the occasion. The girls, though, were not interested and ran into the kitchen to ask their moms for juice boxes. The youngest girl, a dark-haired brunette of 4, sister of the pony-tailed girl, had a very specific request: pasta.

"There isn't any pasta," her mother explained. "Do you want some of this nice salad?" I'm sure you can imagine the response.

That's when one of the mothers saved the day. She revealed that she'd brought an inflatable backyard toy, a lot like the Moonwalk we used to jump around in at the state fair. You take your shoes off, bounce around, and try not to lose whatever's in your pockets.

She fetched it from the car, this inflatable salvation, rolled up for easy traveling in a large blue knapsack. Then she went back for the pump and an extension cord, unrolled it, inflated it, had the kiddos take off their shoes, and soon they were all having a great time. Even the oldest boy, a tall, dark-haired boy of about 8, was able to play, since there was no roof.

Inflatable Fun (Click to enlarge)

In the meantime, The Tech Guru had served drinks to my husband, The Gryphon, and I: white wine for me and a beer for him. Standing on the patio, drinking my white wine and talking to the moms, watching the kids jump up and down, was a bit of a bizarre moment. The mom who had brought it told me that they'd had the inflatable toy in their living room over the winter.

I asked her, "So how big is your living room," assuming she must have one of those open-floor plan houses where you could probably set up your own indoor playground and still have room for yoga. She said that the toy had taken up most of the floor space. I correctly guessed that she didn't have any pets.

"No, we have kids," she said and laughed.

I explained that if you had pets, they'd puncture it just by walking on it. She agreed. Though it's still somewhat amazing that a home full of four kids and adults didn't demolish it by walking through it every day.

At first, I felt self-conscious drinking my wine around the moms, but it wasn't long before they got themselves beers, too. I think they'd wanted to make sure first that the kids were happily occupied.

It occurs to me I ought to differentiate between the two moms. The one who brought the inflatable toy I'll call the curly-haired mom, because of her long, reddish brown hair which was pulled back in a clip. Her children were the triplets and the infant girl. The other mom I'll call the petite mom, because she's several inches shorter than me. Her children were the oldest boy, the oldest girl, and the 4-year-old girl. She'd left her infant at home.

Once the kids were happily employed, it got a lot quieter inside the house, although the 4-year-old kept....


There are disadvantages to dictating this. So far, in the course of my walk, I've had to deal with some very loud women, a fire engine, two news helicopters, a barking dog and an obnoxious guy beeping his horn.

Anyway, the 4-year-old kept demanding her mom's attention, interfering with her ability to socialize, so The Tech Guru tried to interest the little girl in blowing bubbles. But the bubble wand was mystifying to the little girl, who probably would have done better with a small wand, the kind that blows one at a time. This was the sort of circular wand that fits in a shallow tray. You can blow on it or wave it through the air to create multiple, large bubbles.

Even with her mom and then her older brother showing her, she had trouble understanding how to use it. After she made a few half-hearted bubbles, she gave up.

In between demands for juice boxes and complaints about falling in the yard, we had some adult conversation. The two moms knew the Tech Guru from high school, so they exchanged news on fellow classmates.

Both the moms were very interested in what I do and asked me to tell them all about the transcriptions I do for cable news shows (something I never write about, since I don't want to jeopardize my employment). They were also interested in my wedding book and, in the resulting conversation, I mentioned that we'd gone to Disney World for our honeymoon. Turns out the curly-haired mom was planning a trip there with her husband and the triplets. I gave her some tips on enjoying her trip and emphasized sunblock and brimmed hats. After all, with so many redheads in the family, you need to be almost as careful about sun exposure as a family of vampires would.

As soon as the infant girl went in her carrier, she also began to clamor for attention. It usually took her about 15 minutes to figure out she was being ignored, and then she would start to fuss until someone came by, rocked her, or picked her up. I can't say I blamed her: after all, she didn't get to jump in the inflatable toy, so she must have felt like she was missing out.

The Gryphon was the only adult male for quite a while, until finally, another friend arrived with her boyfriend. I'll call her The Tea Practitioner, because she has been studying and practicing the art of Japanese tea ceremony for many years. She and her boyfriend arrived separately, but within minutes of each other, since they were coming from different places. He arrived on his motorcycle, which she told us she's too afraid to ride.

The party was a potluck and included a nice range of food: from the corn, bean and tomato salad that The Gryphon made to a rice dish, mozzarella balls, a big salad from The Tech Guru, fresh snap peas with carrots, homemade brownies, and of course, hamburgers and hot dogs. Since I don't eat red meat (though I do, oddly enough, eat chicken and fish), I filled my plate with all the great vegetable dishes.

Soon, some more friends arrived, including The Editor and a friend I'll call The Vegetarian, another friend of The Gryphon's. Much like many of my close friends have been guys, many of The Gryphon's friends have been women. I think that's why we get along so well.

The Vegetarian, by the way, bears an uncanny resemblance to my mom at the same age. She's very forthright and independent-minded, never hesitating to speak up. When The Editor, for example, said that she doesn't eat beans, The Vegetarian jumped in: "Oh, but they prevent colon cancer." The Editor was unimpressed.

The final guest to arrive was a former co-worker of The Tech Guru. She brought her 2-year-old son, who was adorable. He had his mom's cafe-au-lait complexion and a halo of light brown hair. While he didn't speak much, he moved around very well and found ways of making his desires known.

I saw him on the patio, looking longingly at a chair, so I removed the welcome mat that had been thrown over it, probably in order to sweep, and told him he could sit down. He grabbed the juice box on the seat, climbed up and with his bare toes wiggling, drank happily. Inside, I felt the cheerful reward of the good Samiritan. That is, until the blonde triplet came over and said to me, plaintively, "He's sitting in my chair."

"Is it OK if he sits there for a while?" I asked.

"But my juice box was on it." Just then, the 2-year-old's mother came outside, so I informed her about the situation, and she took the juice box away, gently explaining that it wasn't his. Surprisingly, he didn't seem the least upset, probably because his mother got him another one to replace it, one that no one had yet been drinking.

The 2-year-old was a lot of fun, because he would get overjoyed by noticing the simplest things, especially when it involved figuring out how to do things that he'd seen bigger people doing, like drinking out of a cup. His mother let him sip some of her soda while she held the cup, and he drank it like nectar.

The Tech Guru amused him for 10 minutes, simply by holding him up so that he could pull the chain the turned the fan and the fan light off and on. Even after she set him down, he stood on the floor, gazing up, fascinated.

He was equally fascinated by the inflatable toy in the backyard, but was afraid to try it because of the bigger kids, who by now had elevated their play to running from the far end of the yard and jumping through the slot into the inflatable toy. The petite mom and I wanted him to get a chance to play, too, so we told the older kids that they had to bounce quietly for a little while so that he could come inside. At first they objected, and the petite mom told the complainers if they could play nice they could sit out until he'd had a chance to play. The younger children were happy to comply, and they bounced gently once we'd helped him into the toy. His face lit up, and even though he couldn't manage to stand, he bounced up and down on his knees until he tired of it and we helped him out.

Of course, a few minutes later, he wanted to try it again, and the bigger kids grumbled but allowed him to share their inflatable fun. This probably would have continued every few minutes, except that someone inside distracted him with another amusement, albeit by accident. The front porch light went on automatically at some movement, and he exclaimed happily and pointed at it, as we all tried to figure out what he was so happy about.

Life, simply life. Us old, cranky folks would do well to remember that.

One by one, the mothers left with their children, and we childless guests remained, watching something called Ninja Challenge on demand. This is Japanese game show that The Tea Practitioner and her boyfriend watch regularly, where people compete on an extremely difficult obstacle course. We had fun watching it and making comments about the contestants. The Vegetarian kept pointing out the ones she thought were cute, and I joked that maybe they'd show their contact info at the end of the show. She said, "Yes, then I can offer to console them for losing."

By this time, The Gryphon was falling asleep on the couch, having had a week of late nights, so we said our good-byes. The cats had come out of hiding, giving us significant looks us as if to say, "You don't know what we've been through today."

Gray Kitty (Click to enlarge)

If you don't have a large inflatable toy, sometimes a light switch will do.

Tags: editor, friends, gryphon, pets, tea practitioner, tea practitioner's boyfriend, tech guru, vegetarian

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