We should have known better.
I don’t know why we expected our son to make it all day on an outing to Santa Monica Pier without a flip-out. With t-minus two days until our big trip to California, he had spiked a fever and started barking with croup, but we didn’t have any choice but to go with it. Bags were packed, hotels were booked, and my wife’s vacation days were locked in.
And so here we were at the Pier, fielding a high-decibel complaint from him as he refused to walk, be carried, or sit in the stroller. My wife and I took one look at each other and knew what needed to be done–get the f*ck out of there and get him a nap.
But first, we needed to calm him down so as to mobilize him.
As is customary, we looked for “Ruh-Ruh” (a toddler pronunciation of “Ruff-Ruff,” which is what our son calls his favorite toy, a stuffed Pluto). Surely, I thought, his go-to plush canine would again bring balance to The Force. But when I reached for its usual place in the diaper bag, I came up empty-handed. I dug through each pocket and checked the storage pouches on each umbrella stroller, but still no Ruff-Ruff.
“Hey,” I projected to our caravan of travelers, including my wife’s mother, stepfather, brother, sister, and grandmother. (We’d taken turns pushing the Twins’ strollers all day, so anyone could have had it.) “Where’s Pluto?”
I’m kind of disappointed that no one in our especially sarcastic pack answered with the location of the planet/moon/whatever the hell those indecisive astronomers are calling it these days, but I assume it was because we all knew the gravity of the situation. If we had no Ruff-Ruff, this could be extremely rough-rough.
My son, who had momentarily quieted down at the mention of Man’s Best Plush Friend, looked expectantly from face to face, but as the uncomfortable silence persisted, he reached the same devastating conclusion we all had–we’d lost Ruff-Ruff.
This, of course, ushered a spirited resurgence of screams, peppered with gut-wrenchingly adorable laments of “Ruh-Ruh! Ruh-Ruh!”
It was at this point that my wife took the reins, picking up my son, telling him, “Okay, Buddy, let’s go get Ruff-Ruff,” and starting to walk back the way we’d come.
We all followed, not entirely sure where she was going with this. Pushing my daughter in her stroller, I picked up my pace to walk alongside my wife, and muttered, “What are you doing?”
Dodging an attempted face-five from my still-disgruntled son, she replied matter-of-factly, “We’re getting Pluto.”
I understood the objective–I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. We’d actually brought a doppelganger Pluto (and a doppelganger Piglet, my daughter’s main squeeze) with us on the trip. Once we saw them latch onto these animals about a year ago, we stocked up on backups. In fact, unbeknownst to the Twins, on any given day they could be holding one of three different Plutos/Piglets, as we periodically rotate (and bathe) them to avoid funkification.
With this in mind, I assumed the plan was to walk the necessary three miles or so back to the parking garage where our car was parked, drive back to the hotel in Los Angeles traffic, and only then reunite my son with Ruff-Ruff (Technically not THE Ruff-Ruff he was holding, but it’s okay–we back them up regularly in the cloud). But my question was this:
“Do you really think we can hold him out all the way back?”
“We’re not going all the way back,” she replied. “We’re going to the Disney Store.”
That’s one thing we did right–unlike many parents who have to scour the Internet in the event of such a crisis for the exact make and model of the lost stuffty, replacements of the Twins’ faves are available at any Disney Store location. As a matter of fact, on a few occasions the Twins have tossed Pluto/Piglet overboard while at the mall and within five minutes we had brand new ones back in their hands.
However, I had not seen a Disney Store on our way here. “What Disney Store?”
“I don’t know,” she mused. “But there’s got to be one on the Third Street Promenade.”
My wife does this all the time. She claims to “have a feeling” about whatever it is, but it’s essentially deciding that something is going to be the way she wants it to be–willing it to happen as if she can somehow manipulate the cosmos. It drives me nuts.
“You don’t know? You’re telling him we’re going to get Pluto and you don’t know if there’s going to be a Pluto?”
My son’s head spun towards me. “Ruh-Ruh! Ruh-Ruh!”
“Nice,” my wife sighed. “Way to remind him.”
I sheepishly slowed my pace and let my wife lead. “Okay, let’s go to the Disney Store.” If it even exists.
It is only occurring to me now–as I’m writing this–that I could easily have pulled out my iPhone and performed a search for the nearest Disney Store, but in that moment of frustration, as we plodded along, baking in the hot sun having already walked several miles that day while listening to our sick son throw a hissy fit, this highly rational thought never came to anyone in our party.
We crossed the bridge from the Pier to the southern-most point of the Promenade, home to an open-air shopping center of sorts. “All right,” my wife told my son. “Here we are. We’re gonna go get Ruff-Ruff.”
As we climbed the ramp from the sidewalk up to the stores, breathing heavily from the trek, my wife’s arm shot out silently, pointing at the center’s directory. I saw her swallow hard as we approached it for the moment of truth. I hung back a few feet as she inspected the map, certain that the Disney Store would be M.I.A. and my son would hit his fifth wind of despair.
But then she spun around smiling victoriously and declared, “There’s one upstairs. Come on, Buddy, let’s go get Ruff-Ruff!”
Moments later, my son was on Cloud Ten, which is one better than Cloud Nine. As he and his mother exited the Disney Store, he joyously presented his new Pluto to us all, just like Rafiki lifting Simba on Pride Rock for the host of jubilant, squawking animals. The Circle of Life had moved us all.
My wife shot me a cocky smirk. “You didn’t think there was going to be a Disney Store, did you?”
“No. No I didn’t. And there’s no reason why there should be, but I’ll take it.”
The heavens sang. The Pluto and Child Reunion had only been a motion away, and when we finally reached the car, my son fell right asleep in his car seat, firmly gripping Ruff-Ruff 2.0.
I don’t know where our fallen Ruff-Ruff wound up, but I like to think he found a good home with another little boy or girl who loves him just as much…
…and who now probably has croup, too.
This is the initial installment of Twinfamyland: A California Adventure, a thrilling saga of Twincidents committed in Southern California.
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If not, I bet there’s a Disney Store nearby.