Glancing back at my daughter from the front passenger seat, I notice flecks of green around her mouth.
“Baby, what are you eating?” I say, reaching back to investigate, and snagging one of the crumbs, I realize what it is. “Are you eating a crayon?”
She shoots me a giddy grin, giggles and replies: “Yes,” a word she has recently mastered and forcefully overpronounces with an extra-hard “y” and “s.”
“How does she have a crayon?” My wife asks, peering into the rear view mirror.
Like many great toddlers before her, our daughter has made a habit of eating crayons, often turning coloring time into snack time. Why she enjoys this is beyond me. It can’t be the taste. Is it the texture? The color? The size and shape? Or is it just that it drives Mommy and Daddy nuts?
I hold out my hand. “Okay, can you give Daddy the crayon?”
She pulls the crayon from its hiding place between her leg and the side of her car seat and places it in my palm. And as soon as I see it, I can’t stop laughing.
I used to laugh at my mother.
It would begin with her getting on the phone with a customer service representative. (Keep in mind that this was back in Ye Good Olde Days before Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Internet, when instead of yelling at ambiguous, unhelpful websites or cussing at incompetent live-chat reps in all caps, the only game in town was to actually haggle with a real person about bills, warranties, and Hooked on Phonics.)
While my mother attempted to insult the intelligence of whatever dolt she was dealing with on the other line, some semblance of the following events would transpire.
My two younger sisters, who were a year apart and constant playmates, would be “Doing a Story,” their name for playing out an improvisational narrative with a star-studded cast of Barbies, My Little Ponies, and whichever Legos their brother failed to hide well enough. In choosing which playthings each of them would voice, the oldest of the two would always weasel her way into First Draft Pick.
“I’ll be Malibu Botox Barbie.”
“No! You got to be Malibu Botox Barbie last time we Did a Story!”
“But this is the sequel. I have to be Malibu Botox Barbie again or else we’ll tank at the box office. The fan base expects me, not some young, up-and-coming no-name. Here, you can be Especially Flamboyant Ken.”
“Girls!” my Mom would hiss. “I’m on the phone!”
Fully engrossed in their heated casting session, their battle would rage on without even acknowledging my mother.
“Then be Less-Exciting Sister With the Arm Missing Stacie!”
“Why can’t I be one of those 20 other Barbies?”
“Because I’m Barbie.”