Friday, January 14, 2005


It is a courageous, perhaps insane grandfather who escorts his newly walking twin granddaughters, who have in their short lives seen little of the world beyond carpets and adult knees - amateur toddlers, in other words - it is a grandfather heedless of hazards, as I say, who dares take such a fearless duo to a large toy store.

I now count myself among that questionable number of men, and am changed by the experience. As a result of my time in a toyland where everything happens at least twice, my hair is whiter, and there is less of it. Say the word 'toy' and a tremor passes through me, though the shaking diminishes within hours.

As we entered the bigger store than they had ever seen, the cute-as-identical-buttons twins, who operate as "M and M" (they're about that easy to tell apart) or - more notoriously - "The Ms," at first toddled slowly and cautiously with what I initially took for naive awe, but soon realized was reflexive planning.

Their big brown eyes were taking in everything and its exact location, how it had been placed there for their very own delight and so belonged to them and was theirs to do with as they pleased, as for example those delicately high-stacked tubes of superglue beside them or the crunchy-looking balsa wood airplanes just a toddle away. Or straight ahead: so many smiley dolls in cellophane-paned boxes! Fun to poke with two Hello Kitty ballpoints!

Though they didn't yet really know what all these toys were, they were good at throwing them. Not much accuracy, but impressive speed and savage abruptness. For example, the metal toy car being closely studied by M - as I could see from afar with her boot in my hand - was instantly ballistic, passing within inches of the brow of M, who had relentlessly toddled out of a side aisle with a glass jar of model paint in each hand, and lacking both boots.

As you may have gathered, one cunning tactic in The Ms' arsenal, in addition to their devilish strategy of being so small while looking and dressing alike, was to let their boots fall off. Not both boots at the same time: one by one. It's an evolutionary trick to distract the pursuer, much the way lizards lose their tails.

I would notice a socked foot, run back and get the boot, return and both twins would be gone (toddlers move at feral speed when unobserved). In different directions, of course; The Ms are not so foolish as to operate together. They know they can cover a lot more territory and get a lot more done if they work separately, in telepathic coordination. This is especially true in a big toy store with only one pursuing grandfather of questionable mental status, who within 5 minutes wants to take a nap.

After must've been a week of chasing up and down the aisles (amazing, the places two small creatures can hide) the twins had had enough of their first big toy store experience to last me forever. At our departure, i.e., me with one squirming, toy-reaching M in each arm and two boots in each hand, the store - like myself - was in need of thorough rearrangement much the worse for wear. The Ms, though, giggled all the way home at the fun it had been, looking forward to our next big toy store adventure, ha ha. We didn't buy any toys of course; they had all been played with anyhow, and no way I'll have those hazards around the next time M and M come to visit.

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