Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's the Principle of the Thing

Beware of Tricycles

I realized, as we drove down our hill of a driveway on the way to do some shopping yesterday, that putting away the pair of tricycles our children left halfway down the hill has somehow erased itself from my mental to-do list. The trikes were almost artistically abandoned, flanking the dirt drive like some sort of Toy Storyish Fisher Price sentinels. As we drove between them, my husband and I joked about some people having stone lions to guard their homes. We have plastic three-wheelers.

But the fact that these misplaced toys had become so familiar, even welcome, in their alien setting was a little disconcerting. Now I have never been dishonest or disillusioned concerning my yard-keeping skills. Even on the few occasions that we have trudged around our large yard with several trash bags, throwing away broken toys and empty bottles of water and juice and motor oil, we tossed with the certainty that our efforts were futile. After all, an often undiscussed victim of having many littles is The Yard. It is Mother’s best friend in fair (as defined by Mother) weather: “Go play outside!” The children romp and climb and eat and tumble endlessly (or until naptime) while Mother gets things straightened inside and enjoys the incredible quiet (my sincerest apologies to all of you who do not live in the country and must be where your children are at all times). Playing in The Yard is such a treasured occasion that Mother often drags it out a little longer than it should be; so when the triangle is rung and Mother is yelling, “Time to come inside!” it usually means it was time to come inside ten (thirty?) minutes ago and there is no time for straightening up. I’m talking time management here…she managed to get an extra ten (thirty?) minutes all to herself. Priorities, people, priorities!

But the trikes gave me cause to pause. What else in my yard was I relabeling, possibly in an effort to ignore its being out of place? Well, how would I know exactly where to park if it wasn’t just a little to the left of the plastic oar? And the six pairs of dirt-caked shoes on the front porch? Souvenirs from a drive through a field that was a little muddier than we anticipated and that resulted in nervous giggles as we all tried to get the van unstuck … and were successful! Happy times.

There are about twenty (two hundred?) miscellaneous small treasures that my children are so delighted to find unexpectedly while playing – I would never DREAM of removing those. And what may look to you like a pile of broken sand toys and shovels is really the site of a fantastic archaeological dig…we live on Revolutionary War ground, you know. The empty cat litter bucket hanging from a tree out back? That’s our gun target!

As I was musing over these excuses reasons for each … ahem … yard ornament that we have, I realized I have gained a little empathy. The next time we pass a yard full of what looks like appliances, baby paraphernalia, and vehicle parts, I won’t be so quick to jump to a color and a body part*. I’ll entertain myself with thoughts of what creative things that family must be doing. Perhaps the car is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or a mechanics lesson or a souvenir. The baby swing might be more than just a mere swing, even if it is on its side and missing a leg. I’ll tell my children those must be wonderful people, full of humor and life and ingenuity. What vivid imaginations they must have!!!

We’ll all join in the chorus of the song my mother sang to me as we pass subdivisions of endless homeowners’ association members: “And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.” Editing note: If you want to hear Pete Seeger singing this song, you can go here.

And THAT is why I'm going to leave those trikes out there for just one more day.

*Redneck, for those of you still combining colors and body parts


  1. I never knew ticky-tacky was a song...

  2. Isn't that fun? Actually, I just learned the Oxford English Dictionary gives credit to Malvina Reynolds (who wrote the song "Little Boxes," quoted above) for the word "ticky-tacky" and its meaning. Huh. Who knew?


Related Posts with Thumbnails
Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Detection Tool