I’ve been getting home pretty late this week. As mentally fatigued as I am by the time I get home, it gets better almost instantly. I guess Madison hears the garage door go up because I can hear her shout “Daddy!” on the other side of the door that leads to the landing. When I pop my head through the doorway, she’s standing at the top of the stairs. I have to admit, it’s a cooler, non-romantic version of this scene from Cruel Intentions. Maybe next week I’ll cue up Counting Crows’ “Color Blind” on my phone before I enter the house. Anyway, when I get to the top of the stairs, Mad lifts her arms and then trust falls forward. I usually have juuuuust enough energy left to catch her.
Often, I’m too tired to do any kind of mental lifting. This usually manifests itself in single, monosyllabic word responses to any and all of Lynnette’s questions. I got in and tried to watch the Mets highlights. “Dad, they’re going to start writing without you,” Madison said. “Who? Writing what?” I asked. “You have to come,” she said.
She took out her work book and traced a few letters, wrote a few words. She flipped to the activities section in the back of the book and required my help. She needed me to read the directions to her. Her activities involved the circling and coloring of various items as they applied to the question. She had a perfect score. At some point during this exercise, Lynnette said “Madison, I’m going to throw you catalog away.” “NO!!!!!!!!!!” Madison screamed. I had no idea what the hell they were talking about, but I would soon find out.
Apparently, a Toys R Us catalog arrived just in time for summer. The first five or size pages are dedicated solely to playground sets. “This is the one I’m going to get,” she said, pointing to a $1299 clubhouse/swing/slide set on the cover. I smiled. I remember doing the same thing with Eastbay catalogs. I also recalled Lynnette doing the same thing – albeit with more ooohing and aahing – with the Tiffany catalog. “Madison, that costs a lot of money,” I said. “How much monies?” she said. I didn’t correct her. “Thirteen-hundred dollars,” I said. Even though that number is an abstract concept to her, she still gave an “Ooooooooh!” with the same inflection she uses when we watch wrestling on Monday nights and someone takes a huge bump. She implored me to open the catalog.
Madison amazes me. As we flipped through the pages of her catalog, she pointed out the amenities of each structure. Of the set in the top left corner she said, “This is a big one that I can share with Braden (a boy in her class).” “I don’t know how I feel about that,” I said. “This one has a straight slide, but this one (pointing the one below it) has a windy slide,” she said. “You’re right, Mad,” I said. She hasn’t yet discovered sarcasm, and I fear the day she does. It’s just the natural tone of my voice, crafted over years of cynicism and self-deprecation. “Are all of these expensive, too?” she asked. “They’re all expensive,” I said. “And they’re so big, we don’t have room for them!” “I’ll put them in our backyard,” Madison said, without skipping a beat.
We don’t have a backyard or a front yard. What we refer to as “the back yard” is an open area behind our building. “That’s not our backyard,” I said. “Whose is it?” Madison followed. “It belongs to everyone,” I said. “Then I’ll share it with everyone,” she said. Somehow, I think the MTA would frown upon that, like everything else.
“We can put it at Grandma and Grandpa’s house,” Madison said. What a problem solver. “They don’t have room, either!” I said. She turned the page.
By this point in the catalog, we had gone from wooden-ish, pre-fab tree houses to more modest structures. That’s right, we arrived in Plasticville. “I think this one can fit at Grandma and Grandpa’s house,” she said, pointing to a quaint no-bedroom/no-bath unit. It does have a patio, though. It still cost $200, though. “I think you might be too big for that one already,” I said. “Not,” she said. Well, I said, why don’t we call Grandma and Grandpa to see if they have room for another house. “Yeah, yeah!” Madison said.
I got on the phone with my dad and said “Madison has something she wants to ask you.” “Okay,” he said. The following is a loose transcript of what Madison said as she lay sprawled out across my bed:
Grandpa, I’m going to buy a house and I want to leave it at your house so that I can cruise in it and, and, and have dinner when I go to your house in the summer time.
“What?” my dad said. Madison was so excited that her statement actually sounded closer to this:
Grandpa, I’mgoingtobuyahouseandIwanttoleaveitatyourhousesothatIcancruiseinitand and andhavedinnerwhenIgotoyourhouseinthesummertime.
I explained the situation to my dad. He laughed. “I don’t know,” he said. “I think Bijou might live in there when you aren’t around.” When I relayed his words to Madison, her face became very severe. “No, no,” she said. “It’s only for humans.” I told my dad that we had no intention of buying any set, nor did I want him to purchase anything. I simply wanted him to hear his grand-daughter in hysterics. It’s probably a good thing I talked to him instead of my mom, because if I had the same conversation with my mom, she would have called in sick today so she could spend it pricing wooden-ish, pre-fab tree houses.
Finally, just when I thought Madison had maximized her comedic value last night, she took it to another level. Lynnette and I were in the bathroom when we heard Madison behind us saying “Bumbrella, bumbrella, bumbrella.” I turned around to see what she was doing and this is what I saw.
She was repeating that same made-up word over and over while doing this weird staggering/waddling walk while holding out her hands in front of her like she was cupping two massive boobs.
She then finished off her routine with a move she’s been pulling off for a solid two weeks now. She’s been sneaking up behind Lynnette and I without provocation – it seems like she’s just randomly moved to do this – and starts patting our butt cheeks with open palms, as one would while playing the bongos, all while chanting “Bunga-bunga-bunga.” Lynnette and I are mystified.
One of my theories is that she’s watched a show of hers – like Yo-Gabba-Gabba or The Fresh Beat Band – where someone actually played bongos. That would at least explain the activity and what she seems to be saying. But I haven’t asked her where she got it from. My fear is too great. I can already see it in my head:
Phil: Madison, where did you learn to do this?
Mad: You, alright? I learned it by watching you!