“What’s that?” he asked as he walked by the dining room table. He was eyeing a shiny leather case with the word “Kodak” embossed on the front. “It’s a camera,” I responded. In pristine condition, this relic belonged to my grandparents. Everything they owned looked like it had never been used.
“That’s not a camera, it’s too big to be a camera,” he laughed. Born in 2007, he is of a generation that will never be able to look at a common household item and fondly remember its Buick-sized predecessor.
“Can I have it?” This is a question he asks when presented with just about everything he’s not familiar with. Sometimes I give in. “I wanna break it,” he chirped. Thankfully, he hasn’t developed the ability to mask his true intentions. “No, that’s mommy’s,” I said, grabbing the case and moving it to higher ground. The safest place in the house right now is atop the refrigerator, next to the cheese grater and the other things I don’t want him to touch. “Are you gonna break it? I wanna help!”
The boy stood in front of the refrigerator; his arms extended, pointing at the camera. He was trying to will the the camera to leap into his arms. His face twisted in frustration when it didn’t work. He tried again, this time standing on his tiptoes.
“No, I’m not going to break it,” I said calmly as I put dinner in the oven. There are times when the memory of my grandparents has made me want to break things, but this was too cool to smash into itty bitty pieces. I was amused by my son’s experiment with telekinesis. Quietly, I wondered if the Russian scientist who coined the term ever encouraged his test subjects to “put some toe in it,” for extra oomph.
“How does it work?” Relentless curiosity, it’s a good quality to have. He’s also quite the food critic, so I made him wait til I set the oven timer before I provided an explanation. No one likes burnt nuggets. I handed him the camera and let him examine it, watching carefully. He flipped it over several times, pushing the buttons and turning the knobs.
“Where’s the screen to see the pictures? This thing is broken.. You should throw it out. Can I have it?” this sentence came out of his mouth so rapidly it sounded like one long word. “It doesn’t have a screen. It was made before they had screens, they used film. It’s not broken. No, you have your own camera,” I replied, just as quickly. “Fiiiilllmmm?” he repeated, as if I was teaching him a new word in a foreign language. I started to explain what it was, his eyes went blank. I’d lost him. I was thankful, because I know about as much about cameras as I do….mid-century Chilean porcupine sedation techniques.
“I don’t have a camera!” he declared The child has a mental inventory of every object he has ever owned…which makes it hard to pare down the growing collection. Even if something is broken he still demands it be kept, heaven forbid you throw out the severed arm of a missing lego figure. He knows exactly what he has, until he sees something he wants. Because of this talent, I also have to keep a watchful eye on the toy chest to keep duplication to a minimum. “You most certainly do, the red one,” I reminded him.
He knew which one I was talking about, but he paused for dramatic effect. “The red one? Oh, that red one! Where is it?” I wasn’t going to divulge that information. I’d made it temporarily disappear a few months ago. His laughter showed me he was still incredibly amused by the actions that caused the camera to go into seclusion.
It was January, the weather was crappy and we were stuck indoors. There are few things worse than being holed up with a rambunctious child. Admittedly, I was hiding. I could hear him laughing from the other side of the door, but it wasn’t the evil genius laugh. I assumed that he and the dog were still playing the loud game of tag that sent me seeking refuge. It’s not really tag, it’s more chase the dog until she hides under the table…wait until she forgets why she’s hiding…then chase her again. Semantics. As long as a wagging tail is present, I don’t interfere.
I let my guard down and the laughter got further away, resuming my immersion in the article I was reading about Kim and Kanye. I had just gotten to the part where Mr. West introduced Kim as his “babymomma”. I stopped to gather my feelings, which I grouped thusly: A) I was not aware that Dolce or Gabbana designed maternity wear. B) I pictured the woman of his dreams to feature a diamond encrusted release valve, vast amounts of air behind vacant eyes, and a permanently puckered facial expression. C) Kim Kardashian is probably the closest thing to a blow-up doll society has to offer at this point.
I was just about to move on to “D” when the door swung wide open, wildly bouncing on its hinges. “Say CHEESE!!” screeched my boy, clad with his Disney trademarked digital camera. He blinded me with the flash as he rapidly snapped photos. When he stopped and I was able to commandeer the device, I went through the memory of the camera. At the end of the 700-and-something close-up pictures of the inside of his nose and the dog’s butt, there were at least 35 shots of me…sitting on the toilet…wearing my pants around my ankles, and a less than thrilled expression.
If I went through them fast enough, it was almost like one of those flip-books I made as a kid with the galloping horse. I could see myself go from surprised to irritated, mouthing the words “What are you doing? Get the hell out of here with that thing!”
Some of the photos even had me on the commode, seated right in between a smiling Lightning McQueen and Mater. Apparently, you can press a button and add a digital version of your favorite character to the images. Disney really pulled out all the stops when they dreamed this toy up. It’ll be fun, they said. Let your child capture memories on their own, they said.
Either he was prepared to suffer for his art, or he now realizes that he is always granted immunity when his acts of mischief are hilarious. The boy didn’t even try to fake remorse, he just giggled, grabbed the camera out of my hands, and ran into the living room.
As I relayed this story to my parents, they laughed. Then my mother said, as she always does “You’d better look out, you’ve got your hands full. I don’t remember you guys ever acting this way.” We totally did, my brothers and I just tormented each other, instead of our parents.