Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Like a House on Fire?

You've heard the expression "like a house on fire," right?

The Oxford English Dictionary lists "like a house on fire (afire)" among proverbial colloquial phrases containing "house." Its definition is "as fast as a house would burn; very fast or vigorously." And thus, the irony on Monday when I found Oliver donning a fireman's helmet when I arrived to pick him up from school. I mean, really, the kid is in the habit of doing NOTHING "fast or vigorously," at least when it comes to moving from one locale to the next. So to find him in that typical limbo wearing the fire hat was just too perfect.

Firstly, I was surprised that he would put anything on his head and leave it there, as it's clearly not the case when I try to put a sunhat or sock cap on him. But really the irony came into play as he danced around the place like he had nowhere in particular to be, like it was still middle-of-the-day playtime, like the toe-tapping staff were in no hurry at all. He ignored my pleas and motions to move-it-on-out and continued to climb and dance and act silly with that fire hat on. We needed to go. I said, let's go. Really, now I'm serious, we're going…

I'm not going to lie: There were tears. It wasn't pretty. But eventually we made it out of the joint and into the car.

Then we went to Harvestime, our local produce market and familiar haunt. He was pretty cooperative as we shopped there. It was a short trip with a short list. But even a short list can result in a HEAVY bag if filled with two pounds ground turkey, one pound deli meat, four cans chicken stock, and fruit and stuff. It was only the one bag – I have these great big reusables from Target that I love, love, love (and can never find anymore – these are the ones that are oversized and fold to snap) – but it was heavy enough that I couldn't carry it and carry Oliver at the same time (and HT doesn't allow carts to go to its parking lot and I felt a little lame asking the bag boy to carry just one bag for me). So we walked. And I thought the walk would be OK since Oliver had been fairly cooperative on the way in, even holding my hand and walking himself across the street. But once again, I was WRONG!

Oh, so wrong. I had forgotten, on the way out, we had to pass the gumball machines.

Why me? I try to be patient as he's doing his thing and "exploring," as they like to say, but at some point after taking photos, checking email, smiling at comers and goers until the comers became goers, I have to strong-arm him out of there. To my relief, he complied willingly with the first tug on his arm, but only then to walk as slow as a turtle down the sidewalk with a "Hi, car…. Hi, car…. Hi, car…." and a small wave to each and every parked vehicle we passed. Cute, I know. But totally unnecessary: Not one of those cars even mustered up a smile in response.

Time, at this point, is creeping away and all I want to be is HOME. But, no, it can't be that easy. Oliver doesn't operate "like a house on fire."

We cross the street again to our car. I put the overweight bag in the front seat. And Oliver begins his avoidance routine. (Or is it obliviousness? Hard to say.) Up and down the sidewalk he gallops, stopping only to rattle the wrought-iron gated doors along the block. With a scream and a howl, he's like a caged animal in reverse – clamoring to get in instead of out. To be honest, at this point, I know how he feels. I want to be in that car, all bound and buckled and safely on the way HOME. But, alas, he has to play around some more. There are leaves to shuffle through, sewer covers to jump on, pedestrian paths to meander into. And then, ultimately, there is the back to arch and the squeal to squawk as I wrangle him into the car seat once more.

He had been pretty excited about the rice I bought at Harvestime, so I thought that getting him inside for some of that mess-making tastiness would be a no brainer, that he'd rush in "like a house on fire." Nope. Not a chance. I'll spare you all the gory details, but again, I'm not going to lie: There were tears. It wasn't pretty. And I gave in entirely. Just left those groceries, perishables and all, in the foyer of our building and let him lead me "ow-seye" (outside), up the block to "nah-nees" (nani's/old nanny), down the block to "dah-gees" (doggies that hang out in their owners windows), across the street to "side" (slide), to the corner of the playground for "wa-er" (water from the fountain), and various places in between.

It was exhausting. It is exhausting. It will continue to be exhausting, I'm sure. What I'm not sure about is how long my patience (what little I exemplify, that is) will last in this regard. I mean, if he's this stubborn at 21 months, what is the ornery little booger gonna be like at 2 or 2-and-a-half? Plus, keep in mind, winter is well on its way. Imagine these delays in freezing temperatures. I'm sure it seems like that would be a no-brainer deterrent, but really you should know better. I do.

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