Fall Apart Chubby

This is Chubby the Turtle. He is roughly the size of a falafel, and  available, with a minimum order of 20,000 of his brothers and sisters, from Ms. Eileen Zhu (who is offline at the moment), the supplier at Ningbo Yinzhou Headway Stationery Co., Ltd., in Zhejiang, China. Chubby (not his original name) is an eraser. According to the company website, Chubby can be recycled. And contains no toxins. I am of course suspicious. I am going to call Ms. Zhu today to ask about Chubby’s molecular makeup.

As I was getting ready for bed last night, Chubby fell out of my bra. His shell had long since detached from his body (as it had been designed to do) and he was missing all four feet (nt in the design specs). Where they once had been, only ragged stumps remained. Ah, Chubby! I thought, picking the pieces off the floor and dropping them in the trash can (not knowing then that he could be recycled). I buried him, more sneakily than ceremonially, under a few square of toilet paper. I had completely forgotten, even though it had happened only twelve hour before: our shocking virgin Peter Piper Pizza experience, our encounter with Chubby, and the ensuing tearful drive to preschool.

Who knew Peter Piper Pizza was a dinging, flashing blitzkrieg of an arcade attached to a $4.99 pizza buffet? After thirty minutes of sensory assault, we had earned twelve tickets, exchangeable for a chintzy toy. Mbot was fixated on a plastic gun available for 300 tickets. The only thing our measly dozen could nab us was either two mini tootsie rolls or a turtle. We actually couldn’t even afford the turtle, but the sugar option was a no go,  as my previously sensory deprived children (raised by wolves, with books) were already so amped. The guy behind the counter felt sorry for us and handed over a turtle. “It’s an eraser,” he said after I’d already taken possession of it. I almost handed it back but I couldn’t without triggering major wailing. Did he not see that I was in possession also of two midgets of the model that try to digest such objects? At least it made Mbot forget the gun. He proudly carried the turtle, who I christened Tubby and who Mbot rechristened Chubby, to the car, talking about how he would draw lines and then erase them, and wondering if his teacher, Miss Pursell, would let him do that.

We’d just hit the road when major wailing erupted in the back seat; Gbot was almost asleep, but Mbot’s face was distorted and wet with tears. Disaster had struck: Chubby was broken. Not only broken but, in an astonishingly rapid feat of decline, he’d lost all his feet. Of course he’d been helped out of them, but still. I silently cursed the makers of fragile turtle erasers with protruding appendages. It was more satisfying than cursing myself for not foreseeing the obvious outcome. There was no way I’d be able to fix Chubby with anything short of a toxic glue, which was not a possibility. It was an eraser for god’s sake, squeezed out of an eraser machine for nano-pennies. I would chuck it. But right now, I had to talk Mbot down before we got to school.

A quick aside here to explain that he goes to a Montessori program, It’s been in the family (on my husband’s side)—or that the family’s been in—for decades, but until a few months ago, I knew nothing about the curriculum. The first week, when Miss Pursell reported that my 38-month-old was doing “cutting work, shape work, and screwdriver work,” I admit I giggled like the unindoctrinated philistine I was. Then I noticed Mbot himelf referring to his “work:” necklace work and star work (learning about the solar system, I found). Countering his stubbornness in dressing himself, I started urging him to do pants work and shoe work .

So now in the car I heard myself saying, “Honey, Chubby’s just doing his work. He had falling apart work to do, and you helped him do it!”

I said it again, in the most convincing voice I could muster.

It worked.

I felt clever and slightly guilty.

But here’s the thing: What if it were true? And how do I know it’s not?

We pulled up to the school. I unstrapped the boys and made Chubby and two of his feet disappear into the nearest receptacle, which happened to be my bra.

I’m not a fatalistic, your-extreme-misfortune-was-meant-to-be type, but Fall Apart Chubby made me wonder what work I have to do, that the Midgets are helping me with, that I’m not even aware of. Sometimes (but less, lately, as they grow older and I get more sleep), it feels like I’m doing falling apart work, too, except it’s my psyche that’s crumbling. I’ve got optimistic work to do, for sure. It has never been a strength. And contentedness work. It doesn’t come easy. Mommy’s doing her contentedness work, I will think, sitting on the floor piecing a giant dinosaur puzzle together almost as fast as they tear it apart. You’re helping her do it!

What work do you have to do, and who is helping you?

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