My Uncle Mike and Aunt Jackie have a way with gifts, it seems. They always hit on gifts every year that Meelyn and Aisling love, mostly board games. Those always go over well with our family. But my aunt and uncle have been the progenitors of even greater gifts than Guess Who?, which we have played so often that it is in tatters.
The Christmas I was two years old, Uncle Mike and Aunt Jackie gave me a Mattel creation, a plush lion named Larry. Back then, toys with pull-strings that activated voices were very popular (I'm thinking Mrs. Beasley and Chatty Cathy dolls, and later, G.I. Joe.) Larry the Lion had a string that could be pulled and his mouth would even move. He said things like this:
"Rowr! I'm a very, very, very brave lion!"
"Rowr! Ooooh! I scared myself!"
"Hey! You wanna fight?"
and. by way of introduction,
"I'm Lar-reee Liiii-on!"
Larry the Lion said all of these things in the most, well....effiminate voice you could imagine. I think he may have been somewhat conflicted about his sexuality, although he certainly never mentioned such a thing when I pulled his string. He just kept introducing himself and scaring himself, alternately asking me if I wanted to fight and pluckily trying to convince me of his bravery.
I listened from across my grandparents' living room, sheltered in my dad's arms, screaming in terror at this terrible beast that had been unleashed on me.
It took me awhile to love Larry, but I finally learned. In fact, we're still together today --he is the only toy that survived my childhood. He somehow missed that stage when I was keen for scissors; the only part of him that isn't in great condition is his tail, which is partly unsewn; I used to carry him around by it. His pull string even still works and he twitters on about his bravery just as easily as he did forty-two Christmases ago this year.
Good grief. I am so freakin' OLD...
Anyway, Uncle Mike and Aunt Jackie bought Aisling the best present of her early childhood. The year that she was two, they bought her a little battery powered keyboard. It was shaped like a briefcase, complete with handle. She took it with her everywhere. Ev. Ree. Where. Asking her to go somewhere without that keyboard was like asking her to go somewhere without her head: it simply couldn't be done. Or, it could be if you didn't mind having your eyeballs melted right out of your head from the volume of her screams.
This keyboard had, in addition to about twenty keys, a selection of songs programmed into it. It also had a number of different "beats" to which these songs could be played. Aisling's favorite song was "Hey, Jude" played to a rhumba beat. She never tired of listening to it, but boyoboy, the rest of us did. At the end of each weary day, I'd be smooshing my head into my pillow, trying to drown out the strains of "Hey, Jude," a song for which I previously had not felt a hostile, impotent loathing.
On the other hand, "Hey, Jude" was somewhat useful, because Aisling was compelled to turn it on at least ten times an hour; the rest of the time, she just carried the keyboard around with her, allowing it to bash into the furniture and sweep my glass of iced tea off the coffee table. Any mother knows that there are sudden, electric times when you think, "Oh, saints in heaven and all the angels....the baby has been quiet for a really long time. What havoc is she wreaking?" Well, with the keyboard around, I never had to wonder what Aisling was up to.
I was always led to the scene of the crime by the sounds of "Hey, Jude" coming down the hall. Where Aisling was perhaps engaged in writing on her sandals with a lipstick she'd filched from my make-up drawer. Or maybe she would be behind the couch, bent over and red in the face as she made an illicit poo without benefit of potty chair. Or even, as I once found her, standing at the dinner table before we sat down to eat one evening, calmly finishing off an entire stick of butter. "Hey, Jude" and her compulsion for the rhumba beat betrayed her every time.
Those are two memorable presents from Uncle Mike and Aunt Jackie. Larry the Lion still sits on a shelf, but I'm sorry to say that the keyboard is no longer with us. It disappeared when Aisling was about four. There are rumors that it was tucked into a box of items that went to the local Goodwill, but I personally have never believed that.
It was good while it lasted. Kind of.
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