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Planes, Trains, and Auto-Avarice

Watching the Oscars on Sunday night was enlightening. It illuminated a lot of vast and abstract concepts, like what grade of Plaster of Paris Angelina’s upper-upper thigh consists of. And how bizarre — and red — Nick Nolte has become.

Between smearing vanilla ice cream on the play table and yelling into pillows, Drew and Madeline caught bits and pieces of the show. Drew pointed at the large statue on the red carpet and asked, “Who is that?”

“Oscar,” I said. Unimpressed, Drew went back to his train-crashing and train-recovery.

For Drew, as with most (all?) kids at this age, the idea of fame isn’t yet in play. The only famous people in his little world are cartoon characters or holiday abstractions like the Easter Bunny — with the exception of Nina on the Sprout channel who is cartoonish enough with that precisely positioned barrette. But more famous by far than cartoons and controversial rabbits are all forms of exotic transportation: fire trucks, police cars, trains, and pickups. These are the true celebrities. These are the A-listers to watch for out in public. These are the stars whose action figures we purchase — toy trucks, toy fire trucks — in order to identify with their power and feel as though we own a piece of their innate magic. People are just people, but things-with-engines are the Beautiful People.

All week, Drew has been asking to purchase the “Cars 2 airplane” that he saw at the mall a couple of weeks ago, along with a helicopter he discovered at the ever expanding Barnes and Noble toy section.

“Mommy,” he says, “Can we go to Yarns and Oval to get me dat helicopter?” This question is his new religious mantra, his version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: To pilot toy aircraft and enjoy it forever.

To combat this heresy, I’ve been playing CDs of Bible verses set to music in our car, thinking a little Ephesians would be just the ticket to expel materialist Yarns and Oval merchandise from the cathedral of his heart. (Which is probably constructed of Lego’s.) The CD has been great, but only seems to remind Drew there are other joyful children in the world that probably got that way because they are the proud owners of never ending Disney Store detritus.

Gordon and I have gotten to the point of suggesting that perhaps Drew ought to gather up some of his old toys to give away to kids less fortunate first, and then we would consider a new airplane. This idea has evolved into the kind of anemic mutant that will not survive the Crustacean era, an idea wherein Drew will help us round up his old toys so that we can sell them in the neighborhood garage sale next month. Then maybe he can get the new airplane. “But that’s not for charity,” Gordon reminded me. “That’s for-profit. How does that teach him generosity?”

We were in the car at this point. “I don’t know,” I replied. “Maybe it should be more a lesson about the dangers of hoarding. Or the benefits of capitalism.”

After all, I need a new chair for the sunroom.

I am not sure which way to turn. Part of me wants to give in and just buy the dang helicopter already. He talks about it in the car, at bed, in a house, with a mouse, everywhere, all the time, Sam-I-Am. But I’m sure on the way home from the mall, nay, in the stroller heading out of the mall, Drew will come across some other be-wheeled Pied Piper just ripe for the coveting. I could go the donation-for-profit route as a way to introduce the concept of “those less fortunate”, but I definitely don’t want to establish a pattern where “generosity” means pawning off old stuff as an excuse to get new stuff. (Of course, what’s wrong with a little spring-cleaning?)

One thing I do know: September, his birthday, is not convenient enough to suggest waiting until then, and I don’t think I can take another seven months of this Shock and Awesome Aircraft blitzkrieg.

Maybe it’s high-time Drew learned the value of a dollar. Hmmm. I wonder if Angelina needs someone to polish her prosthesis.

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