Wherein My Demands For Lightheartedness Confuse Serious Young Children
I can’t explain my compulsion to anthropomorphize every object I own. I just know that I name nearly every piece of tchatchki that comes into my life the way a pet owner might her beloved litter of puppies. Don’t dare refer to my reading chair as “that dingy thing you got for half price at Pier One”. That’s Chairy. And she can hear you when you talk about her that way. And that battery powered chewing-action kimono lizard we acquired during our toy-buying dot com days? Well, that’s Karl. And he would greatly appreciate it if you didn’t pick him up by his meaty rubber tail like that.
If there was ever a reason to want to be monitored by the CIA, I’ve got as good a reason as any. Between the weird alien language that CLH and I have cultivated to talk cute to one another in, and my drooling idiot names for common household objects, I’d say I’d be able to give any code cracker a good run for his money.
This habit is so out of control that I’ve actually got my friends calling my possessions by the inane names I’ve given them. The roomies now call the 100 pounds of acrylic and wool I crocheted for CLH one Christmas “Blankie“. Our 24 inch long oversized wooden ladle? Well, that’s non other than “Brunhilda”. And then there’s our longtime favorite, Sugar Chicken.
Sugar Chicken is a re-purposed jelly bean bowl that now houses our sugar. She came to me from a friend who’d received it as a gift from her grandma. It was on its way to Goodwill when I spotted it in my friend’s donation box. I took one look at her smoky lime green glass, her chipped midsection, her hollowed out middle still harboring a jelly bean or two, and I decided she would make the perfect sugar bowl. I took her home (my friend incredulous that I would take such googly-eyed delight in the worst America had to offer in home decor) and filled her up.
Something happened with Sugar Chicken that didn’t happen with all the other stuff I’ve assigned names to. Sugar Chicken compelled me to sing a song when I used her. Specifically, I started singing “Sugar Sugar” from the Archies. Only, instead of singing “Sugar Sugar”, I sang “Sugar Chicken….dunh dunh DUNH dunh dunh–dunh…. Oh, honey honey… You are my sugar BO-O-O-O-WL, and you’ve got me wanting y-o-u-u-u-u-u”.
And somehow, this tradition of singing the sugar bowl open became unwritten law in our house. No one, not even guests, could use the sugar bowl without first singing the first lines of “Sugar Sugar”. Of course, I was more than happy to get them started…. and once they saw the deranged pleasure I took in singing to a glass bowl, they were free to spoon the sugar into their coffees (and make a mental note to bring their own sweetener to the next brunch I hosted.)
The institutionalization of this custom became very real in our house just a few weeks ago when our friend Jodi and her 5 year old son, Sage, came to spend the night. The night they arrived, we sat around drinking coffee, sweetened, naturally, by Sugar Chicken. CLH informed Sage, in a mock serious tone, that we never EVER open up Sugar Chicken without first singing the Sugar Chicken song. We all then commenced singing the Sugar Chicken song. Sage took in the scene of five grown adults gathered around a chicken-shaped bowl singing a 1960s pop song and I imagine he stored it in the part of his brain labeled “Cult Experiences I Had As A Child That Now Prevent Me From Eating Chicken And Sugar”.
The next morning, Josh came downstairs and found Sage hard at work herding all the slugs in our front yard into a new “home” constructed of leaves and twigs. Sage had been up for a while before any of the other adults were out of bed. He came in to the kitchen to chat with Josh while Josh prepared breakfast. As Josh was getting the coffee going, Sage stopped him and said, with deadly seriousness in his voice, “Um, you don’t need to sing the Sugar Chicken song this morning because I already did”.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the legacy I will be leaving to our youth.