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The Magic Box

On Top of the Magic Box, Ottawa, April 2014
On Top of the Magic Box, Ottawa, April 2014

A few months ago, while vacuuming Mark’s room, I tossed the toys, artistically scattered everywhere à la modern art, into one of these big empty Pampers diaper boxes. It was just a practical way to clean the carpet properly. The carton box wouldn’t last long with Mark, I thought.

But amazingly, it did and it’s still here, in the corner of the room. It is now the official toy box, also known as “the magic box”.

In the toy box, I, the sadistic mommy, buried Elmo and his friends. My in-laws bought Mark this annoying talking shit, ahem, I mean “educational toy” to help teach number recognition and colours. Yeah, right—Mark is a bit young for that. The kid is supposed to press on the button corresponding to the colour being said by “Elmo” and it lights up when he is right. “Green! No, that’s orange. Try again. Red! That’s RED! Green! Cookie Monster looooves green cucumbers!” Of course, since Mark doesn’t know colours yet, he rarely gets it right and Elmo encourages him to play over and over again. I can’t stand the loud volume and the stupid Elmo voice. So I “hid” it at the bottom of the toy box. Once in a while, Mark digs deep enough, finds it and begs me to turn it on—thank God, the thing has a switch. “Elmo is sleeping, Mark. Sorry!” I shrug helplessly.

I bought a nice chest at Homesense for the living room; I didn’t want an empty diaper box sitting in the middle of it. When I introduced it to Mark, I explained: “See, before you sleep, we put all the toys in the big box, and then we close the lid. Bye bye, dodo!”

I hate clutter and I was sick of stepping on toys. The box is a great way to make the house look clean—although between us, the house is only truly clean when Mark (and, ahem, Feng) aren’t there and I can tackle housework properly.

The first night we had the chest, I uttered the magic words: “all the toys in the box!” Mark nodded and I went into the kitchen to make his bottle of milk. “All the toys in the box!” I called again. I could hear Mark throwing in Duplo blocks and his cars. Suddenly, I heard Mark growling “uh, uh” as if making a huge effort. “Everything okay?” I called from the kitchen. No reply. I stepped into the living room and saw that Mark took the “all the toys in the box” instruction literally: he had carried his big riding truck and was lifting it to… well, put it into the box. I burst out laughing looking at him trying to close the lid on the huge truck, way too big for the chest.

Another night, I was trying to calm Mark down as Feng was making his milk. “Come on, Mark. Let’s put all the plastic bottles and cans in the recycle bin,” I said to keep him busy. “Do you want to help me? I’ll show you where the box is.” Mark took a couple of empty juice bottles and disappeared with them. You guessed where they ended up—in the toy box. What, I had said “box”! I should have been more specific!

If we are looking for something at home, there is a good chance we will find it in the box. This is Mark’s private hoarding place—there are books, Duplo blocks, a train, many cars and trucks, a few soft toys he got when he was just a baby, a balloon we brought back from the mall weeks ago (how long before he pops it?), a made-to-display phone a salesperson gave him, plastic rings, his favourite talking book… and occasionally socks, t-shirts or pureed fruit pouches.

Everything into the box. I love this sentence. If only life was that easy, if only we could put all of our  worries, insecurities and fears into a box and close the lid on them for the night!

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