Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ooh ooh ... eee eee ... EEEK!

I hosted playgroup this morning and I’m still reeling. I spent Sunday grocery shopping and cleaning the house from top to bottom. A protesting Ron scoured the bathroom, dusted off ceiling cobwebs and scrubbed crayon marks off walls. Benny trotted back and forth between us, puzzled by the sudden activity.

But I don’t regret a second of it. Five toddlers and their mothers swarmed over this house like a plague of locusts. There wasn’t a square inch left unused or uninspected. They ate all the muffins and cookies by 10 a.m., so I brought out Goldfish crackers and little frozen quiches.

One mother brought a frozen pizza (thank god) and I added two French bread pizzas for lunch. Those disappeared, so I baked some chicken tenders. When the last mother departed at 1 p.m., only a few graham cracker crumbs remained.

The horde quickly spread from the living room to the dining room, kitchen and office. Two kids crawled under the dining table, one tried to climb Callisto’s cat perch in the office, and another tossed empty plastic pop bottles around the kitchen, Two more found Benny’s car bed and jumped on it in wonder and delight.

Benny handled it pretty well. I’d hidden his baby doll and his 1,000 matchbox cars ahead of time, so he was OK. But I hadn’t counted on OTHER kids’ toys. One little boy (let’s call him Nutty) brought a toy guitar. Ben chased Nutty all over the house, trying to get the guitar, while Nutty howled.

Nutty always brings some weird comfort item to playgroup -- Iast week it was a scratched-up Monkees CD. Mickey Dolenz apparently screams in one song, so Nutty went around making monkey sounds and shrieking: "Ooh ooh ... eee eee ... EEEK!" Swear to God.

Anyway, while I was passing around quiches, Nutty got distracted and Benny nabbed the guitar. Nutty shrieked, Benny cried. I took the guitar from Benny and suggested to Nutty’s mom that she hide it somewhere. She stuck it under the coats in the bedroom, which meant that six toddlers ended up there, trying to climb the queen-sized bed. Bored with that, some started opening dresser drawers.

Unfortunately, it didn't stop there. Nutty’s mom kept slipping him the guitar on the sly. Benny would always find out, so I’d have to abandon my hosting duties to break up guitar fights. Nutty’s mom would hide the guitar again until next time.

Meanwhile the other mothers were looking around (at pictures, bookshelves, bulletin boards items stuck to the refrigerator) and loving everything they saw. So I’m fielding questions like:

“Who took your wedding picture? It looks like a magazine spread!”

“You have books on Japan? When were you there?”

“Look at this clipping on the fridge! Did your husband write this column on Thomas the Tank Engine? Kheegann LOVES Thomas!”

“What a great toddler bed! Does Benny stay in it? How do you keep him in it? Has he ever fallen out? Where’d you get the bedding? Do you regret not hiding the bed in the basement and telling people that Benny sleeps on the floor?”

It was a little maddening, but I couldn’t get upset, because these mothers were obviously so nice and well-meaning. They all have their own lovely homes, by the way, although I gotta say, as a guest I do resist the urge to follow them around and say, “What lovely lamps! Did you get them at Pier One? I saw similar ones at Pier One, but they were short and silver instead of tall and gold …”

After everyone left, I broke a big rule of mine and napped with Benny in his car bed. We were both pretty wiped out. Thank heavens I only host playgroup a few times a year.


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