Monday, November 11, 2013

Playthings

I have spent an inordinate amount of my adult life sorting children's toys.  I am grateful that I haven't kept track of time spent in such pursuit, as the actual number of hours might be depressing.  And also, my mother might wonder why the toy room of my childhood was always a disastrous mess.
Let me share an extremely well-kept secret: I like organizing stuff. I like organizing best when I start with an incredibly tangled muddle and end with inspirational order.  If someone were to stop by my house right now, there would be no visual clues that I like to categorize and catalog. That is because I'm letting certain messes marinate in order to bring the optimal joy when they are finally dealt with.
What did I organize today?
Baby Dolls. Each one has had her face washed, is clothed and is now sleeping in either the doll bed (most important) or the toy chest downstairs (those selected for upcoming playtime with cousins) or in the closet (least loved dollies). One extremely special doll is sitting in the doll highchair where she will be allowed to binge on plastic food all night long.  It may be wrong to teach dolls to be emotional eaters, but this poor thing must find some way to deal with the purple ink that Mr. Clean Magic Eraser failed to clear off her wee little face.
Plastic Kitchen Toys and Play Food. One of the special perks of the organizing job is the authority to reduce the stock of pretend play wares when no one is looking.  For me, it's not emotional eating (because it's plastic, right?) but perhaps an emotional purging. I'm saying this like it's a dysfunction, but really, it's healthy. I only threw away the stuff that had black spots, was impossibly dented or had passed it's expiration date. Just kidding. There's no expiration date on toy food, right? Because we've had this certain tomato flung around our house for a long time...
Dress Up Clothes.  The old bridesmaid dresses went back to the attic like a bunch of satin Cinderellas. The child-sized "princess" dresses aren't nearly as pretty as the former-wedding wear and were feeling rather jealous.
Reusable and Paper Grocery Bags.  I have 18 paper grocery bags folded neatly and stacked beneath the respectable collection of reusable grocery bags.  Obviously, if I'd remember the latter the numbers of the former would cease multiplying. I can't really untangle that last sentence, and I am doing well to remember my list when I procure groceries, so we need not fear a shortage of paper sacks in the near future.
I'm really glad I spent the time organizing the grocery bags, as everything else should be undone in about 14 hours, just after I have finished lining up eleven years' worth of story books by height, publisher, author and subject matter.  The books should last until my school children get home and find the beautifully shelved books irresistibly readable.

Should I spend time on tasks so easily reversed? Should I be bothered by the impermanence of my works? Somehow I feel good. Accomplishments, even if they are only celebrated by a party of one and demolished by a party of five, are mildly addictive. A checked off list, even one scrawled on the food-stained backside of old homework, is a reward in itself. My world is small, but growing larger each day. Someday the baby dolls will be organized for good and lonely. I myself may have to play with them and taste the plastic food alone.  [I wonder if the bridesmaid dresses will still fit?]

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