When my son, Clyde, was little, we used to think that he was going to grow up to be some sort of a puppeteer, because any object that found its way into his hands immediately took on a life and a personality all its own.
“How are you, Mr. Fork?” the spoon would say at the dinner table, and the fork would reply with a polite, “I’m good, Mr. Spoon; how are you?”
It was cute. It was sweet. And then, when I started paying a little bit more attention, it was disturbing, because I soon realized that not only did inanimate objects all have personalities when they were around Clyde, they all had the same personality: sociopath. Take the above Mr. Fork/Mr. Spoon exchange. Sounds pleasant enough, right? And it was—at the time. But if you had followed Mr. Fork and Mr. Spoon as they continued their conversation on Clyde’s lap, you would have seen that it ended up like this:
Mr. Fork: Would you like to go for a walk with me, Mr. Spoon?
Mr. Spoon: No, I don’t think so, Mr. Fork; the last time we went on a walk together you tried to stab me with your head.
Mr. Fork: Oh, that. Don’t worry. It won’t happen again.
Mr. Spoon: Really?
Mr. Fork: Really. I promise.
Mr. Spoon: Well, okay then. If you promise.
And away the two of them would go, under the table, at which point you’d hear Mr. Fork shout out a triumphant, “Ha ha! I kill you!” and Mr. Spoon reply with a terrified, “No, no, please, no!”
Like I said: a little bit disturbing. But then I started thinking about it from Clyde’s point of view, and I realized that I, too, had always been curious about who would win a fight between a fork and a spoon, and that Clyde’s version of events—the gullible empty-headed spoon versus the born-to-be-vicious fork—made sense. (Let’s not even bring the knife into this—what’s the point? And the spork? Please. That hispter wanna-be couldn’t even win a fight with a pair of asparagus tongs.)
I could also understood Clyde’s desire to see who would win the battle of the frig magnets. (The heavy “Scenes of the Southwest” magnets had size and strength on their side, but in the end they were helpless against the horde of magnetic poetry words. It was kind of like watching Imperial Walkers being taken down by the rebel forces on Hoth.) And I even came to appreciate the subtleties involved in the battle between the plastic jellyfish and the army men in the bath tub. (Although the army men had superior numbers, the jelly fish was in its element. Plus, the rest of the family tended to angrily throw the poky army men into the trash can every time one of them got underfoot during a shower, thereby significantly reducing their numbers over time.)
In the end I simply accepted that my house was always going be ground zero. In fact, on a recent visit to Chicago I even made sure to pick up a die cast model of the Sear’s Tower—just to see what Clyde’s Eiffel Tower model would make of it. Of course, it goes without saying that they fought. And who won? Well, I won’t deny that there were some tense moments, but in the end brute American strength won out over French cunning. Yeah, it turns out that We’re Still Number One.
At least in Clyde’s world, anyway. And really, what other world matters?