A few weeks ago, on a whim, I told the girls about the FAO Schwarz piano scene from the movie Big. They were intrigued, so we watched the clip on YouTube, after which I began describing to them other favorite scenes — Tom Hanks chewing the baby corn, spitting out the caviar at the office party, hitting his head on the bunk bed when he first discovers that he’s an adult — and was extremely disappointed that no one has taken the time to illegally upload those clips to YouTube. After rummaging through our old movie collection, I finally emerged victorious with Big… on VHS. Awwww, yeah.
I decided to show them the entire movie (minus the love story part, which kind of accounts for half the movie, but whatever), and they watched with rapt attention, finding it as funny as I hoped they would. It didn’t dawn on me that Big would impact our lives in any significant fashion, until – about 0.84 seconds after the movie finished – Ella rushed over to the piano and attempted to play “Heart and Soul.”
When I was a teenager, I attended a camp (an amazing all-girls camp up in Algonquin Park, Canada, called Tanamakoon) where music was highly prized. There was a weekly music night, which was as enthusiastically attended as a homecoming game, and for which you had to sign up as a performer many days in advance to ensure that you had a spot. We sang songs every morning before breakfast, each day waiting for Assembly to begin, after dinner each night, and throughout the day as campers completed various activities… and we sang them in spontaneous harmony.The camp musical was put on in an awesomely-outfitted open-air theater. Boom boxes and mix tapes were as essential as life jackets and bug spray. Tanamakoon breathed music.
In the lodge was a beautiful, weathered grand piano. Save for music night, it wasn’t played too often, but campers and staff alike would regularly plink out ditties as they passed by. Despite Tanamakaoon’s love affair with music, “Heart and Soul” was forbidden on the grand piano – in part because the propensity to play it with gusto might harm the instrument, and in (larger) part because hearing it 293 times each day would drive everyone insane.
Now I understand why.
I thought that “Heart and Soul” might be Big‘s only lasting impact (save for the girls gnawing away at baby corn like frantic mice)… but then, as their birthday party approached, Ella requested a pair of walkie talkies. Inspired by Josh and Billy, Ella thought that perhaps she could communicate with our next-door neighbor, who happens to be one of her best friends. It seemed innocuous enough, so after reading reviews on Amazon, I bought a pair and wrapped them up for the birthday celebration.
Ella responded with great enthusiasm, even agreeing to share them with Annie (I’d written on the package that this was to be a joint gift). I was pleased with her reaction, but was not anticipating that Nick might respond with just as much, if not more, excitement. (That said, given that he practically ripped the girls’ first Lego set out of their hands a couple of Christmases ago, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.)
Nick immediately got to work teaching the girls the finer points of walkie-talkie use: how to turn them on, how to turn them off (even more important, lest the batteries die), how to actually speak into them, how to actually listen to the other person speaking rather than immediately jumping in and talking simultaneously, and a few other walkie talkie particulars (“handles” were discussed, although none was decided upon. When they are, I am formally claiming “Lady Mama-Lade”).
They then began trying out the walkie talkies, testing their range, hiding in one room of the house while trying to sneak up on the other. It soon became clear that the girls were having some difficulty ending their communications with the word “over,” and Nick took it upon himself to fix that situation.
“Whenever you finish speaking, you need to say ‘over.'”
“So the other person knows you’re done.”
“Won’t they know I’m done because I stop talking?”
“No. You need to say ‘over.'”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Here, let’s test it out. You go downstairs, and I’ll talk to you.”
“I still don’t see why…”
“Just go! We can’t stand next to each other and talk!”
“Are you there? Do you read me? Over.”
“I’m not reading anything. I’m just in the dining room.”
“You didn’t say ‘over’ when you were done. Over.”
“I don’t want to say it.”
“Say ‘over’ when you’re finished! Over.”
“I’m not saying ‘over.'”
“You just did!”
The walkie talkies were put away for the duration of the birthday party, but managed to make an appearance right before bedtime. By that time, in their post-party haze, Annie and Ella were practically walking into walls and speaking in tongues, exhibiting the same glassy-eyed stares as college freshmen who’d just pulled their first all-nighters, so I assumed that they’d pass out quickly. As I was tucking them into their beds, I heard Nick casually tell them that they could use their walkie talkies, but “don’t talk too long.”
It so happens that, to punch-drunk six and eight year-olds, “too long” is a relative term.
Forty-five minutes later, and a good ninety minutes past their usual bedtime, I happened to be walking by their doors when I heard a peculiar beeping sound coming from Annie’s room. Thinking that perhaps her clock-radio alarm was going off, I crept into the room, hoping to silence it before it woke her… and caught her guiltily slipping the still-warm walkie talkie under her pillow.
I didn’t even have to say anything; apparently, my own glassy-eyed death glare spoke volumes. After giving Ella the same stare-down, the walkie talkies were remarkably silent for the rest of the night.
I wonder how Nick will react if I get them model airplanes.