One benefit of having an iPhone is being able to take high-quality pictures of inanimate objects. One benefit of having an iPhone and children together in the same place at the same time is that the children, no matter their ages and maturity levels, and no matter whether they own iPhones themselves — which is analogous to the number of boots they possess when they want to borrow mom’s, even if they already own enough to have shod the Napoleonic army at Smolensk — will seize the iPhone and start snapping high-quality pictures of inanimate objects. This is especially true when you aren’t paying very close attention. And it’s especially truer when the inanimate object at issue is an inflatable light-up penguin.
We adopted this little fella from Home Depot last week. We were there buying a Christmas tree, and before you object that Home Depot is kind of a sad place to buy a Christmas tree, I will reassure you that we were and remain totally at peace with this. We started going there by default the first Christmas after Chris died — when, honestly, just buying a tree at all was a major triumph — and by now, at our third Christmas without him, it’s become a kind of tradition. Part of that tradition is making additional impulse purchases that make no sense at the time or later on, after we’ve had some occasion to reflect. Last year we bought big glittery plastic orbs packaged and touted as ornaments only to get home and realize that they didn’t have any hooks, loops or other specialized doohickeys with which to hang them from the tree. They were literally just big glittery plastic orbs.
So this year, after selecting a tree, my three kids went off on their hunting-gathering expedition through Home Depot and returned with the above creature, having trapped and hauled him in from the electrified-Christmas-baubles aisle designed to vacuum-suck fat wads of parental money from unfortified pockets. With a wide smile, my oldest presented this to me and asked, “Mom! Mom! Can we buy this! Mom!” And I replied, Sure! Ha ha! How adorable! Seriously! Wow!
And it is. Wow. Seriously. So adorable. I am not being ironic. Its serious adorability is intended to be displayed outside, but apparently we lack the proper outdoor plugs, so instead we display it indoors whenever we’re feeling merry or just want to amuse ourselves by looking at it (him? her?) and listening to it (her? him?) whir. During a recent jam session with my neighborhood band, it (he? she?) whirred thusly beside us through five hours of ka-chung ka-chung ka-chunging on “Psycho Killer” reimagined with dulcimer and ukes.
It was only much later in the evening that I looked at my phone and remembered that my children had, several days earlier, snapped seven pictures of the thing. Seven. In each, it presents its enigmatic smiley-face to the world like some flightless nylon Mona Lisa.
I am not asking you to name it; I am not planning a new poll and some subsequent futile exercise in the democratic process. Instead, I am asking you to tell me this: WHAT IS IT THINKING? Is it thinking, “I am penguin. Hear me whir.” Or maybe: “If I purse my beak like this, I could post my selfie to Facebook. If only I owned an iPhone! And, like, hands.” Or even: “I shall hold you in my thrall with my fixed gaze and fartly humming!” Or is it thinking, “I am a messenger of joy. Happy Everything!”
I’m going with the last one. Because it is. Seriously. So. Adorable.