eleanor destroyer of worlds




YEAH, I'm talking to you.

Listen, Eleanor, I know you were just trying to help. You're spending the summer as a volunteer between your junior and senior year of college. You're studying early childhood jet propulsion and this, was, like, perfect. 

And you saw me, wearing Buster in the Ergo, holding Chicken's hand as we walked from airplane to airplane. 

Chicken: Can we touch this one?
Me: No, baby, I'm sorry. Not this one. This is a mail plane! They used it to carry packages and letters!

Chicken: Okay. Can we touch this one?
Me: Oh darn, you see that little wall? It means we can't touch this one either. We can look at it with our eyes, though! Do you see the propellers that spin round and round?

Chicken: Okay. Can we touch this one?
Me: You know what? You're right. Let's go find one you can touch, okay?
Chicken: Okay!

You overheard us and you must have thought Ah ha! The moment to make a difference!

You walked up to us.

Eleanor: Hi! Did I hear that you're looking for some airplanes that you can touch?
Me: Yes, we are!
Chicken: Yeah!
Eleanor: Well, if you go right downstairs into the education resource center, there are a lot of hands-on activities!
Me: Oh, really?
Eleanor: Yeah, we just reopened it!
Me: Great!
Eleanor: (crouches down to make direct eye contact with 3-year-old) There are a LOT of toys to play with down there, okay?
Chicken: (grins) Okay!
Me: Thank you!

As we descended the stairs, Chicken skipped and hopped and kept up a running recap of everything Eleanor, the greatest woman in the world, had just told him.

AND AND AND AND there are LOTS of toys! 
AND AND AND we can play with them! 
AND AND AND AND it just opened! 

There might have been a little song that was just the word "toys" over and over again.

You see where this is going, right?

We walked into the newly reopened education center. And yes. Yes, there were a lot of toys. 

In the corner, and immediately in Chicken's line of sight sat a train table piled high with airplane figures - seaplanes, fighter jets, helicopters, commercial airliners, rockets. Oh, the rockets... It was glorious.

But between the door and the stuff of toddler dreams lay the stuff of mother nightmares.


Twenty or so adults in folding chairs sat TAKING NOTES while a panel of suited, poofy-haired experts discussed emergency preparedness in flight.  

We walked into the room, my bangs stuck to my sweaty forehead, Buster's cheerio-stuffed fist buried in his wet yawning mouth, and Chicken's eyes shining in the glory that was the promised land. He took an quick, awestruck gasp of breath and whispered toys!

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck fuck fuck fuck

The noise in my head was the blaring siren you hear when your submarine takes a torpedo. I crouched down next to Chicken and started furiously whispering into his ear as I placed a hand on his shoulder and attempted to gently steer him back the way we came.

baby I know there are a lot of toys over there but it looks like these people are using this room right now and they need it to be quiet so they can listen to the people who are telling them about being safe on airplanes so we have to come back--


The lecture stopped. The room seemed to roll over on top of us as every set of eyes shot in our direction.

I know you do, baby, I know, this is so frustrating, there's a big pile of toys over there that you really want to play with and they look like a lot of fun, but do you see all of these people who have stopped talking and are staring at us right now well they need this room for a little while longer so let's go have a snack a yummy snack maybe some ice cream ooooh some ice cream okay and then we can come back when--


I made eye contact with one of the panelists. As our eyes met, she was just starting one of those flat-breath exhales that they tell you to do while you're in labor for extreme pain management.

I saw a room off to the side that looked like it had some kind of activity stations in it. I lunged for the life raft. I said okay okay okay okay can you go pick a plane from the table and we'll see if we can bring it into the other room for a few minutes and play okay


yes baby just quietly please okay very very very very quietly

He scampered to the table and began pushing the plastic toys around in a clattering search for the perfect plane. 

The panelist resumed talking in a much louder, higher-pitched voice, and even though she was ostensibly talking about securing hatches ("Um, at this point? You'd need to confirm? That the hatch? Has been secured?") I could hear her loud and clear: Um, I hate you? I hate you? I hate you? I hate you?

I popped my head into the side room and quickly realized that I'd just taken us from shafted to straight-up screwed. This was not an activity center. This was an empty conference room. 

Which, of course, begged the question of why these people decided to conference in the TOY ROOM. But that horse left the barn, so I asked the volunteer in the otherwise completely abandoned room if my son could please come in and play for a bit. 

His mouth said "uhhhhhh... I guess...?" 

But his eyes said "please don't get me fired. I have four boa constrictors at home to feed."

His supervisor, who'd been scowling at us since I first dared to darken the door of the PLAY ROOM with these CHILDREN, came over and before I even had the chance to ask he was shaking his head "No, no, no, I'm sorry, this isn't a play room."

At exactly this moment, Chicken trotted up to me with a bright green plastic airplane in his hands. 

I picked one, Mommy! Can I play?


Now that it's been a couple of hours since I dragged my screaming son out of an otherwise stony-silent and appalled lecture hall where you sent him with the promise of a toy-filled wonderland, I can say that I know you were trying to help, and obviously you weren't totally off-base because there were toys in that room, and it's even possible that at some point someone intended for those toys to be played with by young children who grew frustrated with the no-touch nature of the museum.


I know it's not your fault.

But you should have specified that when you said "we just reopened the education center" you meant "for industry conferences and historical symposiums."

I knew you didn't mean to.

But you kinda dealt us a blow that none of us could come back from.  

this is after I said
hey baby
do you want to get on
Air Force One
and he fell to the ground
I doooooooo
can we get
a slow clap going
for Eleanor
Chicken is old enough to understand a little bit of how the world works. He knows he wears a seat belt in the car. He knows that he uses a spoon to eat ice cream. He's been to enough museums to know that drapey chains and plexiglass mean "look but don't touch." And you can bet your ass he knows what to do with a toy. 

Before you came up to us, Chicken was in Museum Mode. He was interested in the exhibits, asking questions, happy to participate where appropriate and keep his hands off the historic artifacts. 

But then you, Eleanor, dove right in like a swimmer with an open wound and activated Toy Mode. Honestly, I saw his eyes dilate. Dead serious, his fingernails grew an inch. You released the Kraken.

Imagine if you went to a really cool sushi restaurant and you were like, "yeah, cool, cold fish and seaweed, no that sounds really nice actually" but then your server got like right up in your face and said "but did you know that we just started serving piping-hot double bacon cheeseburgers and a tall, thick vanilla milkshakes?"

And then he brings out that cheeseburger and shake and it is everything, everything you have ever wanted in your life. The bun is perfectly toasted and the cheese has melted into the wavy folds of crisp bacon. A mountain range of fries lies plump and crisped with visible crystals of salt perched on its toasty brown peaks. Little flecks of vanilla bean lie suspended in the creamy whiteness of your milkshake, glistening in a frosted glass... and he says "actually, you can't have this. Here's that cucumber roll you asked about."

That's what you did. 

I know you didn't mean to. But let's just all take a lesson from this one, okay?

The moral of the story is:

Let's just let that be a happy surprise, mmkay?

astronaut ice cream
90% of the time
it works
every time


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