He used run nakey to the tub, arms full of tiny plastic guys that he would line up on the ledge. He would only agree to veer away from athletic pants because he could carry Legos in his cargo pockets. He vroomed and whooshed and turned any little thing -- one of my hairbands, a milk ring, a wine cork, a gray rock from someone's gangway -- into a toy, most often a guy, a guy and a car if there was two little things.
Cleaning house was a process of herding toys from every room back to his, where bins of dinosaurs and birthday party goody-bag stuff and fire trucks with sirens that went off at all hours and games with half the pices missing and whistles and Star Wars figures spilled out on to the floor and were hidden under the bed and tucked into the dresser drawers and sometimes creeped into the hamper or my room or seventeen tote bags shoved into the closet.
Play is a child's work, my educator mother told me over and over. And time and again, I watched my boy punch the clock. The plastic ticky clock that only displays one-half of each number and plays an aggravating, sugary Sesame Street tune on the hour.
But over the last few months, playing has been demoted. Reading has soared from middle manager to the big boss. Reading is so in charge that no Lego chef guy's plastic baguette or the mostly put-together Millennium Falcon or the low-tech video game that plugs into the TV barely get any projects at all. They just all hang out in the break room, waiting. Watching that broken clock tick until it sings again.