While preparing to pack the items from the hallway closet in the entryway, J and I ran into a spare Slinky. The box had been sitting in there so long that it was covered in dust and had been pushed all the way back to the wall, behind extra lightbulbs, and other seldom-used, back-up items. As I took it out, J merely looked at it, acknowledging its presence, but -unlike other instances int he past- he didn’t make an attempt to swap his current Slinky for this one.
Just in case he wanted to switch them, I left New Slinky in its box, on the shelving unit by the front door, where we drop all our hats, gloves, lunch bags, etc. as we run in and out of the house.
It’s still there.
Over the past three years, we’ve gone through twenty or so Slinky toys. Over the past five years we’ve gone through about thirty. Slinky the First is a vague memory now; we can hardly remember when and how we started relying on Slinky for entertainment, but we recall distinctly that it was three years ago that Slinky became a companion of sorts, an interpreter for J’s emotional state.
This particular Slinky that J carries around has been in constant use since February (as far as I can recall.) That is the longest one particular Slinky has stayed in J’s good graces. I can’t believe it’s been this long, or that J is so loyal to this particular Slinky, but I believe the reason is they’ve been through a lot together.
If you’ve been around that long (or if you’ve delved that deep,) you might recall the emergency visit to the dentist way back in mid-February and how, in his anxiety and pain, J swung Slinky and it got kinked and tangled. A deeply emotional connection seems to have started that day, and Slinky was in J’s hand each time he fell asleep under the effects of the dentist-administered sedatives, and it was in his hand as soon as he showed signs of waking up.
Over the past six months, I’ve been asked to find Slinky in the middle of then night because J, in his sleep, let it fall behind his headboard and under his bed. I’ve been asked to untangle it, because in his excitement and happiness, J has managed to get it jumbled into a mess. I’ve been asked to hold it while J maneuvered with something else. Slinky has sat by the tub while J showers (yes, thank goodness, J now showers rather than tub-bathes) and on the counter while J brushes his teeth. The boxing gloves are for decoration on his bed, but Slinky is his friend.
Should Slinky disappear behind the toss pillows on the couch, J has to look for it immediately. Should Zelda approach J at too fast a speed, Slinky is the one who serves as J’s first line of defense. When it’s time to emerge from his bedroom with all his movies, his iPad and his little trusty speaker in tow, Slinky proudly travels in J’s hand even while he holds his red basket by both handles. Slinky is seldom left behind, but there have been times when J has gone to the store without it, and has come home straight to where he left it waiting for him. There isn’t desperation in the attempt to reach his Slinky when this happens, but J is definitely happy to see it…
This morning, J and Slinky went down to the basement-level pantry to gather snacks while I returned to my room to have coffee while chatting with Dada as he shaved and got ready for work. J returned to the kitchen, snack box full of treats and I could hear him looking for his plastic containers in the cupboards. Slinky clinked away happily (rather than ominously like it can once in a while when J is using it like Captain Queeg’s ball bearings clinking away, a noise like nails on chalkboard.)
I lingered on the stairs making sure I had everything I needed to bring downstairs and heard Dada say “Oh, Slinky is tangled?” The first thing handed to me as I reached the bottom step was Slinky. Everything else was taken out of my hands, a clear sign that Slinky needed attention stat! It was quite a tangle, possibly three or four turns into itself (and with the little clamp that holds the end to the first coil together) not quite as easy to undo as I had initially hoped.
Dada had to leave for work, the light wasn’t bright enough, J was anxiously peering over my shoulder and, let’s face it, I had to negotiate with my glasses (looking over and under and through them) to make a clear assessment of what needed to be done. A minute into the process I muttered in frustration: there’s a NEW ONE…in the BOX…by the DOOR, for crying out loud!
AH-AAAH!!!!!!!!!! Dada and I both looked up to see sincere distress and concern on J’s face. That look said, quite clearly, how DARE you suggest I replace Slinky!!!! I looked at the clock over Dada’s shoulder, looked at Dada and was met with a “well, it’s raining BUCKETS anyway, and you wouldn’t want me to leave while it’s raining BUCKETS, right?” (I love this man. I really do. Irritating and annoying as he can be when he’s clueless, he’s brilliant when he’s chockfull of clues!)
With J looking on, Dada held one end of Slinky in one hand and the middle of Slinky in the other. I looked over, under and through my glasses, negotiating every coil around whichever other coil it was tangled on, and wondered how I ended up using my spatial and mechanical abilities to untangle rather long springs instead of, I don’t know, becoming an architect, an engineer or SOMETHING!
A couple of long, anxious minutes later, a clink and a sproing announced the end of my efforts. Slinky was free of itself, and J’s hand stretched out to receive his beloved companion with a huge smile on his face… I could hear Harry Nilsson in my mind:
Ah…THAT is why I saved my abilities for this rather than architecture or engineering…
Makes total sense!