July 22nd, 2005

The two greatest highlights of my visits to western Pennsylvania are always my nieces, Erica (6) and Dani (Terrible 2). Erica, who will start first grade in the fall but who can read entire books as if she is my peer, sounding out words like “directions” and “aviation,” and who is tall enough to pass for 12 (she is my sister’s daughter for sure), is going through two phases right now.

The first phase is a picking-up-”treasures”-everywhere-she-goes phase. Had I known about this phase, I might not have taken her along to wash my parents’ car. In the parking lot, she found a rubber ball (filthy), an armless plastic foot soldier (filthy), a temporary tattoo sticker (surprisingly not filthy) and various other items. I kept encouraging her to stop this treasure hunting, but she was obsessed. When we got home, I emptied her tote bag to find even more “treasures,” among them various pieces of broken car-window glass. She was proud of all of it.

In an attempt to draw her attention to some less filthy treasure, I took her to Toys ‘R’ Us and told her she could pick out one item. Had I realized she would have had an easier time sawing off her own limbs, I might have avoided the agony that ensued. She cruised the store, every aisle, noting the options. Each time I suggested that the current option seemed perfect, she replied, “Maybe, but I might like something else better.” Finally, starving and dehydrated after three days in the store, we found ourselves in front of a display of miniature plastic puppies. This was it. She wanted a puppy. But which one?! I could take no more. “If you choose within 30 seconds,” I said, “you can have two.” She began to hyperventilate in panic over the deadline. “29 … 30.” She grabbed two packages and reluctantly followed me toward the registers.

Just four feet from the cashier, though, she spotted a stuffed dog tossed on top of a display of scooters. “Oh! I want that dog instead,” she said. Hm. You see, I recognized that dog. I had bought her the same dog at this same store during a previous visit. When I reminded her of this and posited that she might have more fun with the puppies, she explained that her other dog needed a friend. So fine. We made the trade, and I rushed her through checkout and to the car.

I hereby predict that this child will never go to college, accept a job or get married, because how on earth could she pick just one of any of these things.

On to the second phase. In addition to the compulsion to touch and collect litter, Erica is obsessed with the constant picking of a perma-wedgie. My sister explained that Erica insists on pulling her underpants up to her armpits and so must spend all day removing them from her butt crack. The result is a permanent fusing of hand to bottom. Now, my nieces can do no wrong, but by day 3 of my visit, this fusion was getting on my nerves. I joined the adult chorus of “Remove that hand from those pants” ‘ers. It was no use. I tried to sympathize. We’ve all been there at one time or another with a certain pair of pants. The battle between waist-comfort and butt-comfort becomes all-consuming. Now imagine this is every pair of pants. Poor kid. Still, when I was getting ready to take her to see “Madagascar” and she came to me cuddling the new dog from Toys ‘R’ Us and asked if she could bring him along to the movies, I said, “Oh! Yes!” By all means! Anything to occupy those butt-picking hands!

We had dinner before the movie, and on the way to the parking lot, Erica stopped randomly and said, “You want to see my plan face?” Her what? I nodded tentatively. She clasped her hands and rubbed them together, hunched slightly, raised her shoulders and squinted her eyes. As if scheming, as if … making a plan. “Great plan face,” I said, and she went back to smiling, and we continued to the car. Isn’t age 6 great?

One Response to “Erica”

  1. ma Says:

    I don’t remember this one! What a great memory! I’m going to have to go back over your archived posts and see how many I’ve missed! xo

Leave a Reply