Diaries Magazine

Babe in Toyland.

Posted on the 22 March 2013 by Ellacoquine @ellacoquine
babe in toyland.  illustration by amy borrell.
First week back from winter break has been going fairly easy. I have to say, I was looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. As much as I enjoyed all of my free time and was really able to pummel through my infinite to-do list, by the end of the week I was ready to get back to work.
My students have all been in good spirits as well and get this, some of them were actually happy to see me. When I asked my three year olds how they spent their vacation they told me that they didn't remember anymore. What. How do they not remember? They certainly remember that time back in November when I mispronounced the word rue, yet skiing in the Alps? Nope, not at all a memorable experience. Ah, children.
So unlike real teachers in France, I do in fact work on Wednesdays. The program I'm involved in is customized for ambitious parents who want their children to get a head start on their English before officially taking it in school as a requirement. So my lessons take place after school and on Wednesdays when most French children are playing and doing their extracurricular activities. It's no wonder that some of them absolutely hate me, especially the older ones who know that I'm encroaching on their precious Wii time. There's one student in particular, Louis, who I'm convinced wants to see me dead. This child does not speak to me in English or in French, and barely acknowledges my presence. That's not fair actually, occasionally I'll get a grunt, but that's on a good day when he's feeling "expressive".
Picking up precious eight year old Louis from basketball at one of the city's sport centers for kids, I filled him in on the lesson we were going to learn later at his house; the exciting adventure of placing the adjective before the noun and all of the fun ways we were going to learn how to properly describe persons, places and/or things. He had absolutely no response to this and asked if we could stop at the toy store that we were passing at that moment. 

Not wanting to smother him in the store and perhaps for my own selfish reasons, I did what any normal 31 year old woman would do and headed straight to the Barbie and Disney Princesses aisle. Clearly. Looking at all of the packaging promising all things pink, I was transported to my childhood where the difference between a good and bad day depended on a plastic doll and her outfits. Buying into the nostalgia, I actually caught myself looking at the price of one of the less Botoxed Barbies who was fashioned to look more vintage than her slutty modern day counterpart. Buying one seemed like a good idea in theory, but after purchasing I would then have this Barbie doll, which would be kind of weird since we already have a Jem doll in the house.
Just as I put Barbie back on the shelf with her other pals, the electricity in the store cut out.

We weren't in a quaint toy boutique where a large store front window would stream daylight through, we were in a Parisian Toys R' Us where it was just a warehouse outfitted by ten foot tall aisles packed with merchandise. I couldn't see a thing. I shouted out for Louis who was in the adjacent Pixar aisle and heard only the sounds of other children crying and mothers frantically shuffling around this now cavity of a black hole.
With my arms reached out in front of me, I walked a few steps to find the toy shelf to use as a guide to try to get around the corner to Louis' aisle. I called for him again, this time louder and more my mother when she's annoyed. Still no response.
Finally store the associates came rushing down the aisles in this state of emergency with flashlights. The circumference of my surroundings was then illuminated by one of the stock boys and there was little Louie standing right behind me looking up at me, not speaking, just being totally creepy. I thought he was going to hiss and spin his head around Linda Blair style. Upon asking him why he didn't say anything when I was calling for him, and he looked at me and shrugged. 
Back out onto the street, Louis stopped, grabbed my hand and looked up at me. He was on the brink of actually speaking to me, like a complete sentence! In French or English, at this point, I didn't care. This was going to be ground-breaking, I remember thinking. Perhaps he felt that we bonded in the opaque toy store, that we overcame the darkness together, and this was the experience that would break down the wall that has been up since last October. He opened his mouth and at that moment he asked me why I didn't buy him a toy.
Pfff! Yeah, that doesn't count.

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