I was killing time the other day at the soon-to-be-gone Zellers in Bedford. Habit, hammered into me by years of listening to my son's entreaties, took me to the toy aisles even though I was alone. Here I wandered automatically through the section containing the latest Star Wars figures. A feeling of melancholy descended upon me as I realized that my children were now too old for action figures. Mitchell, now in high school, and Sylvia, completing junior high, were growing up.
The signs were everywhere.
When we drive Sylvia to school she insists on being dropped off to the side of the school. This way no one will see her parents. (She denies this is the reason, but she forgets that I was once - horrors! - a child.)
The most traumatic sign of her growing up came on the basketball court. My schtick on the court is to do impressions of Robert Duvall and, when I sink a good shot or win a game, thrust out my chest and crow, "The Great Santini!" (If this makes no sense to the readers, I suggest checking out this wonderful film or reading the book.) Since I have never believed in throwing a game, The Great Santini usually kicks butt.
However, last week, for two days in a row, Sylvia defeated me in one-on-one games.
"How's The Great Santini now?" she mocked. It was the second day and she was lit with the knowledge that she beat me fair and square.
"I still won three out four games today, sportsfan," I pointed out.
"I'm the winner!" she cried, ignoring me.
I laughed. "I see your grasp of math has been well nourished by the school system. A 25 per cent success rate is hardly winning."
Her response was to paraphrase Queen. "I am the champion," she sang. "You are the loser." Poor Freddie Mercury!
As we continued our trash-talk on the way home, I considered that I might have to start getting used to being the Semi-Decent Santini.
As for Mitchell, he has a less showy way of telling us that he has entered the Teenage Wasteland where, for the next few years, he will wander until he emerges out the other side as an adult.
"How was school?" I asked him as he did work on the computer.
"Okay," he replied.
Earlier, he had said he felt a cold coming on.
"Anyone in your class sick?" I asked.
"Well, was anyone not there today?"
"I'm not sure," he said.
An image of my son sitting in the corner of his classroom, staring vacantly at the walls, came to me. It seemed the only logical explanation for his lack of attention. Or was it? I thought back to the trip through Zellers. Just as the store would be gone, Mitchell's childhood was fading. The structure, where Zellers had been, would remain while its innards were replaced. As for Mitchell, he was also undergoing a major internal change. It was The Invasion of the Body Snatchers perpetrated by hormones instead of pods!
Kevin Toal is a freelance writer who needs to find another excuse to buy action figures.