Her Bad Mother’s Home For Misfit Toys

July 17, 2007

He had been sitting outside on the verandah of the house across the street for some days, perched unsteadily on a chair, facing the street. Occasionally, our old pirate - the apparently homeless fellow who has been permitted to occupy, in daytime hours, said verandah for two summers now – would sit down in the chair beside him, cross his legs in the manner of a gentleman settling down to a cigar and brandy, and engage him in conversation.

Aarrrrr, the old pirate would say. And, eeerrrgh. There was never, so far as we could tell from our post at the living room window, any response.

Most of the time, the occupant of the second porch chair – a chair formerly occupied by our pirate’s friend, a resident of the house, now confined by illness to his rooms – was left alone, his expression frozen in a permanent grin, or grimace, depending upon the angle from which one viewed it. Coming up the street on our bicycles, it seemed a grin – expansive and toothy, as if the bearer were just about to break out in maniacal laughter. From the vantage point from living room window, directly across the street, it was most certainly a grimace, or a snarl, the expression of a hungry animal, or an angry Phyllis Diller.

What do you want to bet, my husband asked, that that creature ends up on our doorstep by the end of the weekend?

That, I replied, is not a bet that I would care to make.

Our stash of scavenged loot, hand-delivered by Universal Pirate Services, has been growing steadily. First, it was the jumbo battery-operated toddler Jeep. Then came the bright yellow dump truck, and the shiny red monster truck. And then, on Friday, two hardback Harry Potter novels arrived.

(These latter gifts were delivered to me personally. I was standing on the verandah while the husband unloaded the child from the bike seat when I heard the unmistakable aargh of our pirate. Aargh! he announced, as he approached. And then, Woman! Being the only woman in the immediate vicinity, I turned to greet him, whereupon he pressed the two books into my hands. Aargh – mumble mumble – like these stories – mumble mumble – girl aargh, he explained, and then turned on his heel and shuffled back across the street.

Did he just call you ‘woman?’ my husband asked, ever alert to strange occurrences on our verandah. Yes, I replied. How did he know that I’ve never read Harry Potter?)

We don’t know where the scavenged loot comes from. We imagine that our pirate strolls the alleys and laneways of our neighborhood, searching for abandoned treasure. We imagined that the squat, grimacing fellow who had been occupying the porch chair across from our pirate for some days had been similarly rescued from some back-alley recycling pile. We imagined that our pirate had plans for obtaining shelter for this poor fellow. We imagined that he was planning to arrange shelter for this poor fellow in our home.

I did not want this fellow in my home. I was certain that this fellow had seen many a rough night in whatever alley had been, until recently, his domicile. I was certain that this fellow had been kicked and scratched and peed on, and although I felt badly that any such creature should have to suffer such indignities, I was not quite prepared to allow my child to wrap her soft, sweet little arms around this no-doubt bedraggled and urine-soaked fellow. We would, I decided, have to tell our pirate that his friend would have to stay with him. We would decline this latest of his gifts.

It seemed, however, that this was not going to be a problem. As the weekend wore on, the conversations between our pirate and his new friend grew more animated. The pirate told sweeping tales of high seas piracy – we imagined – waving his hands in the air and punctuating the dramatic parts with robust growls. He argued, passionately, about – we imagined – the decline of civility in America and the high cost of living. He stabbed at the air with his cigarette, and slammed his hand down on the arm of his chair, and interrupted his storytelling and his speechmaking only to burst into song. Occassionally, he would lean forward, reach across his chair, and grasp the hand of his companion, the better to whisper confidences.

I’m ready to take that bet now, I said to my husband. I don’t think that he’s going to part with his new friend.

That Sunday evening, we had just returned home from a spin around the neighbourhood on our bicycles when my husband leaned over his handlebars and whispered urgently: he’s coming over. We watched as the pirate lifted his skinny, shirtless self slowly from his chair, and bent to grab the hand of his friend. WonderBaby watched, too, hooting delightedly from her perch on the front of my bike. Hi, Man! HI! He paused, and smiled, and waved to her.

Then he lifted his friend from the second porch seat and made his way down the steps. At the bottom of the steps he paused, bent his head to his friend’s ear, and whispered something. They remained there, for an interminable moment, frozen in the posture of schoolgirl confidantes, before the old pirate raised his head again and continued his slow shuffle across the street.

Aaaaarrr, he announced. Good – mumble mumble – aaarrr - mumble – friend of Bugs. Good. Good.

(Who’s Bugs? whispered my husband.)

The pirate walked up to WonderBaby and presented his friend to her. Good, good friend.

She regarded his offering with all the gravity of a priest preparing to dispense communion. She looked at his friend, and then at him, and then at his friend again. For one terrible, ironic moment, I thought that she would refuse. The she smiled widely, reached into the creature’s mouth and grabbed the plush pink tongue. Tung! she exclaimed. Mowth!

And then, pointing at the pirate: Man!

And then one little hand flew to one little mouth, lips pressed together in a perfect childish pucker, and she blew a kiss: Mwah!

He smiled, and nodded, and shuffled back across the street and up the porch steps. He settled back into his chair, and nodded again, this time in the direction of the chair beside him, now empty.

We lifted Wonderbaby and her new friend -clutched tightly in her arms – from the bicycle perch. I pulled the two of them to me, wrapping one arm around the impossibly slender torso of my child and the other around the broad furry back of her companion. My fingers grazed something stiff. Paper? Cardboard.

A tag. A bright, crisp product tag: Looney Tunes! Bugs and Friends!

He was – he is - our new friend, our pirate’s friend, this bundle of treasure – brand new.

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    { 46 comments }

    Mimi July 17, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Your pirate, he is killing me with his humanity. Your WonderBaby, she is killing me with her innocence. Just leave me in peace to sniffle at my desk now, sitting in a pool of my own demolished cynicism and the other worldly armour that does me no good in teh face of such intimate, fragile human connection. With the Tasmanian Devil

    Julie Pippert July 17, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Oh so sweet…more of the kind pirate!

    A naughty little devil in me prompts the question, “Any significance to the fact that it’s the Tasmanian Devil? LOL JUST KIDDING!

    Awesome to see this continues. :)

    slouching mom July 17, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Oh my word. The humanity.

    These posts are so poignant they are making my heart skip beats.

    mayberry July 17, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Seriously. What Mimi said. I actually am thinking you might need to film a documentary about this dude.

    Blog Antagonist July 17, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Do you remember that I said once in a post, that everybody has a story? I would love to know his story. What a kindly soul he must have.

    Heather July 17, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Yarr he sounds pretty cool.

    Amy Jo July 17, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    I can’t even think of anything remotely relevant to say right now. I’m just gob smacked with the lovely innocence of it all.

    Phoenix July 17, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    She’s made a difference in a person. And at such a young age, that is awesome. A neat connection, for sure. Pirates rule. :)

    crazymumma July 17, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Stop doing this to me.
    I’m all damned choked up now.

    Taz was always one of my favourites.

    Woman on the Verge July 17, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    I’m delurking…yay for me!
    I’ve been reading this about the pirate, what an amazing thing to happen.The life she touched and him touching hers in a way that she might forever remember.
    The innocence and beauty of a of a child never fails to touch the souls of the toughest most haggard hearts.

    nomotherearth July 17, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    The whole issue of neighbours and reaching out has been on my mind a lot lately. Why is it that we can’t seem to trust anyone anymore? Hope to post about it soon. Your WB is making great strides in this department.

    You’ve never read Harry Potter???

    AndreAnna July 17, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Your pirate gives me hope that not all in the world is sad and bleak. That people can make differences, no matter how forgotten they may seem to this big, big world.

    dana July 17, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Awww! This is so sweet! A new friend. Wow.

    I’ve enjoyed this tale and the one before it!

    How beautiful, Catherine. Just so very moving.

    Miscellaneous-Mum July 17, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    May I just say…I for one am pleased to see an antipodean creature ;)

    This story keeps getting better :)

    SusieJ July 17, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    So beautiful.

    sandra July 17, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    I love your pirate and how vividly you paint him for us.

    Mwah

    Karly July 17, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    I want to KNOW this man. When you write about him, I can just imagine him and I fall a little in love with him. Wonderbaby is lucky to have such a good friend!

    Nancy July 17, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    I totally love your pirate. Smooches to you for sharing his stories with us.

    mothergoosemouse July 17, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    Rendered speechless by your pirate and your WonderBaby.

    JaniceNW July 17, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Such a loving child. A loving pirate as well. Great stories.

    Jenifer July 17, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    What a wonderful story.

    b*babbler July 17, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    I love how the innocence of children can break through to almost anyone, including pirates.

    A beautiful touching story. Stories like this one are why my husband and I choose to live in Toronto. There seems to be so much more breadth of humanity here.

    former dyspeptic of middle european stock and still blogless in these blogful times July 17, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    These moments with the Pirate and WonderBaby are very moving. The simplicity of giving that is heartfelt by the giver as well as the receiver restores my hope in the human condition. (I’m sorry if that comes across as hackneyed — because what you have recounted is definitely not.)

    The old fellow reminds me of the old before his time dying Kerouac who was rendered inarticulate by years of hard living and accumulated neuroses that proved to be too much for him to bear. This fellow still finds joy — which puts him far ahead of the old writer.

    jen July 18, 2007 at 12:27 am

    there are not words for how much i love this pirate. and you, for allowing for his pirateness.

    painted maypole July 18, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Don’t you just love that children bring out the tender side, even in old pirates? I have just awarded you a thinking blogger award, shocked as I am that you don’t already have one (or perhaps you just don’t display it?) Anyhow… thanks for always making me think.

    Major Bedhead July 18, 2007 at 12:48 am

    I love the pirate. I love the loveliness of this tale.

    I am a little stunned that you’ve never read Harry Potter. I just assume (wrongly, apparently) that everyone is as obsessed as I am.

    Kyla July 18, 2007 at 1:12 am

    Sweetest pirate that I ever heard tale of.

    ewe are here July 18, 2007 at 3:24 am

    A crusty old pirate with a soft spot for your wee one. Lovely.

    Beck July 18, 2007 at 6:49 am

    Geeeeeez. Now I’m crying. CUT THAT OUT.

    Her Bad Mother July 18, 2007 at 7:12 am

    Maypole – I have received TBs; I just haven’t put them up (bad blogger!) But am more than happy to accept another!

    Fairly Odd Mother July 18, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Have you ever heard the Tasmanian Devil speak on the cartoons? He speaks almost exactly how you describe the Pirate speaking!

    That is one sweet story.

    Christine July 18, 2007 at 8:39 am

    wow. i LOVED this story!

    Magpie July 18, 2007 at 9:59 am

    That was beyond wonderful. Thanks.

    thirtysomething July 18, 2007 at 10:50 am

    How touching. Sweet innocence of children astounds me every time I see (or read!) it. If only we could all romove our filters adn see the world, if only for just one day, through the eyes of a child.
    Great post.

    m July 18, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    So lovely.

    Lizarita July 18, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Humanity suprises me everyday.
    And Wonderbaby? just wonderful.

    creative-type dad July 18, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Universal Pirate Services – LOL!

    PinkPowerSuit.com July 18, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Don’t worry, I’ve never read Harry Potter, either.

    Glad to see a good Canadian blog. Have any others you can recommend?

    Mrs. Chicky July 18, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    These stories of the pirate are killing me! In a good way, of course. This one was incredibly sweet, in a very bizarre sort of way, but sweet nonetheless.

    And I have that exact chair, friend. Though I never knew a devil could make it look so good.

    amaras_mom July 18, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    I am officially hooked (no pun intended) on your blog. Your writing is deeply moving. The stories on your pirate painfully pierce one’s inner soul. I wish I would have a heart as generous and tender as your pirate’s.

    amaras_mom July 18, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    I was so moved — I forgot to say thanks for stopping by the blog. Hope to meet you at BlogHer next week :)

    mamatulip July 18, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    This pirate…he is such excellent fodder.

    Jenifer July 18, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Well this is the first take of the pirate bI have read and ummm… strange is the word coming to mind. Nice,… but strange.

    landismom July 18, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    Wow, what a sweet man. And I think it’s wonderful that you are letting Wonderbaby make up her own mind about him.

    BOSSY July 19, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Cute pirate, but Bossy will give you five dollars for the wicker chair.

    Shannon July 26, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    I agree with Jen above, who adores your acceptance of the pirate. And as always, the stories of WonderBaby’s adventures keep me glued to this computer, when I should really go home to my own most precious little pirate!

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