At 7:30 in the morning, before my first cup of coffee, I’d prefer to ease into the day with a little sports talk radio than engage in a spirited game of make-believe. But I have a hard time saying no to my daughter, so I play along. Besides, at least she didn’t ask me to play that maddening kiddie music CD for the gazillionth time.
Both of my kids are obsessed with the “Toy Story” movies, those Disney-Pixar cash cows about toys that come alive when no one is around. My son actually wakes up reciting lines from the films; he’s got Buzz Lightyear on the brain. This particular morning my daughter has brought her new Tinkerbell doll into the mix, too, making it sort of a Disney reunion.
As we cruise down main street, I channel my inner Tim Allen: “Tooooooo infinity…and beyond!
“Watch out for the aliens!”
“What aliens? Where?”
“Right there, Daddy…I mean, Buzz. The cars—they’re all aliens! Get them with your shooter!”
I press the imaginary button on my right arm and blast away at the “aliens” all around us. “Whew! I think I got them all,” I say. Meanwhile, other drivers stare at me like I’m a lunatic.
“Woody! Look out—Zurg’s on the roof!!”
“Woody?” I say. “I thought I was Buzz?”
“No, you’re Woody now. Buzz is back at home with Mommy.” My daughter’s imagination is rather flexible.
“Oh. But I don’t have a shooter like Buzz,” I say, in my best Tom Hanks voice, which, by the way, sounds nothing like Tom Hanks. “What should I do?”
“Don’t worry,” she says, “Tinkerbell has a shooter, and she already got Zurg!
“Nice shootin’, Tinkerbell!” Three words I never thought I’d say.
“And I have a shooter, too—and it shoots water!”
“Oh, good!” I say. “I feel so much better now.” At this point I try to stay quiet for a few seconds to see if maybe we can take a little break from make-believe, which can be surprisingly rigorous first thing in the morning.
But my little girl is just getting warmed up. “BUZZ!” she yells out. “Get ready for blast off!”
“Wait a second…I thought you said Buzz was at home with Mommy and that I was Woody now?”
“You can be Woody AND Buzz,” she replies. “Now get ready for blast off! Five…four…three…two…one…BLAST OFF!”
I step on the accelerator, taking my Hyundai from 30 to 35 m.p.h. in two seconds flat before decelerating back down to 30. It’s a high-performance vehicle.
“Go faster, Daddy…I mean, Buzz!”
“I can’t fly the spaceship too fast in town, honey. The space police will come after us.”
“More aliens! Get them with your shooter!” This goes on the entire 15 minutes or so to pre-school.
Flash-forward to later that afternoon when I pick her up on the way home from work. After a long day at the office, I’m really not in the mood for improvisation. So I try to strike up some easy conversation to distract her. “So…how was school today, honey?”
But my little girl has other plans. “Daddy,” she says, “you be Woody, I’ll be Jesse, and Tinkerbell will be Tinkerbell.”
And so, we blast off again—tooooooo infinity…and beyond! Or at least to our house.