Every three months (or so), it’s maintenance day at Lydia’s playschool. It’s a co-operative playschool, so the moms and dads (mostly dads) come in to spruce the place up — spread mulch, put in or take out the air conditioners, fix the bookcases, and scrub a-l-l-l-l-l the toys.
The playschool is in an old house with low ceilings, so a line of dads lumbers into the room, ducking low to avoid the paper umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. We pick up the plastic bins full of toys from the bookshelves lining the walls, and lumber out again in a row, taking the toys to the kitchen. It’s like an elephant parade in the tiny space, or a procession of big, friendly golems.
After running the toys through the dishwasher, they have to be sorted back into their plastic bins. That’s the hardest part, because there’s a LOT of bins, and a LOT of categories: farm animals, zoo animals, sea creatures, dinosaurs, ponies, LARGE farm animals, non-zoo pets, non-dinosaur reptiles. Every bin has a label and one or two pictures laminated on the front, which is often helpful — a picture of a dinosaur, for instance — but sometimes confusing. There’s a bin with a picture of a tiger and a picture OF A DUCK on the front. Huh? “Tigers, plus animals tigers like to think about snacking on?” I bet it makes perfect sense to the kids, but sometimes the differences seem inscrutable.
The dads, many of whom have exacting and technical jobs, have a great time coming up with new taxonomies and re-binning schemes as we stand around the 24" high table drying the toys as they come out of the dishwasher. Or just, you know, laughing when a pint of hot water pours out of a hole in the lion’s ass. (Those go in the “incontinent jungle predators” bin.)