Barkley, Mister Hooper and the Farm

He’d left his giant pile of Legos and I’d gotten so used to the noise of him rooting through for specific pieces that the silence pulled my attention out of my book. He was looking out the window watching the rain.

“Guess no playground today, huh dad?”

“Probably not, kiddo. It’s raining pretty hard.”

He went back to the Legos and started sifting through again. I have to give him credit, he handles bad news well.

“Okay, how about we dip into the yard sale stuff?” He perked up instantly and ran to the closet where we keep the “new” toys I yard sale for him. I get so much that my wife and I decided to keep a storage closet of toys for when he deserves a reward or something. It keeps him from being overwhelmed by all of the toys at once and kind of makes it fun for everyone.

“Okay, we have some superheroes, this stack of books, some old wooden puzzles…”

“Wooden puzzles!” he exclaims. I pull down the stack and hand them to him. “Why are they wood? Wood’s so heavy.”

“That’s what some of the puzzles were like when I was a kid. As a matter of fact, I had this one as a kid!”

I found the Sesame Street puzzle and pull it from the pile. Instantly I remember playing with this one in the 70s with my dad and mom. He looks at it and looks up at me.

“You had this one? You watched Sesame Street? Did you love Elmo too?”

“There was no Elmo when I was a kid. But yes, I loved the show. I used to ask for aqua instead of water, that’s how much I watched it.”

I love how slow and deliberate he is with new toys. Any other kid would dump the pieces out, start the puzzle and then move on to another, leaving this one for me to clean up. But not him. He runs his hands across the shiny wood, feels the little knobs and then starts naming Muppets.

“Big Bird!”

“Yup.”

“Grover?”

I nod. Then he comes across the big, shaggy white, orange and brown dog.

“Who is this? I don’t know this dog!”

“That’s Barkley. I don’t know if he’s on the show anymore. I haven’t seen him. I’m surprised I remembered his name!”

He frowns and looks at me. “Where did he go?”

“Um…maybe he moved to a farm.”

“Were there others who moved to the farm?”

“Mister Hooper…kind of.”

He starts pulling the knobs and realizes there are more characters behind them. “Whoa! Oscar was behind Big Bird! Look there’s Big Bird’s nest!” I smile. I can’t believe I remember this puzzle so clearly. I must have been three or four when we had it. “There’s The Count! One! Ha ha ha…” I try not to laugh at his impression. It’s not very good. “Cookie Monster! He’s eating a cookie! I hope he ate his carrots first!” I find that a little disturbing, but only a bit.

He goes through each piece, looking at what’s behind it and then gently placing it back until he’s checked them all twice, then pushes it away.

“Want to do another? I have a Bert and Ernie one, Cabbage Patch Kids and Wuzzles.”

“What’s a Wuzzle?”

“I have no legitimate answer to that,” I say.

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