As a mother I have formed some very deep attachments to some very odd things. Tiny striped washcloths that I used to bathe my babies are still folded in their top dresser drawers, and I can’t bear to part with my son’s beloved red bowler shoes—shoes that he loved so much as a toddler that we had to buy a second pair when he wore out the first. No object, however, defines for me the first few months of motherhood as does my children’s “funny music ball.”
When my son was seven weeks old, my husband’s parents flew across the country to visit us in Portland, OR. My little baby was already cementing his reputation as a squirmy, discontented infant when my mother-in-law returned from a thrift store shopping trip with The Toy. As soon as she pulled the brightly colored Kouvalias music toy out of her bag, my son was enchanted. He instantly stopped his squalling and reached his scrawny little arm out towards the gently bobbing yellow and red balls of the wooden Greek toy. From that day on, whenever the witching hour hit, all I had to do was settle him on a blanket and wind up the music toy. The swaying balls focused his mind, and the haunting melody emanating from the toy seemed to soothe his restless soul.
My son and his younger sister have moved on to other toys and pastimes—we are building towns out of blocks, baking muffins in the kitchen, and making up silly stories for each other. The little music toy, however, still sits on my dresser, and whenever I look at it, I have to smile a bittersweet smile. This little wooden toy not only reminds me of how mysterious and challenging and absolutely puzzling motherhood was at the beginning (and still is), but it also reminds me of just how far my children have come. While it takes a little more than some dancing wooden balls to fully capture my children’s attention these days, the music toy still has the power to make my children smile and laugh. And when I hear my son idly humming the wistful melody of the music toy while he plays with his wooden trains on the dining room floor, my heart soars and my eyes start to tear up just a little bit.