Piper begins ballet class this week and as cute as wearing the one ballet shoe is, she really needed a mate. After a successful shopping trip (and let me be clear that I define “success” as we actually bought the necessary shoes, Piper didn’t shout anything too inappropriate, and she only broke one thing) we were trudging back to our car, struggling not to pick up every piece of trash along the way, when a homeless man approached. Now, nobody loves the homeless like Piper. I’m generalizing, of course, but she appreciates their often mismatched clothes and the shopping carts of obvious treasures. They, too, share Piper’s thriftiness and adoration for found objects. I was attempting to steer Piper toward the car (think herding cats in a parking lot) when the homeless guy begins shouting “Stinky Butts! Stinky Butts! Stinky Butts!” I don’t know if he was searching for discarded cigarettes or not, but Piper appreciates all things potty humor so this sends her into a fit of giggles, which, in turn, cracks me up, too. We’re dry heave laughing in the middle of the parking lot, appreciating the homeless guy’s random proclamation when Piper shouts back, “My dad says that, too!” The homeless guy turns to Piper and gives her a thumbs up.
Piper may very well grow up to be a trash collector or a professional recycler or a bag lady. The jury is still out. The kid will pick up anything, anywhere. Chewed gum. Discarded napkins if they are shiny in any way. Rocks. She hoards trash in her closet in baskets. And tonight, she picked up this in a parking lot.
It’s plastic. It’s dirty. It’s broken on the back. To Piper, all of that equals perfection. It’s not as if we don’t buy this kid plenty of real toys. She doesn’t really need to troll the parking lot looking for things to play with. But this thing she just couldn’t resist. As I tried to wrestle the filthy football from her hand, Piper protested, “It’s sure dirty but it doesn’t feel like trash.” I didn’t ask what that meant. I don’t think her explanation would have been convincing. I did what any semi-rational mom would do. I took her newly coveted trash to the bathroom to sanitize it. For the rest of the night, the broken plastic football was her best friend. He (yes, the football declared its gender) talked to her in the backseat. She introduced him to Pinky, her lovey. And when her sister climbed into the car Piper used her best manners. “Sissy,” she said, “I’d like you to meet my new friend. Football. He’s in my shoe. With my foot.”