I’m working at the toy store on this lovely, lovely Thursday before the July 4th weekend, and thus far we’ve done about $3.90 in business. It’s been a very slow day, with the exception of this morning. At 10:30 on Thursday mornings, the toy store holds Moonpaper Tent Story Time. Kids and moms/nannies (I often can’t tell the difference) started showing up around 10:20, and at 10:35 a man arrived with a huge tub of kids dress-up clothes. He was probably in his early 30s, sporting a tattered purple wizard robe with gold stars and a pair of worn out white sneakers peaking from under the hem.
Immediately the Wizard started pulling clothes from his tub for the kids to wear, telling them they needed to be dressed properly for their adventure. Does anyone want to be a dinosaur, he asked, I think this dress was worn by the moon fairies, I can’t be sure. All the little girls, and one little boy, went for the fairy dresses, of course, because who WOULDN’T want to wear a dress worn by a moon fairy?!
Once all were properly attired, or had respectfully declined, the Wizard began to read his story. I’m not even sure what it was about, but the store was shockingly silent for the duration. At the end, the Wizard pulled out his special bag, and from the bag he pulled a golden, flying insect, who instructed the children that they all needed to plant their specks around the store if they wanted to grow…something, I don’t remember. I think this was when I sold a mom a tube of sunscreen. Anyway, it was amazing, watching these kids follow this grown man in a Fantasia robe around the store, using their imaginations, responding to his questions with ideas of their own. It’s raining, he said, Well I have umbrellas we can all use, said the boy in the dress, And I have ponies we can ride, echoed the girl next to him. He took all their ideas, weaving them into his own, never turning any of them down or telling them no, silly, that won’t work because we can’t ride ponies while we’re holding umbrellas.
I watched the whole thing with a sense of awe and confusion. Who is this man in his private life? I imagined bumping into him at a bar, overhearing him tell someone about the kids antics as they imagined their way through the toy store. That seemed eery, so I tried to picture him going home in the evenings. But that was eery, too, because I pictured a lonely, one-bedroom apartment in Crown Hill or something. I tried to imagine him with a wife and kids, but that didn’t seem right, either. I wanted to ask him a question, get a hint of something personal about this man, but every time he’s been in here he arrives in character, usually a bit late, and packs up to leave as soon as he gets the outfits back from the kids.
I’ve decided, however, that in spite of the mystery and slight eeriness of his general persona, I respect this guy. He virtually ignores the parents, but hears every word these kids say. He gets them to imagine things and play together, and after working here for almost a year, I can say that is a true accomplishment. So, Moonpaper Tent Wizard, my hats off to you. Keep up the good work. Have a safe trip back to the moon.