Friday, September 24, 2010

Pluto


My 16-year-old cleaned his bedroom. The fact that a teenage boy spent more than 30 seconds dusting or picking up the dirty clothes on his floor is noteworthy in and of itself, but this particular Labor Day project turned out to be more than just a purging of stuff. 

I wanted to paint his room, but this meant we first remove 25pennants from the walls and move furniture to the center of the room. Which required that we clear four shelves, one desktop, one dresser top, one nightstand, and the floor of books, papers, clothes, trinkets, knickknacks and souvenirs and more books, papers, clothes, trinkets, knickknacks and souvenirs.

Geoff has been a collector ever since his pincer grasp was strong enough to pinch. Rocks, feathers, shells, coins, ticket stubs, baseball cards, football cards, baseballs, golf balls, pennants. But, he wasn’t such an enthusiast that he created museum-like displays; his treasures sat in piles in the closet, spilled out of drawers, and spewed onto the floor.

We filled six big boxes.

When he unpacked and reorganized his room, he sent one box of rejects to the trash and two to the basement. Those boxes became my responsibility:  I was admonished not to put anything on the garage sale but to “put the stuff someplace where I can get to it, in case I need it again.”

And that’s where I found Pluto.

Pluto, the animated dog who first appeared as a bloodhound in the 1930 Disney cartoon, The Chain Gang, and evolved to Mickey Mouse’s faithful pet a year later in The Moose Hunt.  Pluto, the only character Geoff was determined to have his picture taken with--and the first to sign his autograph book—when we visited Walt Disney World.

Geoff was eight years old--and known as Geoffrey--when we explored the Swiss Family Treehouse and screamed our way through Space Mountain. At the time, I thought Goofy would be his character of choice. Both were happy-go-lucky, good-natured, friendly, silly, witty. But Pluto--who chased after, and fought with, Chip and Dale yet always returned to take his place beside Mickey Mouse--was recognizable too.

Two years younger than Nate (who chose Mickey as his favorite character), Geoffrey’s role as the younger brother has alternated between the tagalong who was welcomed to the team, the nuisance who was reprimanded to sit and wait, and the loyal companion who could be counted on when no one else was around.

Lately, however, Geoff has been perfecting his Mickey Mouse voice -- and it sounds authentic.

Nate left for college. Geoff took over the school car and its affiliated chauffeuring-younger-sibling-as-needed responsibilities. He’s juggling athletic and musical activities with homework, weight room workouts, a job and the high school social scene. College recruitment materials sport his name. He stays up later and gets up earlier. He prefers to be called Geoff.

His younger sister may still think he’s a nuisance, but he’s definitely not a tagalong. I think he’ll always be a loyal companion, but I understand why he sent Pluto to the basement.