This is the melty time of year, when the dates meld into each other and you can’t recall which day of the week it is. It is the right state of things that this barely matters, and that for a short window of time the calendar has no power over us.
In the southern hemisphere it’s hot, currently peak season for every baby mosquito and fly in the vicinity to home in on our open doors and windows, and come find the blood in our veins and the food on our plates. This midge cloud advances on us every year, and maybe this year is no different to any other, but it does seem that right now the night is particularly dark and particularly full of blood-sucking terrors.
I shouldn’t really blame the mosquitoes for existing. They come from the wetlands after all, upon which we live. Our section is divided into three:
- The raised hill, upon which the house sits, dry and sunbaked
- The gradient: a mass of earth inexorably sliding into the lower half of the section, taking the trees with it (recently a huge plum tree, roots afloat in the soft foundations, just split in half, taking with it half a million plums and my son’s favourite climbing spot)
- The swamp, the wetlands, the bottom part – allegedly once a stream that ran through the back of many sections on this street
Here’s the thing: The back of our section is essentially still a waterway, just with dirt piled on top of it. Whichever council initiative implemented decades ago to “deal with the stream” was really only ever going to “conceal the stream, so we don’t have to think about it”. Whenever the rain settles in, which can happen quite often in this subtropical niche of the Kāpiti Coast, the land reminds us that you cannot merely disappear a stream. Gravity pulls. Water moves. You cannot stop the flow of water along a gradient (well actually, you can – just not with dirt). The rain turns the bottom of our section into a quagmire; the stream bubbles back up from the earth, not to be cowed.
We’re luckier than our neighbours, who must be a couple of metres below sea level lower than us. Their section regularly transforms into a lake – an elbow of the stream, what once might have been a quaint eddy – and they’ve gone to the extreme measure of installing a pump to divert the water back up to the street.
May all your gifts be slime
I had hoped that the only slime I’d have to deal with this season would be that supplied by the boggy marsh below, the sucky wet mud that clasps at my gumboots and glistens in the harsh, burny New Zealand sun, as though laying down a challenge that it will never dry. (Bring back the stream! protests the earth.)
But alas, it turns out that there was to be a whole lot more slime to come, because this is also the season where some people give gifts to children as a tradition, and it turns out that nowadays all toys for children are made of slime. (Well not all – some toys are also made of dense foam moulded into projectiles to be fired at friends. Merry Christmas! Wear goggles!)
Toy stores and bookstores (now branching heavily into the toy game) supply:
- Pottles of slime of any texture, colour or consistency: from ultra-viscous to so wet it’s nearly liquid
- Archeological goo kits, where children are encouraged to squelch through grainy slime repositories to find creature parts to assemble, or dinosaur eggs to hatch
- Goo Ji Tzu figurines: Stretchy characters that you can squeeze and contort, each containing a signature slime that might swirl with lava colours, or reveal little lightning bolts as you force a limb to go bulbous
- Stress balls filled with slime, perhaps intended to be passed directly on to the parents
Kids love squeezing this stuff through their fingers, and watching it morph into different shapes. There’s no denying that these are perfect tactile objects for busy, curious hands.
But they are also the bane of my household life.
I have attempted to wipe slime residue off windows, tables, walls and the ceiling. This stuff leaves an oily stain on painted surfaces. A forgotten slab of slime melted into the dashboard of our car and could only ever be partly removed. Slime has become entangled in our bedsheets – and that was the end of the sheet. I’ve scratched it out of carpets. I’ve untangled masses of Lego entombed by a gelatinous cube. And, most damning of all, I think, for the slime-based line of toys, I’ve counselled kids in tears because their figurine or ball has sprung an oozy leak, mere days after acquiring it, and it has spilled out over their desk into a sparkly goo puddle. I’ll make comforting noises and we might find a box for it to overflow into for a few days – the slime ICU – and then pronounce the toy well and truly drained by the invisible slime vampires (enemy to the happiness of children; yet friend of the toy industry, for now another must surely take its place...). The kids will ask to keep the soggy rubber skin, still slick with the last of the ooze, but no, I have to inform them, that will be it, and it’s in the bin.
If you have been the giver of a slime-based gift, especially to my kids, please don’t take offence. For the gift: the children and I are grateful. Know that the kids loved their toy, for a few days. But then it’s likely to have self-destructed, and the slime will have wheedled its way into the nearest cracks. And next what the children want more than anything is to replace the slime. With more slime.
I’m not sure how we reached this point in toy evolution. First the toys were all made of wood, and then we went insane with the ease and cost with which we might make everything plastic, and now we have devolved into slime. It is the ooze era.
About a year ago we implemented a slime ban in the household. The edict: We will not purchase or engage in any more slime.
“But what if people give it to us, as a gift?” my son, the ten-year-old lawyer, the brilliant loophole forager, had asked. He had a hunch that I wouldn’t have the heart to do anything about any slime contraband that entered the home incidentally. So both children took any and every opportunity to request slime when asked by others what they’d like as a gift, or when spending a voucher. Loopholes in the edict. In this way, the flow of slime goods has only slightly abated over the last 12 months.
This year, however, will be the year of draconian slime prohibition. I didn’t want to have to do this, but I’ve just consoled my son over multiple leaks in his recently acquired Marvel Thor Goo Ji Tzu, which only lasted four days, despite it being a toy explicitly created for stretching and squishing – the equivalent of a bike tyre that springs a leak if you put any weight on it. (Grandparents, do you have the receipt? I reckon the store owes you your dollars back...)
Prohibition works, right?
Just now: I’m listening in on a whispered conversation down the hallway, which suggests just how well this might work. My son has smuggled in a handful of slime from friends across the road, and my daughter is shuffling through her piggy bank for a note to purchase a piece of it.
The piggy bank stops jingling. The bootleggers are moving in. The slime trade has now gone underground.
I am no longer a mere parent. I am the Slime Police.
Wish me luck. Or the opposite of luck, if you believe that perhaps I am the grinch who killed slime.
Signing off, for now. Until the next trend in toys.
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