Thursday, June 16, 2011


July 31, 2009

I walked into Archer's room yesterday and found Cady Gray holding a battered blue Magna Doodle. "Remember this, Mom?" she asked, holding it up. "Archer used to take this everywhere."

He sure did. And not just because he liked it -- because he needed it. Not that long ago, the most frequent sound heard in Archer's presence was the zip-thunk of the eraser bar being pulled back and forth. Archer kept track of things on that Magna Doodle. We didn't always know what he was keeping track of, but he had to do it. He scrawled scoreboards and charts and announcements and informational signs and highway numbers and who knows what all on there. Scribble, scribble -- ten or fifteen seconds -- zip-thunk, erase and do it again. All day long.

Magna Doodles don't last forever. The eraser bar gets hard to pull. The magnetic particles inside lose their potency somehow. The screen gets gray and accumulates dead pixels. And sometimes a boy accidentally leaves it in a restaurant somewhere, or can't locate it in his room. Such occasions were dire emergencies at our house. Archer would break down in tears and beg us to make it right. We usually had a spare one stashed somewhere, either a new one or an old discarded one. In extreme cases, these would not do; only the current Magna Doodle was acceptable. When it was time to buy a new one, we had to prep Archer that it was coming and why it was necessary, and he was usually fine with it. An ad hoc substitution -- "here, we have this new one to replace the one you can't find!" -- often led to howls of rejection and an escalation of the emergency.

"This is how you erase it," Cady Gray continued, demonstrating the technique. "Archer doesn't use this anymore." "I guess he doesn't need it," I told her.

"Hey Archer," I asked, as he entered the room. "Remember when you used to carry this MagnaDoodle all the time? You don't do that anymore, do you?"

He paused for a moment in the midst of getting whatever he had come for. "Yeah, I don't need it. I can just keep track of the points in my head now."

No comments: