Sunday, 11 October 2009

Losing our marbles

Another weekend ritual has emerged. Every Sunday morning, The Doctor gets down on his hands and knees with a special handheld light, and examines the darkened spaces under the cupboards or radiator-covers, or the holes below the skirting boards. Then, as carefully as if he were performing a surgical procedure, he extracts them; marbles.

Littleboy 1 has long been obsessed by marbles, and now his brother is also starting to take a keen interest. We left an old-fashioned plastic Helter Skelter marble set behind in England (it was shared with his cousins) and promised him a new set when we reached America, partly as a way of easing the move for him. (Advisory warning: this strategy is not necessarily clever. From the moment we touched down at JFK, practically every hour he would be heard to ask: "Are we in America now? Can I have my marbles?")

Finally, in the depths of Virginia, we happened upon a magical little toyshop selling this. Quadrilla is, naturally, made in Germany and exhibits all the Vorsprung Der Technik you would expect of such a product. Not only do the marbles roll neatly and smoothly down curving wooden tracks, you can build all manner of intricate towers and structures.

The Littleboys are now experts in the field, far better at it than me. (I'm expecting great things of Littleboy 1 architecturally; he'd better become the next Richard Rodgers, and make pots of money to keep me in my old age). The Doctor is also madly in the love with the toy, and has secretly ordered an extension on Amazon as a present for when he returns from a conference in Europe next week. A present for the Littleboys, I mean. I think.

It's obviously a boy thing, because my father also spent many hours playing with the marbles during his visit with us the other week. The boys would start the day with a cry of "Where's Grandad? I want him to build a marble tower..." before Grandad was barely out of his bedroom and into the shower.

So it cannot be denied that the marbles have been a huge success. They keep the boys amused for hours, and have been deemed far more interesting, even, than Go, Diego, Go (and that's saying something in this house).

The only problem is that, particularly on the highly polished wooden floor of our living-room, they also have lives of their own. The Quadrilla set came with 50 marbles; so far we have permanently lost about 10. The others lurk quietly in the furthest corners of the house, somewhere in the dark patiently waiting to be found. We are forever diving onto our stomachs trying desperately to stop them rolling under something else, or being asked to extract them from some dusty far corner of under-the-sofa. In fact, the sound of rolling is enough to have me leaping up from whatever I'm doing screeching: "Oh God. Where's it going now....?"

And, about once a day, someone in the house is heard to cry: "Don't lose your marbles...!"

I'm beginning to understand the origins of that phrase.

15 comments:

Expat mum said...

Just make sure you don't stand on one in your bare feet. Ouch!

Mwa said...

Marbles, ballbearings, and the 50 (fifty!) balls my mother gave the kids in a bag. I know about the stress.

Tara@Sticky Fingers said...

Santa brought my son a bag of marbles for Christmas last year and he has played with them endlessly.
(bargain as they were only £3 from Hawkins Bazaar - so Santa told me).
It was a massive bag with around 50 marbles in and the one gift that has stood the test of time.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

This year, Christmas present, sorted.

THANK YOU!

That Girl39 said...

Ah marbles! I used to love them and always remember being bought a bag for not crying when I almost drowned in the river! Thank you for a great stocking filler idea for SC. I shall think of you as I watch them roll across the wooden floor to go and join the piles of fluff/dust under the sofa!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

That's a beautiful marble run. My boy's one is multi coloured plastic. it does have lots of bendy,curly, loop the loop-y bits though. Iuse d to dread being asked to make one though. As with the train track, my son insisted I use every piece & build one with 4 corners & has two start points. Used to do my head in, whereas hubby cdn't wait to get his eager paws on construcitng a new complex design one.

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Ooh yes, great stocking filler idea, for santa of course. I used to love marbles, all the pretty colours swirling inside.
The worst thing about disappearing marbles/toys is it just emphasises the bits of the house you never clean...

Nobby and Me said...

Funny you should post that, I just found a marble in the garage. Its now in the pocket of my apron where everything else I find not in its designated storage position ends up.

All I'll say is wait till you get on to Lego. It ain't like it used to be, it is teeny weeny. And it gets everywhere. But LOVE the marble track, I bought a huge bag of plastic track for 50p in a charity shop 6 years ago and they still play with it now.

Almost American said...

That's a gorgeous marble track! We have a plastic one that packs away into its own special little suitcase. Half the marbles are missing of course . . .

nappy valley girl said...

Expat Mum - been there, done that and sworn like a trooper.

Mwa - anything with little pieces....

Tara - and you still have all 50?

Brit in Bosnia - definitely. It's fab.

That Girl - a bag of marbles for almost drowning? Seems a fair deal.....

Paradise - the plastic ones are great, too - although the plastic bits seem to break fairly easily, especially when chucked with force by two year olds...

CTTF - I have a cleaner now (my big indulgence) so it emphasises the bits she never cleans! Not that I would, either.

Nobby - we already have some Lego, and it's usual location is scattered all over the house.

Almost American - I would just love to know where they go. There must be a heaven for lost marbles.

Iota said...

I always wanted a marble run as a child, but never had one. I bought one (for my son, of course) one Christmas, and the kids have had hours and hours of fun with it. Even when they are in a phase when they're not using it much, it's invaluable when other kids come to visit.

We're having a big last-child-at-school clear-out at the moment, but I've decided the marble run is staying. They haven't quite grown out of it and even when they have, I think it's one that'll stay in the pile of toys "maybe for the grandchildren".

Ha! the word verification is UNBEATIO.

nappy valley girl said...

Iota - definitely don't get rid of it. Even if the grandchildren don't want it, I bet it'll raise a fortune on eBay...

Mom/Mum said...

Love that idea for Santa! Thanks.
And, er, get YOu, having a cleaner. You really have gone all American now!

nappy valley girl said...

Mom/Mum - I had a cleaner in London! I actually don't think many mums round here do have one, but it's my little indulgence.

Anonymous said...

Wait for the summer: the best marble runs are built out of wet sand, and should include at least one plunge into a pool of water. Of course you loose even more marbles than at home...