Goodbye, Bob

Recently, the boys and I binge-watched the original three Indiana Jones movies. I was as certain as one can be about an unknown, that they'd love Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I was right. Not halfway through, I could tell Jack was feeling the burn to don clothing that would transfigure him into Indy. When he gets this itch to ape, he starts pacing casually, as if feeling out and processing a nascent drive before acting on it. Eyes still glued to the screen and whatever character he wishes to become, he'll plunge a deft hand into our volcanic costume bin, rustle around quickly and then withdraw it with a prize. He's rather like a successful version of that money-sucking game at any arcade where the grappling hook looks sure to grab the big-eyed stuffed prairie dog but then drops it, without fail, just before reaching the shoot which would gift it to the desperately waiting child. Jack plucked a handsome, brown-felt cowboy hat, a relic from his Cowboy Phase, from the costume bin and was briefly sated. But his morph wasn't complete enough, so we paused the film while he scampered quickly up to his closet. From the myriad offerings, he constructed a good likeness in less than four minutes. The hat is a dead ringer for Indy's, and khaki pants, a white button-down and a couple belts looped across his chest and around his waist served as solid substitutes for the rest of Jones' rugged explorer attire.

We resumed the show, and nestled between my sons, I felt a profound sense of gratitude that we were not watching Bob the Builder. Or Blues Clues or Dinosaur Train though those were infinitely more tolerable than BtheB.

Bob and his crew always drove me nuts. It seemed abundantly clear that Bob and Wendy, his office manager, were suffering from extreme yet undisclosed desire for each other. I mean, does anyone without acute sexual frustration sing-song their greetings, conversations and farewells with such perky intensity? I guess Bob's cat, the oddly-named Pilchard, was the recipient of all this unrequited love. A weird claymation dynamic I tell you!

Meanwhile, Bob's machines were one transmogrified neurosis after another. Scoop, for example, was a control freak backhoe in serious need of both power and praise to feed his many insecurities. Dizzy (cement mixer), Lofty (mobile crane truck) and Roley (yup, steamroller)...the list goes in. In any given episode, one of them went nuts, challenged the others with the array of issues it presented, and ultimately won back those it had alienated. Don't even get me started on Jana von Strudel, that yodeling nitwit who taught Roley to yodel and "the hills were alive..."

The boys loved that show, but it was all nails on a chalkboard to me. Laughing with them as we cheered Indy's hijinks last weekend, I realized how much fun it is when you start to enjoy watching and reading and doing some of the same things as your kids.

Despite my dislike of Bob, I did my time with him. I built construction zones, bought hardhats, gamely wore tool belts, even made these (really time-consuming) Oliver the Builder birthday invitations (this is an incomplete one as I did make a tool belt and tools for Bob to wear). These were a labor of love, but they are cute, aren't they!?

And while I look back on those years with complete and loving fondness, I don't actually miss them. I was there. Boy was I there.

Tom and the boys jumped into film #2, my feeling being that The Temple of Doom is no good at all and should go the way of Bob the Builder. I mean, that kid Shorty makes me want to jump off a bridge screaming with glee that I'm leaving him behind, and Kate Capshaw is just god-awful.

The series redeems itself with The Last Crusade not least because in addition to the Harrison Ford eye candy, we are also gifted with a bonus treat in the form of Sean Connery. What handsome men. Mon dieu! By the time we rolled tape on this last film, Jack had fashioned one whip each for himself and Oliver, out of rubber bands and dried-out markers and duct tape and yarn. They practiced cracking them towards one another and later around tree branches, chair legs, door knobs and shower curtain rods.

With amused pride, I watched Jack work and Oliver watching him, mouth agape with wonder and admiration. I could see Ol thinking, "I have such a cool big brother!" and I could tell that Jack was ruffled with pride, both because of his own ability and also our esteem.

They are both very creative, imaginative children, but Oliver is more risk-averse in expressing that than is Jack. It is fascinating and fun to watch them become more and more their own people every day. And while I'm sad that at some point I won't be able to cup Ol's perfect tush in one hand anymore and that (purportedly) Jack will no longer want to kiss and tell me he loves me publicly, I enjoy these capable, engaging young people as they are now (see below), with nothing but the most affectionate sweet memories of how they once were.