If Holly wore oversized slippers shaped like stuffed rhinoceroses, it wouldn’t seem particularly funny. Holly is a silly kid by nature: she sings and dances and writes fanciful stories all day long. But when Tim wears rhinoceros slippers, it’s different. He’s just not a typically jolly guy, and so the fact that he’s so committed to these slippers amuses me.
The rhinos were a gift from my sister Lauren’s family, sent from Germany – where they are spending the year – at Christmastime. Not knowing what was in the cardboard box when it arrived in the mail, I opened it and found myself staring down at two large gray plush lumps nestled in crumpled newspaper. My husband Rick peered over my shoulder. Then we looked again at the box, addressed to Tim, and then at each other. “Rhinoceros slippers? For Tim? Really?” Rick asked me dubiously.
With the single exception of his stuffed frog, Tim tends to be down-to-earth in his preferences. He likes books about baseball, video games that replicate sports events, and clothes in solid colors. Frivolity is just not his thing. So we were curious as to what his reaction would be when he opened his gift. “In another couple of years they’ll fit Holly,” I rationalized to myself. “We can just stash them away until then.”
But, despite my predictions, Tim loves the rhinos, and has ever since Christmas morning. And not only that, but they have actually had the unanticipated effect of bringing out a goofier side to him. He puts them on as soon as he comes home from school and wears them until bedtime, whenever he’s inside the house. If, or rather when, Holly does something to annoy him, he waves a slipper-clad foot in her direction and yells “Eat my rhino!” Or sometimes, if she’s annoying him from very close range, he turns his ankle to and fro to make the rhino “stab” her with its soft stuffed horn. “The rhino will get you!” he threatens.
Now, ten weeks past Christmas, I don’t think Tim even notices their rhino character anymore. They’re just his slippers: his favorite comfort wear when he’s hanging around at home. But I still notice, and I still laugh, whenever I see him slouched on the couch doing homework or playing video games with these two big fuzzy gray critters blooming from the ends of his ankles.
My son is just not a rhino slipper kind of guy. And the fact that he loves them anyway is the kind of contradiction in which a parent like me delights.