Mack was the most determined little bruiser of a toddler I ever knew. She was strong beyond her size, and she always left a path of destruction behind her. Electronic devices, dishes, a stick of butter on the table, and her sister’s skinny shins are only a sampling of the objects that were not safe in her presence. As well, Mack was particularly mentally dogged, and brute strength and sheer will power frequently combined to make physical control of her problematic for me. Mack understood this combination knock-out punch all too well, and she frequently challenged my motherly mettle.
So, let’s talk about Mack the Toddler, or Mack the Destroyer. The latter might be the more accurate moniker, because Mack’s antics frequently destroyed my ability to maintain composure. Life with baby Macko often left us crying or laughing. On one particular car trip to Wisconsin, Mack was mad as hell about being confined in the seat, and she screamed all the way. For five hours, she wiggled and yelled. Kevin had a nervous breakdown and lost his will to live before we crossed the Wisconsin state border. I came close to releasing the little screaming devil from her car seat—her physical safety be damned—so that we all could have peace and sanity. And Savannah suggested that we leave Mack by the side of the road. Of course, as soon as we arrived and let Mack out of the car seat, she was just as happy as a clam. To our tales of her five-hour reign of terror over us, her grandparents were incredulous.
Venturing out in the world with Mack was always an adventure. Sometimes easy and fun, sometimes not so easy and not so fun, and sometimes an absolute hoot. I always started out so hopeful, and she would hold my hand as we toddled into a store. But then she would decide she was in no kind of mood for restraint, and she would begin her struggle just as I was trying to get her chunky little legs into the seat of a cart. Sometimes, I would give up right there and go home. Other times, when I was feeling particularly plucky, I would wrestle her into the strap and then attempt to speed shop, hoping beyond hope that I could get it done before her patience lapsed. But, in the end, she would scream. Or, more frequently, she would strain hard against the strap and attempt to launch herself headfirst out of the cart. I abandoned many shopping carts in the middle of aisles, exiting the building as quickly as possible and struggling all the while with my Macko the Terrible.
One day when Mack was running around the house in her diaper being wild, I had a momentary lapse of sanity. Even though she was clearly being crazy, I decided to return an item at a store. As I dressed her, she struggled and struggled and fussed and fussed; but I won the battle and we left the house. At the store, I put Mack in the big basket of the shopping cart and wheeled her to the service desk. She seemed happy to be in what I called the “big girl” part of the basket. As I stood at the counter filling out the return form, I heard a woman laughing behind me. I shrugged and continued to focus on the form. More laughing, and this time from more people. I then heard the giggle of my sweet, small child. I turned around to see Mack jumping up and down in the cart and laughing hysterically. She was naked. Her clothes and her diaper were strewn around the perimeter of the cart. The people in line were laughing. The cashier was laughing. Mack was laughing. So, I had to laugh, too.
The best and most notorious tale of Macko the Terrible revolves around a Little Tykes Sport Coupe. When Mack was nineteen months old, we took her trick-or-treating for the first time. She was too little, had no interest in the costume (I can’t even remember what it was), cared not at all about carrying her little pumpkin and was only mildly interested in the candy being placed within it. At one house, Savannah and Mack walked up to a porch, and I stayed at the curb. Savannah rang the doorbell, but Mack turned right at the door and out of sight. Savannah collected the candy, but she was unable to get Mack to exit the porch. She called me up to help, and there was Mack sitting in the Little Tykes car, her pumpkin discarded on the porch. As I wrestled her out of the car, her blood-curdling screams echoed in the chilly Halloween night.
I put the incident out of mind until one day not long after Halloween when we entered Lowe’s home improvement store. It was a quick trip, so I had decided against struggling with a cart. I was holding Mack’s hand when suddenly, she broke my grip and went running away at top speed. I immediately saw that she was headed for a display of Little Tykes toys, at the center of which was a Sport Coupe exactly like the one from the Halloween porch. Before I could do anything about it, Mack was in that car, the door was closed, and she was off to the races. Needless to say, prying her out of the car was unpleasant for both of us.
A few weeks later, Kevin’s father was in Springfield to help us with some home improvement projects. The men were headed to Lowe’s, and Bill—Mack’s doting but naïve grandfather— wanted to take Macko the Terrible along with them. I advised Bill against this unwise course of action, but he was insistent. I then told Kevin about the location of the Little Tykes display. I implored him to avoid it at all costs. I was insistent that his very life depended upon his success in keeping Mack from making eye contact with the little Sport Coupe. Kevin nodded, but, of course, he never listens to me. The three of them left on their ill-fated mission, and I stayed home and enjoyed some peace and quiet.
Bill frequently enjoys telling the story about what happened when they arrived at Lowe’s that day. Apparently, Kevin blithely approached the store. He had no plan to heed my advice. On the contrary, he dismissed it outright. He decided that it could not possibly be a bad thing for his sweet, little, precious girl to see that really cool car. As they passed through the double doors and emerged into the cavernous store, Kevin pointed out the Little Tykes display. He let Mack go running to it. He smiled with delight as she jumped into her car. But guess what happened when Kevin tried to extricate her from that car? Guess how hard Bill laughed as Kevin struggled to get her out of that car?
And guess what Mack got for Christmas just a few weeks later?