The toys were taking over. Not my toys. I don’t have any. And not my husband’s toys, either, though he has plenty — basses and guitars and ukuleles and plastic fruit noise makers.

He calls them musical instruments. I could talk about them until the cows come home. But I will save that topic for another occasion.

For now, I’m talking about all the stuff we keep to entertain our grandkids (five boys, three girls, ages 8 years to 3 months) when they come to visit:

Boxes of Legos. Games and puzzles and books and crayons and washable (thank you!) markers. A bag of cowboys and indians that are a huge hit with 6-year-old Wiley. Stuffed animals and puppets. Plastic dinosaurs and sea creatures. A set of dominoes handed down from my husband’s dad. And a box of checkers I use to teach my grandkids the game my grandparents taught me.

We even have a battery operated weasel ball. It’s a plastic ball that rolls around on the floor while a stuffed weasel flops back and forth, hanging onto that ball by the skin of its teeth. The kids think it’s a hoot. My husband does, too. He might deny this, but I think he plays with it when nobody’s around.

We also have a video game that he and the older boys play together. I’m no big fan of video games, but I love to hear the boys shriek, “Look out, Papa Mark, there’s a ZOMBIE!”

Anyhow, we had all this stuff and no place to store it. So I did a bit of research and ordered two 4-feet long faux-leather storage benches that I hoped would fit in our living room.

They were delivered a few days ago, minutes after my husband left to go play music. Wiley was spending the night with us. He wanted to open the boxes.

“Let’s wait, sweetie,” I said, “until Papa Mark gets home.”

“Nah,” he said, “let’s surprise him. I’ll help. It’ll be fun!”

So we ripped open the boxes and pulled out the benches, the legs, the screws and the lengthy instructions for assembly.

“Nana?” Wiley said. “Don’t we need tools? When my dad fixes stuff, he always uses tools.”

“Tools?” I said. “I hope not. Hand me one of those legs.”

Wiley helped a lot. Mostly he served as an excellent reason to refrain from losing my religion.

An hour later, we attached the last leg, shoved the benches into place, wiped the sweat from our brows and stood back to admire our handiwork. The benches looked good. Best of all, they fit.

Wiley went to work organizing the toys in their new homes. And I went to take two Advil.

When Papa Mark came home, he was not just surprised, but amazed at what we had done.

I winked at Wiley. He grinned at me. Then we all took a dip in the hot tub and studied the stars over the mountains.

The next day, before Wiley’s mom came to get him, I told him he had done such a fine job of organizing the toys in those benches that from now on, when his brother and sister and cousins came to play, he would be the official Toy Master.

“Toy Master?” he said, wrinkling his nose the way he does when I burn his toast.

“They’ll help you put the toys away,” I said, “but you’ll say where everything goes. Deal?”

He gave me a thumbs up.

That evening, after Wiley had gone home and my husband left to practice with the band, I sat in the living room, admiring the new benches and thinking about all those toys that were now neatly tucked away out of sight, thanks to Wiley’s help.

Do you think toys get lonely?

Lifting the lid on one of the benches, I spotted the bag of cowboys and indians.

“Don’t worry, guys,” I told them, ‘Wiley will be back soon.”

And then, deep inside the pile of toys, I thought I heard the weasel ball whine, “What time will Papa Mark be back?”

Contact freelance columnist Sharon Randall at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 or randallbay@earthlink.net.

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