Helmet Head

Evelyn’s class has a pair of guinea pigs as pets this year, and Evelyn is very excited. Ollie seems to have an endless parade of cool classroom pets, but Evelyn had nothing last year, and a turtle the year before. (You know, a cuddly-wuddly wittile smooshy….turtle.) So the much more adorable guinea pigs have really captured her imagination.

Evelyn very sweetly decided to make a nice little house for the guinea pigs out of a box, with a little door that said “Home Sweet Home” above it. Her plan was to have every student in the class sign it, so the guinea pigs could remember them on weekends and holidays. She worked on it all night, and the next day wanted to bring it in to class.

“Bad news, honey,” I said. “I’ve got to ride my bike today, which means you’ve got to ride your bike, which means nobody can carry the house.” Evelyn was crestfallen. In the following seconds I saw the whole thing flash across her eyes: her marching in with her guinea pig house, the oohs and aahs of the teachers, the other children picking her up onto her shoulders and marching around the room cheering, the inevitable fame and fortune as the world’s only guinea pig architect…except now, the teachers wouldn’t ooh and aah, and the children wouldn’t carry her triumphantly, and she would probably instead end up strung out and homeless, all because of her stupid dad and his stupid bike and the unfairness of life.

I knew it wouldn’t hurt to leave the box for the next day, but on the other hand, isn’t it every father’s dream to see his daughter become a famous guinea pig architect? Except I really didn’t know how to get it to school. It was a pretty big box. Technically I probably could have carried it, but riding your bikes on the streets of Chicago is taking your life into your hands at the best of times.

Unless… “What if you wore it on your head?”

Suddenly the parading children were back and the hand-designed guinea pig houses were flying off the shelves and she was retiring early to a villa on the Southern coast of France where she would drift to sleep every night under a blanket of warm, soft, furry, happily-homed, guinea pigs.

The box fit pretty snuggly over her bike helmet and, although it completely restricted her peripheral vision, it was reasonably secure. Absolutely hysterical looking, but reasonably secure. Problem solved.

I don’t think either Evie or I were thinking about the sheer number of people on the streets at that time of day. She was turning some major heads and people were calling out, “Hey, I like your helmet!” Kids would just stop and stare with their mouths literally hanging open. It was clear that most people thought she invented some kind of “cool” helmet for herself and thought she would enjoy the compliments.

Neither of us were expecting quite the reaction. She was obviously very embarrassed, and even though she didn’t say anything, she asked me to walk my bike and carry it as soon as was reasonably possible. I really wish I had gotten a picture, because it would have been something to save for posterity.

You know what, though? I’m proud of her. Even though she was mortified, she didn’t get upset, just kept her eyes on the prize and finished the job. I didn’t hear whether or not she got the triumphant parade, or the “Queen of the Guinea Pigs” tiara, but as far as I know we’re still on track for that French villa.