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Food for Thought

Pinocchio’s old age

I’ve told you something about my Walt Disney Pinocchio doll before. He was the star of the first movie I remember seeing, and he appeared in all his wooden-headed and bow-tied splendor under my Christmas tree that December. He’s been part of my holiday tradition for many, many Christmases since then, and sits, grinning, under the twinkle lights and tinsel until time to take the tree down sometime in January.
This year, when all the garlands and glass baubles had been hung, I set him in front of the decorated tree– and he flopped back into the branches, gazing at the ceiling with a rather drunken grin on his face. Loose-limbed and pigeon-toed, his arms spread wide, he appeared to be seriously tipsy. To the best of my knowledge, Pinocchio hadn’t had anything at all to drink for over 70 years, and certainly not anything alcoholic. In keeping with his appearance, though, I tracked down a miniature beer mug my son had gotten at an A&W root-beer stand in Coralville during the summer of 1958, and set it on the floor near his hand. Maybe that would provide some sort of explanation for his inebriated demeanor.
Unlike his movie-screen counterpart, my Pinocchio never turned into a real boy, and after a few days I began to feel a little guilty about besmirching his reputation. He was blameless, since he was a mere puppet and didn’t have the option of free choice, so couldn’t possibly be accused of drunken carousing. I decided to examine the problem further.
I checked out old wounds; the oldest one being the tip of his nose which had lost a thumbnail sized patch of paint quite a few years ago during some rough and tumble play involving a wagon and a cracked sidewalk. This had been expertly patched and painted and, as far as I know, still retained the ability to grow with each lie he told. Though since he quit talking to me when I was about 13 or 14, I haven’t noticed any additional length in that appendage.
He suffered a grievous head wound during a range war between some 8 to 10 year-old cowboys and Indians in our attic one rainy afternoon sometime in the early sixties. This required extensive patching and rebuilding of part of his skull and a large hair transplant, but because the surgeon was actually an artist, it is quite satisfactory and appears entirely natural. At that same time, minor touch-up was done on his little red suit which had become rather shabby. His sky blue bow-tie was lost at some time in the sixties, also, and has been replaced by a similar one in a darker shade of blue. No one remembers what became of his Tyrolean hat with its jaunty feather. No replacement in the correct size has ever been located.
Other injuries are minor; some scrapes and scratches, particularly those that might be the equivalent of skinned knees on human children. His shoes are badly scuffed, I doubt if they’ve ever seen shoe polish. But his gloves are still amazingly white for their age. None of these things satisfactorily explained his drunken appearance, however.
As I manipulated arms, legs, and neck in my attempts to get him to sit up like a proper young boy, I noticed that his wrists and ankles seemed to dangle, and his neck definitely extended too high above his shirt collar. It must be the ligaments that tied his bones together. On closer examination, I discovered these seemed to take the form of bungee cords which ran vertically from feet to skull and laterally from his left hand, up the arm, through his shoulders, then all the way down the other arm where it connected to the right hand. (Those hands, by the way, consist of only three fingers an a thumb, not injuries but simply a characteristic of the majority of Disney’s animated creations.)
The diagnosis turned out to be bungee-corditis, an arthritic condition characterized by a relaxing of the bungee cords to the extent that they fail to spring back into position to hold the various joints snugly in their proper places. This may be due in part to a history of vigorous activity involving severe stretching of the bungee-cords, such as being picked up by the head and allowing the weight of the body to stretch and stress the cords, or being carted about by a toddler who is too small to hold him properly by grasping him around his torso and who simply drags him by an arm or a leg. Contributing factors could be extremes of hot and cold weather, excessive humidity or lack thereof. The main cause, I suspect, is time. Pinocchio is, after all, getting close to 80. I can sympathize with that.