When Gavin was a wee baby, I swore that I would not expose him to the evils of television too soon, if at all. He did not respond well to “Baby Einstein” DVDs, so I took that as a sign that screen time was not for him. However, about a year ago, we somehow got sucked into the world of Max and Ruby. For the uninitiated, Ruby and her little brother Max are bunnies that were originally created by Rosemary Wells in her very sweet books about their adventures. The TV series is a very innocent and lovely portrayal of their shenanigans and completely lacks the manic shrieking so present in other kids’ shows.
Around this time last year, as Gavin began to be increasingly unwell, he showed little interest in playing his normal games and lay on the couch, watching episodes of Max and Ruby. I remember lying with him, anxious about his lethargy, and talking over each episode together. Bossy older sister Ruby always tries to get Max to do what she wants, as 3-year-old Max gets into mischief. Their world is oddly archaic, as they chat on rotary phones and listen to shows on the radio.
After Gavin’s tumour resection surgery, he lay in bed unsmiling, and hardly interacted with us at all. His ability to communicate was reduced from being a budding talker to the few baby signs that we’d taught him, and a few short words he remembered and was able to say. All he wanted to do was watch Ruby and Max. We sat through the same 10 to 12 episodes, over and over, and it was the only thing that brought him any joy for almost two weeks post-op. My dear friend Naomi came for a visit and gave Bean Ruby and Max dolls. I think I saw one of his first smiles in two weeks that day. I began to use the dolls to act out storylines from the show, and slowly, Gavin began to interact with all of us again, and to show interest in imaginative play. Those dolls were sterilized and journeyed with us through high-dose. For a long time, Bean couldn’t pronounce their names and called them Ma and Weeoh. I still have no ideas where Weeoh came from but eventually he started to say “Ruby” properly.
These days, we have so many other favourite toys and games to play. We don’t spend that much time watching TV or DVDs anymore as we’re pretty busy with other stuff, but Max and Ruby remain dear to him. A few months back, one of my darling aunts let me know that a Max and Ruby stage show was coming to Toronto, and I bought tickets for the Bean, myself, Daddy and Bubby. At the time, I wondered if we would be carting an oxygen tank to the theatre.
We went to the Max and Ruby Bunny Party last weekend. Gavin clutched his ticket and observed everything as we took our seats. What is everyone doing? Why are they turning the lights off? Once the show began, he had to share with us everything he heard: The robot said, Danger, danger! Ruby said, “Gorgeous!” He showed a surprising amount of focus for his age and enjoyed every minute, especially in comparison to some other two-year olds who screamed in discontent as they waved their seizure-inducing flashing fairy wands. (Note to merchandising: You should only sell items like that AFTER the show. Thanks for the headache.)
I’m not sure what was more exciting, the show itself or the subway ride there, but both have had quite the impact and he’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that he had to take one bus and two subway trains but not the streetcar to get to the Max and Ruby Bunny Party.
In some ways, I cannot believe that it has been five months since the end of active treatment in November. We are so close to the six month window of relative isolation, I guess we feel safe enough to take him to a show with hundreds of other small children. I’m so grateful that life is normal enough to do so.