Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Water Under the Bridge

So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.
-Gaston Bachelard

This last weekend was very pleasantly spent with our friends in Maine. They treated their two and a half year old son to the gift of an enormous plastic dinosaur- according to his current obsession- that walks, shakes its tail and roars as it waddles.
This particular child uncommonly likes bathtime, and is used to having his growing collection of creatures- the inanimate ordinary ones of course- in the soapy water alongside him.
Imagine his grief, then, when told that the new acquisition could not, for the sake of its longevity, be submerged in bathwater. It could not be permitted to share any part of bathtime with the little fellow and as a grim result he grew increasingly loud, his distraught sobs causing many a riptide in the tub and many a ripple in his parents' hearts.
Eventually the boy was made to understand, if not the fact of the dinosaur's certain destruction, then at least the word 'no' and soon he was paddling and splashing merrily, with half a thought on the new toy that awaited him afterward.
All the while that bathtime was in progress, I could only sit and think of the devastation I had unleashed upon my brother many years ago.
He was nine and I six; he had been given a remote-controlled army tank for Christmas which I liked very much. I admired the sturdiness of the toy, was intrigued by the exotic nature of how it could be propelled forward and backward, and wistful, so wistful of the fact that it was not my own.
I thought that I would like to know how it worked, and, too, to see it move underwater. So, on a quiet afternoon shortly after Christmas I plugged up the bathroom sink, filled the basin to the top and set the tank on what I imagined to be the ocean floor.
It took little time for me to understand that the tank was in trouble and, more worryingly, so was I.
It sputtered and the wheels churned water before it wound down with an alarming sigh.
My brother might easily have dismissed the toy as an unfortunately faulty piece of equipment, and I might have got away with my escapade- except for the water that was continuously leaking from the sides of the tank and cruelly betraying me as the only possible culprit.
I wished I could buy him another, or fix it, or leap through time and advise myself not to put it in the sink in the first place.
He was so unhappy, and I felt dreadful long after the occasion had passed.
I am sure my brother has forgotten all about it by now, more than twenty years later, but it strangely seems that the one who causes the trouble has to carry the burden of it for the longest time.
It only took a walking, talking dinosaur to remind me once again.


Tom the Piper's Son said...

Fortunate that kids, after the initial trauma and subsequent wailing, can forget soon after and get lost in the new moment.

I remember, like many little boys, being deep into dinosaurs. But, this was the late 50's and early 60's and I don't recall any but rubber or plastic duplications of them. I was VERY content to take them out to the grass or hillside and imagine them romping about in their prehistoric homeland. I think I would have felt it an affront to try and motorize them; this would be infringement on the world i had created in my mind.

I can't be sure if most kids back then had the same feeling, but definitely something has been lost.

Barb said...

Poor you carrying all that guilt for all these years.

You need to release it and forgive yourself for the injustice to your brother who obviously has moved on. B

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Tom, I think that was the only such toy my brother ever had- which was why we were thrilled about it. I've always preferred to use my imagination when it comes to things like that.
"this would be infringement on the world i had created in my mind." -I completely understand your sentiment on this. I wrote early on in my blog about a child I mentored who was given a skipping rope with a digital counter, and the counter was broken. She wanted a new rope because that one was "broken." It made me very sad.
Thanks for your comment.

Barb, I will- I'll bring it up with my brother and see if he recalls the event, which I doubt. Then I'll move on ;)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

No doubt, if you brought it up to your brother, he would have no memory of the event! Of course, you could get him another for Christmas!

polona said...

kids do cruel things out of innocent reasons... funny how little it takes to trigger memories...

Beth said...

oh, that's so sad and such a normal piece of childhood, the beginning of a conscience maybe. Don't beat yourself up too much--maybe buy him a remote controlled tank for Christmas :)

Jaime said...

Well, if it makes you feel any better, I once accidentally nailed my brother in the forehead with an iron golf club.
He still bears the scar where the stitches went. Oh the guilt. But, he was trying to teach me to golf, and should have known better than to stand so close to me. Still, did I ever feel horrible!

Pappy said...

Glad to know my sister wasn't the only bane to a brother's existence. Now that she occasionally reads my blog, I will have to drag to the forefront some long lost episodes from our childhood. Thanks for reminding me. Pappy

Anonymous said...

I still remember the time that I decided that my sister's goldfish needed to take a nap so I took it out of the water and put it in bed. Of course, it died. I wonder if my sister still remembers that . . .

mouse (aka kimy) said...

I find this "but it strangely seems that the one who causes the trouble has to carry the burden of it for the longest time" incredibly profound....

thanks for the stories, as always!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Pamela, I could do that ;) I'll bear it in mind as a gift for him. Good thinking...

Polona, true- I was listening to the baby have a bath and all of a sudden it came back to me after such a long time. You're right that it was innocent, although I wouldn't call it cruel- I had no bad intention and didn't suspect what would happen.

Beth, "beginning of a conscience"- I like that! I just remember how excited he was to get the tank. I thought it would be better underwater...

Jaime, oh my goodness. You're right though, he should have been more careful! I well imagine you were very sorry then when he was hurt. Thanks for sharing that! I bet he doesn't bear a grudge along with the scar- siblings are usually forgiving like that :)

Texican, I'd love to hear some of your childhood stories- those would be a treat! No doubt a good mix of nostalgia and humour will be at the heart of them. I look forward to your tales.

Natasha, See- you didn't mean to hurt it! I know that- you were just being kind. I thought my brother would be thrilled to know that the tank moved underwater too, so I was doing it for him as much as me.
That's a sad, sad story. The poor fish.

Kimy, thanks for picking that one out- I quite like that line myself :) Because in truth, my brother is long over the event, but here I am pondering about it despite him being the one whose toy was damaged.

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