I grew up in a big family. As one of the youngest, I lived under whatever reputation my older siblings had created for us, no matter how poorly I fit that reputation.
The reputation that became firmly attached to us was that of being destroyers of all things pleasant, carefully crafted, or well-intentioned. It didn’t matter that I cared for my toys and did not try to break things merely because broken was the natural state in our world. I was a cemented piece in the group, you kids, as in “You kids can’t have nice things.”
My only relief was the hope that when I grew up I could surround myself with things that were not broken and people who did not shake their heads at me with the sad knowledge that it was only a matter of time.
Fortunately, I was never able to afford the expensive sorts of nice things. The nice things I collected as a young adult were modest. My possessions were not impressive, but they were not broken either. Against all odds, I proved that I could have nice things.
For a while.
Then came children – two boys who love to use all the strength possessed by their little fingers to affect change. Everything they touch is altered by their hands. I’m learning to think of these objects not as broken, just different than they used to be.
At first, I tried to move things out of the reach of active, little hands. But there is only so much space up high. Some things must be left to take their chances. Consequently, I now have a fine collection of CD cases that don’t stay shut, filled with ripped paperwork and the wrong CDs, which are all scratched to hell. It’s a good thing only old people use such ancient media anymore.
The boys’ aunt gave us a German cuckoo clock. The clock is too beautiful for us. If we had any gratitude, we’d buy a better house to move the clock into. The boys, unused to seeing such fine things in our house, were overcome with the desire to handle it with their inquisitive, spasmodic hands. I quickly hung it high on the wall, much to their mutual disappointment.
Every hour, a bird shoots out of the clock to renew their disappointment. If only they could get their paws on that clock for two minutes, what happy boys they’d be.
Yesterday, I brought sleeping Little Brother in from the car as the clock struck one. The cuckoo popped out and did his thing. The boy woke and pointed at the clock. “Ooooh,” he said, before dropping back to sleep. For those not fluent in Babyish, “Ooooh” has many meanings, depending upon the context. Here, it means: “That bird is adequate. One day I’ll get up there to yank on him, and then he’ll be perfect.”
Don’t get the idea that I resent my children’s object-altering hands. I adore those four hands. I wasted years running away. Those hands have returned me to my roots.
I can’t have nice things.