We’ve had a dry spell and the pots of flowers in the patio were drooping. I had a few minutes between zoom calls and went out to water them. The garden hose was not neatly coiled (no one’s fault but my own), but in a heap on the flagstones. I turned on the faucet and grabbed the nozzle and pulled it to reach the thirsty plants. It tightened into a tangle. Water was spurting everywhere, and I just kept pulling and yanking at the mass, angry at the reality and unwilling to do anything constructive about it. Just before I screamed a profanity, a story my mother used to tell flashed into my mind.
I was 2 years old and had a little tricycle that I loved. It had three wheels, but no pedals. I sat on the seat and moved by walking my feet, rolling through the house, in and out of rooms, cruising on the wood floor. I can almost hear the sound of my feet shuffling along, the wheels turning. I can almost feel the pride and satisfaction of being independent and mobile. What a big girl I was! And then, as my mother told many times, I would go through a doorway, maybe from the hall into a bedroom, and the back wheel would catch on the door jamb. I cut the corner too close. But instead of backing up, which I knew how to do, and giving a wider berth to the door jamb, I kept pushing and pushing, banging into the obstruction, as if I could make it move by my sheer anger and stubbornness. Finally, I would scream in a rage and she would come and rescue me.
It’s obvious why that story popped into my head as I pulled at the hose, insisting that it straighten itself out. That toddler Lucy was alive and well in this frustrated aging body. We grow up, we mature, we lead full lives and learn many lessons that help us be productive, avoid danger, find mates, survive and hopefully thrive. But we do not leave behind those traits from the earliest years, for better or worse.
My mother told another story from about the same period. I am verbal but just barely. She and a neighbor are sitting on the front porch talking about the neighbor’s new puppy and the slippers that it recently destroyed. “Maybe you should get a bone for the puppy to chew instead,” my mother suggested to her friend. I remember the sudden rush of realizing I could solve this problem! I jumped up and ran inside the house and came back with an enormous bone, probably from a cow or even a moose. It was ancient, gray and dry and sat on a book shelf as an artifact. I proudly presented it to the neighbor. I have a dim memory of two strong feelings, two truths: I am so smart and I am so helpful. And then the bubble burst. My mother and her friend doubled up laughing and shame took over. That shame creeps in even now, as I write about it. But I also take pride in those motivations that propelled me to act back then, and still drive me today. Just as I can be outrageously stubborn, yanking at a garden hose, I am also deeply motivated to help people…with whatever is handy… hopefully not an old bone.
I would love to hear where this idea takes you. Have you got iconic stories from your early years that previewed who you became? Can you still feel that little person inside at certain moments, driving you down a familiar path? If so, be kind to them. They’ve been with you since the beginning and they’re doing their best.
5 thoughts on “Push Replay”
Well, yes, those kiddy behaviors do seem to foreshadow the adult. When I was about four a friend of my mother’s dropped by. When I came into the room she said Oh, Cynthia, my goodness – you’ve grown another foot! I jumped backwards instantly and looked down at my feet, expecting to see three of them suddenly. Childhood was mysterious to me and I felt almost anything was possible: I couldn’t seem to find a stable pattern. Could this be the reason for my longtime nickname, Goose? Possibly……..
Classic, Goose! And so well told. Thank you.
… I’m waiting, Myv. I know you’ve got an anecdote or two in there.
[From Dana Newmann] My big brother, Bill, was 8 years older than I and so, for me, he was always intriguing and mysterious. I vividly remember hearing him call out from his bedroom, when I was 5 or 6, ““MOM, she’s been at it again– going through my dresser drawers!” And it was true! I was near compulsive about trying to know this other person by rummaging through the objects that were his, that did not belong to me!
Luckily, soon after, my mother began taking me with her when she went to White Elephant sales, church sales, in Minneapolis. What fun! Going through all these unknown belongings! What treasures were there waiting for me?…… Well, I’ve continued to be a rummager to this day!
And how fortuitous! Right now I am searching for oddities—small vintage ‘objets’ – that will work in my latest Curiosity Cabinet- this one is celebrating the DADA art movement that led directly into Surrealism. And so it goes…
Thanks, Lucy, “for the Memory…” xo Dana
Thanks for letting me know that captcha was not cooperating so I could post this for you. It is a gem, Dana, and for anyone who knows you it speaks to a deep and beautiful place in you. Good luck with the search for “oddities” — but don’t come rooting through MY drawers!