Field of dam­age

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Siob­han Con­nally

The horse’s glassy eyes stared straight at me. Some­one had pushed the three-foot tall, plushy relic of two early child­hoods nose-to-nose with me as I slept.

“But­ter­scotch,” we’d called her, and ap­par­ently she was now my charge.

I look around my home -- a mix of old and older, en­cap­su­lated in a struc­ture that echoes a sim­i­lar span of time -- and I see the field of dam­age caused by life’s mostly harm­less hur­ri­canes.

When I step on the dis­carded car­casses lit­ter­ing the way for­ward, they squeak. Or they squish. Or they scrunch down into a soft, flat car­pet of fab­ric I will refuse to laun­der on prin­ci­pal.

Such is the na­ture of moth­er­hood.

Room to room, wall to wall, wher­ever I turn there are the many rem­nants of an on­go­ing if not an en­tirely adorable storm.

The flot­sam and jet­sam of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

I imag­ine it’s not un­like the 23,000-and-count­ing pieces of aero­nau­ti­cal junk float­ing in space; Cloud­ing the view of Hub­ble.

“How many hours does it take to bake an inch­wide brownie with a light­bulb?” my el­dest asks.

The ques­tion didn’t come from thin air.

Curled up with a blan­ket and view­ing screen, and next to a grow­ing pile of empty wrap­pers, she was watch­ing re­runs of “Friends.”

She had got­ten to the part where Mon­ica Geller ad­mit­ted the temptation of un­cooked bat­ter was al­ways too great to over­come the wait time on her EZ-Bake oven.

And she thought it was funny but ul­ti­mately un­be­liev­able:

How could any­one en­joy the runny con­sis­tency of un­cooked bat­ter with raw eggs?

“Four hours seems right,” said my daugh­ter; no doubt talk­ing to the screen though I was sit­ting right be­side her. “I made a sad lit­tle cup­cake in one of those toys once with my friend, Amy. I re­mem­ber it took four hours to bake! I never un­der­stood why we couldn’t just use the real oven.”

There were so many rea­sons why. Toys are fun. And dis­tract­ing. And phys­i­cal re­minders of our po­si­tion in so­ci­ety. They help you grow up and re­mind you you were once a child.

Not to men­tion the point that your poor mother didn’t have to worry about in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents or fin­ger­tip burns.

“I’m glad I never had one,” she says, again to the empty space be­tween us. “It seems like such a waste.”

I can’t help but be an­noyed.

“Un­like the rock pol­isher? Or the plas­tic ce­ram­ics wheel? Or the sci­ence kit that got used ex­actly once each?”

She jumped as if she hadn’t seen me sit­ting there in the same room at the end of her couch. As if I were a pil­low propped against the fur­ni­ture that speaks.

“It’s not as if I asked for any of those things,” she said with all of the truth and a sin­gle grain of salt.

Th­ese gifts - still tak­ing up res­i­dence on shelves and in clos­ets - all fail­ures of ex­cess: Pretty boxes to wrap and un­wrap on spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

But there were suc­cesses.

There was the in­flat­able water slide (fi­nally re­tired af­ter umpteen years and nu­mer­ous fab­ric patches) and that ride­able pony, which was blank star­ing me right in the eye.

The stuffed horse of the apoca­lypse. Siob­han Con­nally is a writer and pho­tog­ra­pher liv­ing in the Hud­son Val­ley. Her col­umn about fam­ily life ap­pears weekly in print and on­line.

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