And now a short story about curiosity, hard work, and sabotage.
I have three sisters. (I’ll tell you more about them some other time) One is two years younger than me and the other two are ten and twelve years younger than me, which means that for the first ten years of my life, and the first eight of my sister Natasha’s life, we were a family of four.
When you only have two kids, versus four, you go out to eat a lot more often. We used to frequent the Country Kitchen right down the road, where they gave you silver tokens with your kids meal, if you were good. (Mom told me once that she always got compliments about how polite my sister and I were and later added that she “missed the boat” with the next two, which I like to remind them of whenever possible) If you saved up enough tokens you could “buy” something out of the glass case by the cash register out front.
Tash and I saved up our tokens, fifty each, for the best thing in the case; a Country Kitchen mug. It was the best thing because every time you brought that mug back in they gave you a free hot cocoa WITH WHIPPED CREAM. As a six-year old that mug was my prized possession.
One night at one of those dinners, while I was entertaining myself with some toothpicks, my dad happened to mention that you could start a fire by rubbing two sticks together. This was news to me! I immediately set about rubbing two toothpicks together. The rest of the night at dinner, and on the way home, and all the time until my parents made me go to bed when I tucked them safely on my dresser, and then put them back into my pocket the next day. I rubbed them together on the bus to school and during recess and all the free time I could find at night.
This went on for weeks. My parents were quite smug, secretly congratulating themselves on finding something so simple to keep me thoroughly busy for the foreseeable future and chuckling a little at my ferocious determination. I was going to start a fire with those two toothpicks, “just you wait and see!”
And then one day, lo and behold, a brown spot appeared on one of my toothpicks. It was a sign. I was almost there, I was sure. I could hardly contain my excitement the whole way home from school.
At home, I was still rubbing those two toothpicks together (watching for smoke), and my parents were starting to try to let me down easy and inform me that I probably wasn’t going to be able start a fire with toothpicks.
“I am so!” I bellowed, “One of them already has a brown spot!”
My parents looked alarmed.
“Let me see those,” my father said. He examined the toothpicks and then, to my most heart wrenching disappointment, he said, “I think I better keep these” and HE TOOK THEM AWAY.
That was my first life lesson in disappointment and I took it pretty hard. All my hard work, all my hopes and dreams, so close I could taste success on the tip of my tongue and then RUINED BY MY OWN PARENTS.
In retrospect, I can see how you couldn’t be having a six-year old starting her bedspread on fire by accident and burning the whole house down, and I can safely say that I hadn’t thought once about what I would do when I finally had a flaming toothpick in my hand.
Better safe than sorry or whatever. (But still.)
The End

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