Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Digging Spoon

The Digging Spoon
Rummaging through the silverware drawer in our kitchen last week, I came upon something that reaches further back into my childhood than almost any other object that I own, yet it is still in use in our household today.

This is what I used to call The Digging Spoon.

I had what could probably be called a typical small town upbringing, and like most baby-boomers, I was spoiled by peace and prosperity because my parents had a direct recollection of the Great Depression. It was a common refrain (for Lynda anyway): "I had things so tough. I don't ever want things to be like that for you."

For the most part, this was her modus operandi, but it was also not unlike her to offer a simple (and cheaper) solution to her childrens' needs and wants.  For example, instead of new jeans every six months, we got iron-on knee patches to get us through the school year.  Rather than the latest Spider Man lunchbox, I toted my tongue sammiches to school in a (wrinkled) brown paper bag.

And so it was with the Digging Spoon.  What I really wanted was a shiny red Tonka truck.  What I got was the Spoon.

I don't recall the exact circumstances under which the Spoon was first given to me as a toy, but I can recall going up to Lynda on subsequent occasions as she cooked dinner and asking her for my Digging Spoon.  She would look at me and laugh, then go to the drawer and pull it out, presenting it to me as if it were a priceless treasure on loan, all the while reminding me sternly to be sure and bring it back.

You know, that Spoon was actually a fine toy.  I can recall digging some pretty darned good holes with it.  I used to sit just a few feet from the kitchen door, where Lynda could keep an eye on me from the window over the sink, and dig for hours in the dirt at the base of the big old oak tree that dominated the space in our side yard.  In the hours between lunch and supper, many a secret tunnel were formed and filled in that dark dirt in around the roots of that old tree.

Everyone loves to reminisce about their childhood as a simpler, better time, even if those memories are false.  I like to think that (most of) my childhood memories are true, and even if there is some sentimentalism at work here, that my happiness came from the love my parents had for me as well as the limitations placed on our family's material wealth.  The idea that a humble beginning leads to a fulfilling life is a cliche, but there is some truth to the notion that a more complicated life is not necessarily a better one.

In other words, maybe the Digging Spoon was a better beginning for me than the Tonka truck would have been.  It certainly was simpler.  And, while I can't say that having that shiny new red toy truck would have unnecessarily complicated my life at age five, I am actually glad that I got a Digging Spoon instead.

After all, even though I did get a Tonka truck eventually, I no longer have it.  But I still have that spoon.

However 'real' it may or may not have been, I am grateful for the childhood that Lynda and Bill gave me.  I am glad that they shielded me, as best they could, from the complexities of their lives.  I know now, of course, that while I was living the carefree life of an American child growing up in a small town, my parents' lives were actually very complicated.  They had many practical concerns as well as more than a few global fears.  In 1962, they had a business to run, a marriage to keep together, a family to raise, and, thanks to the Cold war, the very real prospect of a nuclear holocaust to worry about.

I had the great pleasure of growing up without having to worry, for the most part, about the concerns--local or global--of my parents.  And, if I were somehow able to suggest to my parents that 1962 was a better, simpler time, I doubt that idea would have any resonance with them.  I think they would have generally disagreed with the notion that back then, things were somehow better, either in our household, or in the world at large.

We would all, however, agree on one thing.  The Digging Spoon was a good toy.

1 comment:

val said...

and now a delicious serving spoon for wonderful dishes!