Sunday, May 13, 2012

Forgetting History

We were in Central Park as usual and happened to come up on the park's vintage carousel just a few minutes before it opened for business. We never pass up easy opportunities to delight our toddler, so we bought tickets and went aboard, the first customers of the day.

Elizabeth looked doubtful as we went in. Her doubt turned to alarm when she got a closer look at the garish decor. Alarm became fear when we tried to sit her on one of the fierce looking horses, recently repainted in extra vivid color. And fear grew to desperate terror when they cranked up the calliope music, a sound you only hear nowadays in the nightmare sequences of horror movies.

Here she is, begging to get off the merry-go-round, but by this time we were under way and just had to comfort her as best we could until the ride was over.

What was I thinking? I was a toddler once myself and remembered too late exactly how she felt. The years fell away and I was three years old again, clinging to my mother's hand on a sidewalk in downtown Monterrey, California, as a large, ungainly figure approached us.

"Oh, David, look," Mom said. "It's Mr. Peanut."

I was a big fan of Planters and quite familiar 
with their distinguished spokespeanut with his jaunty monocle and top hat. But he was a tiny little guy on the peanut can. The creature now looming over me was nearly seven feet tall.

I retreated behind my mother's skirt, hid my face and ignored her as she urged me to introduce myself to Mr. Peanut and shake his hand. Mr. Peanut evidently had mascot training that didn't allow him to say anything, which somehow made him seem even more frightening. They both finally gave up on me and we all went on about our business.

But that night I reflected on the incident in my bed as I was trying to go to sleep. I had come face to face with the actual Mr. Peanut. I could have shaken his hand and told him how much I liked his product. Maybe I could have learned interesting behind-the-scenes stuff about being a walking peanut. He might have even given me some free nuts. I realized with chagrin that I had let fear deprive me of an important opportunity.

The memory made me braver as I got older. Maybe Elizabeth will have a similar outcome. After shaking off her heebie-jeebies, she almost let us take her on for another ride. But then she shook her head, so we went on to the playground instead.

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