My brother and I grew up in an era before backseat DVD players and handheld video games. We also grew up with intelligent, creative parents who were always looking for ways to survive a long drive while boosting their children’s creativity. As a result, road trips included the shoe box. Inside the shoe box was a little pile of entertainment, carefully doled out so that it would last the entire 7-hour drive to the Cabin. Mom usually included puzzle and coloring books, paper and crayons, and no more than one toy each. Between the shoe box and the road trip games we played as a family, the drive was less hideous than you might think for an active little boy, a bratty adolescent sister and two patient parents.
One year the shoe box produced a little toy horse for me and a little brightly colored matchbox style truck for my brother. Arriving at the lake, Dad lowered the boat from the top of the car and filled it with gear. My brother was to ride with Dad while Mom and I hiked in on the trail.
Can you see where this is going?
The wide gunwhales of the homemade boat were perfect for running a little truck up and down and making “vroom, vroom” noises in spite of repeated warnings by Dad. Sure enough, a careless moment led to total disaster…the twinkling colors of the little truck were apparently visible for quite awhile as it sank to the bottom.
Children have to learn about loss, about not getting their way all the time, and about mistakes that can’t be undone. My brother got all of those lessons in one fell swoop, luckily at the cost of only one small toy.
We, of course, were entirely sympathetic as always! (Children also have to learn about being teased and tortured by their loving family!) No amount of crying convinced Dad that he should go swimming to try and find the truck. No amount of sulking could get Mom to produce another equally desirable toy out of the shoe box. One of us helpfully pointed out that the stickleback fishes would now have a toy to play with!
Somehow he wasn’t comforted by that notion at all.
Like the “Cream of Wheat Incident” this story is one that gets dragged out at every opportunity when we feel the need to further torture my now 40-something brother.
Oh the joys of a family that never forgets!