seemed the Force was strong with me.
Philosophy and Nonsense
(Thoughts about writing, education, and experience.) Presented by Forrest D. Poston
The first goal of teaching is to strengthen, deepen and refine our intrinsic love of learning. All other goals and all methods must stem from that idea. Any that do not support that goal must at least be questioned and adjusted, if not eliminated. Otherwise, we are not teaching but training.
Think, I dare you.
|Stupidity sometimes trumps the Force.|
The Mug, the Magic, and the Mistake
by Forrest D. Poston
It was the late 70s, with the Force strong
in the theaters, and if anyone had the Force with him
that November, it was me. However, even the
Force can have trouble dealing with a teenager in
love, the Force against late adolescent
stupidity. Still, this is a story of hope, of
magic from whatever source, of the possibilities
ever-bubbling in youth, a story I need to remember
every now and then when gray hairs and the lesser side
of reason start over-balancing dreams and
possibilities. It's a quest.
This story got lost for a while, tucked away
in memory, and perhaps stories about previous
girlfriends are supposed to be forgotten after twenty
years of marriage, but writers and storytellers are
supposed to remember. It's what we do, even when
the story seems too far-fetched, too full of
coincidence. This one happened, and I'm the only
one who ever knew this side of it, all of the
quirks. Many knew about the mug, but this is
more, the mug, the magic, and the mistake.
I was twenty, just starting my two years as a college dropout, and selling vacuum cleaners door to door, trying to anyway. It was the year my brother, Gary, had died after 26 years with muscular dystrophy and just about two weeks before my grandmother would die as well. However, I had a girlfriend, much to Dad's relief.
It wasn't my first time in love. That was first grade, but this was the first time I had actually tried to do anything about it. This was also just after we had looked out the car window at the same time and both saw our first shooting star. Disbelieve if you wish, but I was there.
We drove up to Parkersburg one evening to do some relatively early Christmas shopping. She shopped, and I watched since that was what I could afford at that point. Her first nephew had been born just a week or two before, so she bought a silver mug at Things Remembered and had it engraved with his name and birthdate. Once that was ready, we started the 35 miles home.
Part way home, she decided to look at the mug, which is where things took a serious turn. When filling out the paperwork for the engraving, she had listed that day's date in place of her nephew's birth date. Ruined. Since neither of us had the money to buy a new mug, or anything else, (and because she had even more of a temper than I did at the time), she got angry and depressed.
I wanted to say something like, "Let's see what tomorrow brings," but it was one of those times when platitudes would turn anger to fury. Instead, I silently told myself, "Wait and see what tomorrow brings" even though there was nothing it could bring. Still, I calculated the minimum I would need for gas and the cost to replace the cup, and I waited.
Tomorrow brought a letter from my car insurance company. A few weeks earlier, I had discovered that they had not credited me for my driver's ed discount, and I certainly wanted that class to pay off in some way at least. They promised to credit my account and specifically said that I would be getting a credit, not a check. I got a check, a check that was just about two dollars over the amount I needed.
I dropped the day's plans and got ready for
Parkersburg. Since it was such a perfect opportunity,
I also started scheming. I liked scheming,
nothing malicious, just planning, and maybe a little
too much manipulation. For this scheme, I needed the
"bad" mug, and I needed to keep a certain girlfriend
in the dark. Given her intelligence, curiosity, and
pure stubborness, that wouldn't be easy without good
planning. Every good scheme needs a challenge.
I called her house, and when she answered, I simply asked to speak with her dad, not an explanation in sight. Having her know that something was going on wasn't essential, just more fun. I told her father that I was going to see about getting the wrong date buffed out and the right date put on, and would need to slip the mug out the house secretly. He thought buffing would leave a clear mark, and so did I, but he had a thing about being sensible. I didn't want to tell him that I was spending my little windfall in quite such a silly way, even if it was for his youngest daughter.
I had a plan for getting the mug out of the house, but sensible Jack was not without his impish streak. Since no one had real reason to suspect him, he slipped the mug out himself and met me up the road from the house. Step one was perfect.
There was no reason to expect trouble on the
drive, but I've rarely owned a car that was especially
reliable, and a 75 Valiant was not a Detroit high
point in quality. No trouble found me. Better than n
trouble, from the edge of Parkersburg to Grand Central
Mall, there are quite a few traffic lights, enough to
not bother counting. That day for the first time and
the last time, I cruised through every single light
green, no stopping, no slowing. It did seem that the
Force was with me, Luke Skywalker co-piloting and Han
Solo clearing the path. I never suspected that
it might be Rod Serling instead.
Even though I had never intended to get the mug buffed, I like to be truthful. To keep my karma balanced, I went to the jewelry store and asked about buffing. It would leave a definite, obvious flat spot. My duty was done, even if I made the jewelry store staff think I was dumb. They were strangers, so it was fine.
In the clear and heading for the home stretch, I went to Things Remembered to order engraving on a new mug. The clerk bent over and opened the cabinet to get one, and she found an empty spot instead. They were out of stock. Even if they knew when more would be in, I wouldn't have enough money to come back. I'd gotten tripped at the finish line.
However, they did have one mug still on display, and the person working decided that she could engrave the display mug if I would give them the mis-engraved mug to use for display. Since it was an even trade, she wouldn't even charge me. And just as I write this, I realize I should have gotten her name. Instead, my benefactor will always remain a stranger who doesn't know the story.
Getting the mug back in the house was the really easy part since I also knew it was the evening my girlfriend met with a group she was in, even if I've since forgotten the group. (Junior Achievement, perhaps, says a distant voice.) The real fun was set for later when some relatives and I would all be there to see her discover the switch.
I couldn't go. I have no memory why, but
that was the one glitch. Instead, I called and told
her dad to go ahead without me. I would have to settle
for hearing about it later, which was good enough now
that the things were in place. Maybe it would
have been different if I had been there, but I've
always tended to go into a down cycle after the scheme
came together, so perhaps this was better.
It was her uncle who asked her to show him
the mug, acting for all the world as if he wanted to
tease her about it. She got it off the shelf, took it
out of the box, and the date had magically changed to
her nephew's birth date. My inner-knight-errant could
feel worthy of his horse, shield and sword.
Quest complete. Complete?
Perhaps that should have been where that
story ended, but another part of me had an itch. There
was a magical story sitting in the display case of
Things Remembered, and nobody knew it. People were
walking up and down the aisle as if it were an
ordinary mug, and that just didn't seem right.
To my girlfriend, the mug with the correct date was
the magic one, but somehow it was the flawed mug that
spoke to me. I should have remembered that this
was supposed to be her story, not mine.
Somewhere, I came into a little more cash, although it wasn't from selling vacuum cleaners. (I only sold 3: one to some friends when I was only supposed to be doing a practice demo, one to my grandmother because grandmothers do such things, and one to my parents because parents do such things.) I went back and bought the display mug, even if it took some explaining as to why I wanted somebody else's engraving.
To me that mug was the only symbol of the story that would stay around. The "good" mug was headed for Oklahoma come Christmas. Perhaps we should be able to remember and believe without physical proof, but I wanted that mug. I wanted to show other people and tell the story for years to come, one of those family things that no one would believe. Then I could point and say, "But here's the very mug."
I could have kept the mug for myself, maybe
should have, but I gave it to my girlfriend as a
Christmas present. I'm a storyteller (and a
schemer), but I forgot to plan. She thought that
I was making fun of her, and I had no story to tell
somehow. I guess at the time I didn't really
know the story, only knew that there was one, one in
which this mug was important. No, it didn't
really hurt the relationship, though I suppose it was
an indication of what would turn that shooting star
from a symbol of romance into one of brevity.
There would be other times when I needed to understand
our story, to understand it well enough to tell her,
other times I failed.
We're always living stories, bits of pieces
of the ongoing story around us, and we're always
seeking to both understand and write those stories as
they happen, but sometimes we slip. The story
changes, but we go on living it and telling it.
Sometimes we look back and find a story from the past,
one we may have lived a little too soon.
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Writing and Education
Four Meanings of Life
Godot and the Great Pumpkin
A Major is More Minor Than
The Poetry Process (A look at 4 versions of a poem.)
Thoughts About Picking a Major
Quick Points About Education
Quick Points About Writing
Reading Poetry and Cloud Watching
Using an Audience
What Makes a Story True?
What's the Subject of This Class? (Being revised.)
Writing and Einstein (The Difference Between Information and Meaning)
Writing and the Goldilocks Dilemma
Links to Other Sites
Other Essays and Poetry
Something Somewhat Vaguely Like a Resume
Alec Kirby, Memories of an Earnest Imp
Being Like Children
Beyond the Genes (Dad)
The Blessing and the Blues
Bookin' Down Brown Street
The Cat With a Bucket List
David and the Revelation
The Dawn, the Dark, and the Horse I Didn't Ride In On (an odd, meandering, semi-romantic story)
Getting a Clue
Ghost Dancer in the Twilight Zone
The Hair Connection and the Nature of Choices
I Believe in Capra
The Mug, the Magic, and the Mistake
Roto, Rooter and the Drainy Day
Sadie on the Bridge
Trumpet Player, USDA Approved
The Poetry Process
Links to Other Sites