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Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Share


 
Some of the kids on my block are at the age when they're learning to share. This is a hurdle they don’t want to leap.

"That's mine!" yells Justin, when his sister takes off down the sidewalk on his wiggle car. He wasn’t using it, but that's not the point.

"You have to share, Justin," says one of the older girls. I think she's nine. Justin is five. He knows he's supposed to share. He has plenty of toys. He's grasped the concept, but the execution is not easy. 

Growing up in Dust Bowl Kansas, my father learned this one the hard way. He told the story of the only family hairbrush: each year, one of his five brothers and three sisters would receive the hairbrush for Christmas. That kid had to share the hairbrush with the rest of the family, but for a whole year, he owned it.

My dad liked to pull your leg. He might have made that up. They were poor, though, and he wanted us to know better times than his.

One year at Christmas time, when I was very young, he spent every evening in the basement. My siblings and I weren’t allowed down there because he was working on a surprise. Christmas morning, we each received our own set of blocks. Our father had shaped different pieces of wood and painted them. Blue, aqua, yellow and red. He’d made four sets, one for each of us.


One year, it was little chairs. They came from Mexico, but he didn’t go there to get them. He painted our names on the backs. The yellow chair was mine. There was no way my siblings could mistake it for their chair. If they wanted to use it, they had to ask me. But they didn’t need to, because they had their own. My name has almost rubbed off now, but the chair is still mine.


The last year our father made our Christmas toys was the year of the stick horses. With a jigsaw, he cut four, horse-shaped heads out of wood. He bolted each one to a stick long enough to be the right size for its owner. He painted each head blue, aqua, yellow or red. We were old enough by then, so he left the faces up to us.


Mine was the aqua horse. I gave it a little smile, pretty eyes, and a silver mane. It’s girly. I rode and rode and rode that horse. I had no interest in riding my siblings’ horses.

I believe that was my father's point. 

We had other toys, and those were free game. But my father's way of teaching us to share was to make sure we each had something of our own.

21 comments:

Bellis said...

That's such a lovely story, with a very good message, wonderfully illustrated with the presents you write about. How lovely that you kept them. What a creative, wise man your father was.

Dina said...

Very moving. Thank you for sharing this, Petrea.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, you two. I enjoyed writing this one. And Bellis, you're right about my father.

Katie said...

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but just a few words have made these photos so much more meaningful. Great share indeed.

Ms M said...

What a beautiful post -- your writing, the photos. These things that your kind and wise father made for you. Thank you for sharing it with us :)

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks. I enjoyed working on this this week, rather than having to come up with one each day.

altadenahiker said...

Very moving, and what a great dad.

Petrea Burchard said...

Likewise, Karin.

Adele said...

This is wonderful. How fortunate you and your siblings were, in so many ways.

Bob Crowe said...

Wonderful story and wonderful illustrations. The memories gleam in gold.

Latino Heritage said...

So much character in your images and your writing. Thanks for sharing. Your dad sound like he was a quiet, thoughtful fellow.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thank you all.

My dad was a quiet, thoughtful fellow, although he loved jokes and could be a lot of fun. I wish life had been easier for him. I hope I honor him in the knowledge that he made it easier for me.

TheChieftess said...

He sounds like a wonderful and wise man...and father...

BettyS said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful story and photos! It reminded me of when my dad worked in a ladder factory that also made kids' furniture, that we couldn't afford, of course. Dad made us all chairs from cast offs at the factory by taking broken chairs apart to get the necessary pieces for whole ones. Sadly, we didn't save them.

Laura Monteros said...

My gosh, I have a chair just like that, down to the chipped paint and fraying raffia. Though ours is a bit more frayed. I bought a similar chairs for each one of my kids, but just found this somewhere--don't even remember where or if I bought it or picked it up off the street. It's in my living room by the steamer trunk.

Sorry I missed this, Petrea, I thought you were just posting on Mondays.

Petrea Burchard said...

I'm sorry you don't have those, Betty.

Laura, I think those chairs were common when we were kids. Probably cheap and easy to find.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I had one of those chairs red and adult sized. I put it out on the curb - I'm a giver (on occasion) but I'd never let go of that pony - if it had been mine; though, in truth, Ramona would have waited till I wasn't looking and thrown it away. Funny how people deal with poverty. Ramona filled us with fear and dread, then threw our history away. I prefer your father's approach

Petrea Burchard said...

Not that I haven't already bucked him up in this post (like any father, mine was an imperfect man), but I have to tell you that his motive wasn't poverty. We weren't rich, and he may have been being frugal to a degree, but I think he made these things to find ways to connect to us. Fathers didn't have the same kinds of permission in those days.

JM said...

Lovely post, Petrea! At first I thought the chair was Portuguese, it's very similar to the ones made at Alentejo, a south-central region of Portugal. Sadly, it seems the artisans are disappearing and it's already getting difficult to buy them.
These are ornamental mini-chairs: http://janelasdoalentejo.blogspot.pt/2010/08/cadeiras-alentejans-em-miniatura.html

Petrea Burchard said...

How interesting, JM! They are very similar, though I'm sure the one I have was mass-manufactured and not made by an artisan. A "knock=off," as they say. I like the picture at your link.

Susan Campisi said...

Lovely memories. Your father sounds like he was a thoughtful, loving dad. Creative, too. It's wonderful you still have these gifts. True treasures.