Real stories from Australia's craziest family.
A BOX OF BROKEN MARBLES
SATURDAY, 4TH AUGUST 2018
A gift says a lot about a person. It is a test of how well you know each other - often we give the thing we would most like to receive. Declaring something so openly, putting it before a person you love, leaves us vulnerable.
My daughter was turning eleven. I’d bought the card months ago, a shimmering lime and green picture that said ‘Everything Is Going To Be Wonderful’ on the front. Inside my husband wrote, “Happy Birthday Charlotte, the best time in your life!”
suggested soundtrack for this blog provided by 'the caretaker'.
On the cusp of adolescence, one minute my daughter was discussing crop tops and ear piercings, the next she was playing with dolls.
I’d always loved my daughter, but found the older she grew the more I was liking her. As a toddler her moods and tantrums had scared both of us, but we’d grown used to them over the years. She was unpredictable, like the weather, and when a change swept in we bunkered down - the stairs would rumble like thunder as she blew up them, the door of her room slam like a clap of thunder, then twenty minutes later when the storm passed Charlotte would return to me and apologise.
My daughter was still difficult to work with, she only did chores when she was in the mood, she was messy and sometimes obstinate. She ate with her hands and had to be reminded daily to brush her hair. She reminded me of me.
For my husband however, Charlotte was a different child; she was “daddy’s girl”. She would fold washing without having to be asked twice, thrilled to be of service to him. For her birthday my husband bought her a pink electric guitar, a miniature Fender the colour of musk sticks. Tim and Charlotte loved playing guitar together - it was the perfect present.
The guitar of course, was supposed to be from both of us, but I had bought another gift months ago when I’d seen them at the market - an old wooden cigar box of marbles. The lid lay open like a box of treasure, coloured glass catching the light, alluring as a jar of hardboiled sweets. There were catseyes and peewees and an assortment of large shooters. They felt smooth and heavy and clinked as they moved inside the box. They had been played with roughly, the big ones left chipped and lopsided.
Tim brought out the guitar before we wrapped it, a gift as sweet as candy. I wondered what the box of marbles said about me… Old and broken, impractical, a relic from the pre-digital age.
But they were also a mystery, there was a story in the box waiting to be told. Who had owned them? What had become of them once their hands had grown too big for marbles? Where had the box come from, who had kept them? So many questions with unknown answers… The marbles to me spoke of childhood - a reminder of the age of magic and innocence, before jobs and bills and expectations. They spoke of wonder. One should always be reminded of wonder I thought...
The house was filled with balloons when I got home, there were steaks for dinner and a strawberry sponge cake for dessert. Charlotte’s face looked angelic in the glow from the birthday candles. She shrieked with excitement at the pink electric guitar and the party moved off to try it out in a revelry of balloons and laughter, Charlotte with her little Hunter minion in tow.
I cleared the table and thought ahead to bedtime, gradually I heard them making their way back towards me. ‘Wait Charlotte! You’ve still got one more present!’ Tom shouted.
‘It’s not much,’ I heard myself say. I wondered what she would think of something odd and broken after the perfect newness of the pink guitar. She slipped off the ribbon and paper, lifted the lid on the old wooden box.
‘Oh Mum, they’re beautiful,’ she said and my heart glowed.
a photo of my husband from long ago - he'll probably kill me for posting this.
note: pink guitar
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