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Friday, October 12, 2012

The Day of the Gum Ball

A long, long, loooong time ago my mother and her best friend took four of their children to watch a Disney movie. I was one of those children. I don't remember which Disney movie we watched, but I remember part of the day vividly.

It was beautiful. The sun was shining. And I was happy. 

We had been walking down the street after Bonnie's mom, Theresa (you now know where I got my name), and my mom had stopped at a gum ball machine. What a treat! We NEVER got gum balls! This day truly was magical! All four of us plopped the gum into our mouths and continued on.

And then one of those defining moments occurred – you know, the ones Dr. Phil talks about? – "defining moments" that impact you so profoundly, they stay in your long-term memory forever and affect everything you do from that point on? From the "Day of the Gum Ball" moment on, I would question EVERYTHING, because that moment shaped the rest of my life. And it took place right there on that Chicago street when I was only five years old.

Seconds after we had put the gum into our mouths, Bonnie pulled from her mouth a perfectly shaped miniature toy dog. I was amazed – and perplexed.

"How did you do that?" I asked Bonnie, who was a year younger than I.

"I don't know. It just happened."

She must have used her teeth, I reasoned, so I used my teeth and tried to carve a little dog toy. I pulled the gum from my mouth and hoped to marvel at my creation.

Sadly it was just a glob of gum. 

But I didn't give up. Over and over and over and over again, block after block after block, I tried to sculpt a toy dog with my gum, biting around what I hoped would be its head and rolling between my tongue what should have looked like a tail.

Every few steps, I pulled the gum from my mouth, hoping to marvel at my own exquisite creation. Finally, after being scolded, "KEEP THAT GUM IN YOUR MOUTH!" I had to accept the sad truth – Bonnie was extraordinarily talented, and the only thing I could use my teeth for was chewing.

Later (I don't remember how many years passed), my "aha" moment arrived when I noticed tiny little toys in a gum ball machine. Wasted hours spent trying to create a gummy masterpiece – wasted hours wishing I could be as creative as my 4-year-old friend, Bonnie, because there it sat, taunting me from the inside of a gum ball machine – a perfectly shaped miniature toy dog!

To this day, when I see the wheels in a child's head spinning, I know that child is asking, "How did you do that?" as the child tries to reason how things work in this world – all thanks to "The Day of the Gum Ball." 

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