Monday, June 14, 2004

Just a Barrel of Manque
Solutions to problems pop into a kid's noggin from a variety of disjointed sources. Comics (videos, these days I guess), movies, friend's patter, why... even your uncle's tall tales. When I was 5 or so and vacationing at my cousin's farm perched on the Una River in (what is today) Croatia, my mom came down from the big city of Zagreb for an unexpected visit. My sister was back in the city, so my mother's purpose in coming to the farm was a mystery to me. My father had gone to the States for land & opportunity and was promising to be back with both shortly. How he was going to cart them both back was a puzzle, but hey, he spoke 5 languages and was a chemical engineer, so every&any/thing was possible in that world across the water, or so I'd pictured. It'd been over 3 years since he'd left and we were still waiting for that returning ship carrying him and that promised land & opportunity.
I'd always thought what he had needed and what he had wanted was to be brought back home to us; there was no need nor any desire on our part to go over "there", since he was coming back to where we all lived happily in Tito's Garden of Socialized Fun. Well, it turned out my mom had come down to pick me up for a trip...a very long trip. We were going to the States right away. "And what of my friends, my cousins, my routines?", I asked. "All to be left behind, at least for a short while" was the response. What to do? Well comic books had always made barrels to be a surefire answer to impending doom. Since the farm had a lot of barrels, my choices were plentiful. But not plentiful enough. After 4 hours of searching, my mother and her sisters discovered me asleep in a barrel in the barn. One of the cows ratted me out; she mooed with a laugh as I was dragged out of the container.

Many years (and barrels) later, I find myself married and the delighted father of two unique kids. Curious as to what life was for me when I was their age, I regaled them with stories, mostly true, of those ancient times. The barrel episode was an oft repeated story. Not so much by me, as by them. Any attempt on moving out of the tightly knit neighborhood where their friends and their entire life had been spent resulted in a reminder by way of "Want us to get into a barrel?". Where they would find one large enough and how they thought we wouldn't just load that barrel into the moving van were not possibilities they had explored. They didn't have to; they knew how close that barrel was to my ownership of my own childhood neighborhood. So here we stay in a house too small to hold our family's energy, but fatally ensconced in the continuity of their particular world's comfort.

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