Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The end of the Little Gibbon era

About a year ago, I went on a business trip that took me through the Pittsburgh airport, and I stopped in at one of the best gift shops that ever emerged from the airport bardo. (I say "one of the best" only because it actually carried something other than the 32 kinds of Pittsburgh-themed shlock that the other 32 gift shops in the airport carried.) I was looking for the Holy Grail of business travels -- the small gift to give my kids. Evidently, no one told the Chinese manufacturers that there is a market for small, yes-it-will-fit-in-my-suitcase, no-it-will-not-hog-the-living-room toys -- everything was either huge and plush, or tiny and fragile with a Steelers logo on the side.

But here, in a gift shop forgotten by time, nestled away in a Brigadoon retail space half-way between either end of a mechanized walkway, was a palm-sized stuffed ape with magnets in his hands and love in his heart. He came home with me, along with a moose finger-puppet made a felt.

I presented the little ape to Aidan the next morning, his little head popping out of my bathrobe with a concealed nudge. Aidan was way into primates at the time, and his face lit up. The new acquisition was dubbed "Little Gibbon," and he became Aidan's best friend for the next year. He was small enough to be easily carried whereever Aidan went, and so he did. Many mornings began with Aidan screetching in dismay because he couldn't find Little Gibbon in the tangle of sheets when he woke up. Many times we warned Aidan to leave Little Gibbon at home when we went out, because we did not want him to meet the same bad end that Claire the Little Duck had met. Little Gibbon was the protagonist of most every story Aidan made up. He even had a theme song, set to the tune of Johnny Cash's "Get a Rhythm":

Get a gibbon
When you get the blues,
C'mon get a gibbon
When you get the blues,
He's a lesser ape, swingin' through the trees,
He'll brachiate wherever ya' please,
Get a gibbon,
When you . . . get . . . the blues.

Miraculously, Little Gibbon survived the vicissitudes of life as a preschooler's best buddy. He underwent surgery to restore an arm and holes in his hands, and was machine-washed to restore his coat to its original luster, but otherwise his mischeiviously wise countenance remained a fixture of our lives.

A day or two ago, after the rush of Christmas gift receipts had subsided, Aidan announced, in a voice tinged with quiet finality, "You know, I've kind of drifted away from Little Gibbon. I'm not into primates so much any more. I think I'll give him to Malcolm." And so Aidan's younger brother walked around with the house with Little Gibbon that day, the totem of coming-of-age for both of them. There were no tears, but my wife and I were in shock. It was like someone had died. "It's OK," said Aidan, "It's more fun for Little Gibbon if he's with someone who wants to play with him."


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