When I was lad, I was just a wee thing (actually right through college). Always, like in the tradition of my dad, the smallest in the class; the smallest on the team; the smallest in the human race, I started believing. (Today, I am not a wee thing, but my growth spurt was around my waist, not vertically.)
Just because I was small, didn’t mean I was meek. To tell the truth, I was bit of terror. Back in those days there was a cartoon in the paper (in the days when I would look forward to the daily home-town paper for the comics — I got my sports news from the Boston papers) called “Dennis the Menace.” It later became a TV show. I wasn’t as much a menace as I was a hurricane.
I was Dennis and the whole world was my “Good ole Mr. Wilson.” You see, I had tendency to break or ruin things. Not intentionally, mind you, but break and ruin I did. My brother was very good with his hands and became very accomplished as a carpenter, cabinet maker, house builder, etc. (he got that from Larry).As good as he was at putting things together, I was as good at tearing them apart. Still the case today.
As a child I ruined a five-foot long, mahogany coffee table by sliding across it and my belt buckle left “tire tracks” across the entire surface. Larry and Millie were not happy. It took my dad hours to strip and re-stain the darn thing.
While playing baseball in the St. Anne’s Little League, I would break at least a half-dozen bats each season (that’s when ballplayers used real wooden bats). That was lot. My dad would take the bats, glue them, put a screw in them, and tape them. I never went without my own bats when playing sandlot ball.
I once broke a second-floor window at a friend’s house trying to practice casting with a rod and reel. I reared back and the sinker’s momentum brought it backward through the pane. I never ran so fast in my life. I feel bad my pal got in trouble. But hey, it was him or me.
Golly, as most of you know, I even broke my own arm falling from a tree. I did go on later in life to break a nose, a thumb, and a toe.
Come Christmas season when I was in my hurricane prime, my parents welcomed my brother and me to help decorate the tree (always a real one). I inevitably would break the glass ornaments. Thus, I was relegated to putting up the tinsel. There was no way I could mess that up, and if you’re waiting for my story on how I did, sorry to disappoint you. That was one task I routinely accomplished without incident.
When I finished, I would stand back and admire my handiwork, along with the lights and ornaments put up by the three other Jolivets.
It was beautiful; the lights, the ornaments, the garland, and the tinsel — going half-way up the tree (remember, I was a wee thing). My dad would take care of the rest.
Once the tree was up, that didn’t mean le petit ouragan (the little hurricane) couldn’t wreak havoc. There were times when, while playing, I would hit the tree and still break an ornament. And there was the time when I took an ornament I made at St. Anne’s School made from little paper medicine cups, and placed it on a bulb (back then we had the big ones, not the small LED lights of today). Luckily my mom found it before it heated up enough to catch fire. I got in trouble for that one too.
But now, as an adult, I have the duties to put up and decorate the whole shebang. And if I do say so myself, I break, on average, only one ornament per Christmas. When Igor was alive, it would be a contest to see if dog or human would break more in a given Christmas season (I would give anything to have that again).
They say that God has given everyone a specific talent. Mine shown through as a lad — I was the “go to” if you wanted the bottom half your tree covered with tinsel.