My four daughters and I have a way of communicating during this blasted pandemic, to help ease the separation and loneliness. We use the Marco Polo App to send video messages to each other, videos we can listen to when we have time, and watch over and over to feel as though we have been together and had a good hearty conversation. Today, my youngest daughter informed me, via video message, that I didn’t teach her properly while she was growing up, on the intricacies of how to wash her hair, a blemish in my otherwise stellar track record, she said. Thea turns twenty-nine this month and I thought maybe she might have figured out the how-to-do of hair washing by now, with or without my guidance. We had a good laugh, mostly at my expense but some of the teasing aimed at Thea, as she informed me of my oversight. In response, I grabbed a bottle of shampoo and read the posted directions to her – Wash, rinse, repeat. I told her not to chase cars, but I must have been thinking of my dog when I said that. I also told her not to trust those who say I have nothing against you people, which clearly says a whole lot more, never walk in a thunderstorm while carrying a metal rod, file your income tax on time, and a few other gems, just to cover all the bases. And it got me thinking.
Wouldn’t it be grand if life came with a wash, rinse, repeat mode. The first wash is taking a wild stab at something. If we err, and most often we do, we simply rinse and repeat. When we commit a blunder, we needn’t worry because it can be scrubbed away on the second run through. I think of the time my mother brought two new toothbrushes home for my sister and me. One was pink and one was yellow. As she handed them to us, I shouted out about wanting the pink one, knowing full well I was a big fan of yellow. My sister calmly agreed to take the yellow, but then I started wailing about wanting the yellow one. I’m not sure what was going on there, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with greed and selfishness. Not my finest hour, but if we had the wash, rinse, repeat option, I could have happily chosen the toothbrush in cheery yellow and washed away my earlier actions. Simple, case closed. But instead, here I am almost sixty years later still regretting my poor behaviour over a stupid toothbrush, and I doubt very much if anyone but me remembers the details. I was six years old and sometimes when we’re six we haven’t worked out the finer details of getting along in this world, with siblings or otherwise.
My list of life blunders seems at times like an awfully long one. I bit the dentist, Dr. Garland, on my first experience with getting a cavity filled. I didn’t mean to bite him, it just happened, but I don’t remember feeling particularly regretful. He was causing me pain, I caused him pain. Tit for tat. I stole a piece of Double Bubble from a grocery store, when I was five. My mother was suspicious of my hand hiding behind my back and the look of sheer guilt on my face. She made me return the gum. The shame of that stuck with me for a long time. Luckily, I didn’t pursue a career in theft. I had “an accident” my first week of school because I was too shy to ask Miss Hill if I could go to the washroom and I wasn’t exactly sure where the washroom was. I held on for as long as I could and then … that’s all she wrote. Again, I’m not sure anyone in my class remembers. They had their own problems, and I have never had a job interview where someone asked, “Ever had an accident at school?”
There were other gaffes, like climbing up on the cafeteria roof to throw down tennis balls. That doesn’t sound so bad, I realize, and has an air of the heroic. I left one part out. I was wearing a dress. Sigh. Wash, rinse, repeat.