Friday, November 2, 2012

Gumball Machine

When Elijah was a toddler, he used to walk up to every gumball machine we passed and spin the crank.  He would then proceed to lift the metal flap and peer anxiously inside of the opening, hoping to find a gumball.  I tried to explain to him that you had to put money into the machine to get a gumball; that no matter how many times he spun the crank, he would never get a freebie.  I don’t like to see my kids hope for something and get let down, so I needed him to know it didn’t work that way.  Life didn’t work that way. 

After about a year, I almost had him convinced.  Though he still checked the machines occasionally, he lost his fervor.  His search for a miracle gumball had become a half-hearted mission. 
Then one day, on our way out of the mall, he decided to try yet another one.  He spun the crank.  Almost instantly, I heard the soft sound of a small object clanking its way down the interior of the machine. 
He lifted the flap, and there it was.  A blue gumball. 
The look shining in his eyes suggested that every wonderful thing he had ever thought about the world had been confirmed. 

I felt a combination of joy--the little guy's efforts had finally paid off--and defeat.  I knew that this little blue gumball had created a monster. 
And I was right.  For the next five years, he would continue to turn the crank of every single gumball machine we passed with abounding  optimism.  This time, I knew there was no way I could talk him out of it.  Because even though disappointment stings, the tiniest fleck of hope goes a long way.

But hope is also a pain in my ass.   Sometimes I wish the little blue gumballs in my life would go away and quit teasing me with their empty little promises.   

Uh oh…somehow my warm and fuzzy little anecdote derailed toward the end.  Which is weird because I'm actually in a pretty good mood.  Oh well...I’ll try to post about Halloween in the next few days, and that one will be more upbeat.


  1. I liked your anecdote, though you started to sound more like me toward the end there. :P

    I guess I generally think it's okay to hope, but not expect. Joyce Carol Oates says, "Keep a light, hopeful heart. But expect the worst." It pretty much sums up my outlook... or the outlook I wish I had. I'm still working on the light, hopeful heart part. I have the rest down. :)

  2. I really like that....the idea of hoping, but not expecting. That leaves you feeling okay when things don't go the way you hoped, but pleasantly surprised when those hopes actually materialize.


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