Stories heard in one’s childhood can leave a strong impression. I can never forget one my grandfather used to tell me: about a prince who rode up to a stream on a hot summer day, and as soon as he bent to scoop some water to drink, a village girl dunked mud into the water. She did this twice or thrice, and he finally asked her why. She told him cold water drunk when one is hot and sweaty makes one ill, so she was preventing his mistake. Impressed by her good sense, he made her his queen.
I have more than a few problems with that story of course, but I always know better than to drink ice-cold things when I’m just out of the blazing heat, thanks to the village girl. However, this post is not about that story. It’s about a story that perplexes me no end as an adult: the story of the wooden bowl, originally, I believe, by Tolstoy. It’s a simple tale: Grandpa’s hands tremble and he spills food frequently -> son and daughter-in-law get angry -> son makes him a wooden bowl ->grandpa humiliated at having to eat from it -> kid sees this and starts hacking on piece of wood -> his parents ask what he’s doing ->kid says he’s making bowls for his parents’ old age -> parents are extremely apologetic, and grandpa gets back crockery privileges.
Either I had magical powers to understand the emotional aspects of this problem, or I never gave it enough thought, but I was sure it was wrong to shift a person with a challenging condition to a tool that was more conducive to his/her situation. The parents were just solving a very real problem. Did they stop feeding grandpa? Did they make him clean the mess? No and no. The son made “by hand “a dish that grandpa could use without trouble. Did grandpa like spilling? Unlikely. So maybe the problem was that he felt singled out. Why did the parents then solve the problem by taking grandpa back to difficult crockery? Why not shift the whole family to wooden bowls?
It’s not a trifling matter, one’s reaction to this story. It reflects your attitude to family, to old age, and to problems vs. emotions. It could determine how you choose to live a large part of your adult life, and many decisions that you make!
Personally, I just found a beautiful news story online, which got me thinking about this childhood tale again, and if you’re feeling too lazy to click today, a 10-year-old girl, whose father is a product designer, created a special spill-free mug for her Parkinson-affected grandpa and her klutzy dad. She’s now looking for funding. I cannot think of a better resolution to this story.
Do share your reaction to the tale if you’d like. I’ll be grateful. If you think I'm dead inside, do not hesitate to point out.