I remember well one of the first non-hand-me-down-gifts I received.
It was an Etch-a-Sketch, moderately heavy with a shiny red plastic border and a grey screen. There were two white knobs at the bottom corners that you would twist and turn to get the little manuel cursor to scrape off the grey filament leaving behind a dark black line in its wake. It's hard to describe the amazement this invention caused in my little heart. I was addicted to it for almost 24 hours, which it 23 1/2 more hours than most things held my attention. I was ADHD before they found a name for the medical condition.
I remember well the beauty of making a mistake and promptly putting the thing over my head and shaking it like a dog, spastically and neurotically. My lips would flap around and my cheeks would itch with the self-induced vibration as I would try to cleanse this play-toy palette leaving me with a fresh grey screen to once again test the limits of my imagination as well as my hand-eye coordination. You know you're an accomplished "etch-a-sketchist" when you literally become one with the toy, beside yourself and yet one with yourself like never before. You can't tell where the animate subject and inanimate object starts or stops, they are braided together in seamless matrimony.
Then, one day, it got stolen from my porch. I looked high and low, turned over every stone, so to speak. It was nowhere to be found. I was devastated, reduced to a puddle of tears, a pile of paranoia. To steal C.S. Lewis' character's name...I was Puddleglum. Oh, the humanity!
And then, weeks later, I saw a neighbor boy playing with an Etch-a-Sketch on his porch. His name was George. We called him Georgey-Peorgey-Puddin'-and-Pie. I knew it was mine, but couldn't prove it. I watched him with contempt seething from my eyes. I wanted to hurt him for his pilfering ways. I wanted to take it from him and run to the refuge of my own home. I wanted to scream at him for his act of violence against my innocent heart. How could he? Why would he?
Instead, I walked up on his porch and asked him where he got it. He said to me without eye-contact, "I found it." I knew it. Where did you find it, Dummy, on my stinkin' front porch? I stared at him and asked, "Where?" fully expecting more lies to ensue. He looked at me as if to say, "You know you can't prove nothin', Moron, so you might as well stop this line of questioning right now!" Instead, he said, "Around the block." I was incensed. I looked at him and said, "I got one of those for my birthday and I lost it a couple days ago. I think it's mine." I was giving him the "out of possibility" that some other thug took it and discarded it like a stolen car "around the block" after they had their way with it. He just kept turning the knobs and playing with it like he didn't hear me. I said it again, more forcefully this time. "I think it might be mine!", throwing my voice like a catcher throwing a hardball to the shortstop picking off the runner trying to steal second. His face became more red, tightening with guilt, but he just kept fondling those knobs like it was his job.
Then I did what was very unnatural for me. I shouted, "Give it back to me or I'm going to tell my Mom and Dad!" (I don't know why the universal expression is mostly "Mom and Dad" as opposed to "Dad and Mom", but I've noticed that it is.) He looked at me, stood up clasping his arms around my Etch-a-Sketch, and ran into his house. I stood their mortified for a second, and then I booked it over to my house screaming for my Mom and Dad.
I told them the story and they tried to calm me down. I think they spoke something from the Scriptures to me like "turn the other cheek" or "love your enemies" and told me that God would be the judge, jury and executioner. I didn't like that option, but I could tell they were going to let the dust settle and Lord take care of it.
Two days later, I found what was, to me, "the joy of man's desiring" sitting on the sidewalk broken into pieces like it had been thrown down over and over again on the cement. I picked it up like a baby, cradling it in my arms and crying out like I'd just lost a loved one. I brought it inside and tried to piece it together, but the filament was gone and the plastic screen was damaged beyond repair. The knobs wouldn't work and the gears on the inside were bent and disjointed. After hours of attempted resuscitation, I declared it dead and held my very own funeral in the backyard. I didn't bury it, though I'd thought to do so. I simply, yet ceremoniously, threw it in the large garbage can out back.
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. This was my first rub up against injustice...it wouldn't be my last.