Wednesday, March 11, 2009


It was from a picture of Danny Kaye, a still from one of his movies, that I had my first dream: ambidexterity. It had all the purity of childhood dreams. I can’t remember a particular reason or purpose for this dream, but there was something utterly delicious to me in the ability to write equally well with BOTH hands! I’m failing utterly to recreate the loftiness I felt about this dream. There was some exquisite joy to be had in this rare skill. Everyone could write, but who could write equally well with both hands? No one I knew.

And perhaps that was the joy. As the seventh of ten who wasn’t as important as my naughty older sisters, or as good an artist as my older brothers, or as good a singer as my younger sisters, it was something I could do that no one I knew could do. That was unheard of in my world of second-place ribbons in running, spelling, et al. I was good, but unremarkable, so unlike an ambidextrous man.

Some dreams need to be kept close and nurtured in the dark like beans rolled in a damp cloth sprouting in my Jr. High shop locker. But I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know there were dreamers and pragmatists. So I took my dream and excitement to my mother and told her of my dream.

“Who would want to be ambidextrous?”

Her words crushed me. I was too shy a child to defend myself. What if I lose my right hand? No problem, that’s what! What if they have a contest in school where they tie your good hand behind your back? I’d be ready! What if little miss Kinghorn looks over while I write her love notes with both hands at the same time? World class reciprocal crush, that’s what! But none of these scenes were lighted on the stage; the curtain had already come down.

Such was the death of my first dream.

Until last week playing the Napoleon Dynamite board game. One of the tasks requires you to draw with your “bad” hand. My sister said she could do that task as she was ambidextrous. My heart stopped and I travelled back in time, aghast.

“You taught yourself that?”


“I so wanted to do that as a child. But told mom and she thought it was a dumb idea.”

“Yeah, I didn’t tell mom.”

We won that round and the game, and instead of crying for that first, lost dream, I thought, it didn't have to die. Even though it’s kind of pointless now that I type way more than write, even though I still have a working right hand, even though miss Kinghorn is probably now Mrs. Kinghorn, and even though—bitterest of all?—it won’t even serve to make me special or unique in the family like I once dreamed it would. It could still make me smile.

Or maybe I need to look at some other dreams and decide which one I ought to unearth and give a second, if stumbling and zombie-like, life.


What do you see? That’s the delight in Kaleidoscopes, I suppose. I remember a cheap one in my house that I played with near the patches of sun thrown through the living room windows onto our tan carpet. A cardboard tube covered in red paper, I held its clear, sleekness in both hands, the better for twisting and tumbling what looked like left over pieces of plastic from more expensive toys. This was the bologna and hotdog of the toy world.

At first I turned it eagerly, excited to rush to each new collection of reality made fantastic through multiple reflection. The colors and shapes slid and plopped into new and infinite patterns again and again. Sometimes I’d be shocked by the intricacy, sometimes the banality, of this closed magical tube of infinity.

Then I stopped turning it. I held it in one place when I realized the patterns don’t repeat. They’re unique in the world. This cheap, left-over plastic aided by three mirrors was forming unique patterns that would only be seen by me, and only once, before disappearing forever. I felt strange to be responsible for these fleeting and unique patterns, to know that their existence required me to hold them indefinitely.

But I couldn’t hold them indefinitely, so I dropped it on the ground, imagining the pattern newly created by the fall looking for an eye that would not. And there I left it forever after because soon I stopped picking up kaleidoscopes altogether. They made me feel old.