It’s a Gift
My friend Tish is going through a traumatic period. Like all grandmothers, she is convinced that her grandchildren are extraordinarily bright. True to her hopes and expectations her grandson Ben Jr. had tested in the gifted range. Tish had come across an article on how to recognize the signs of a gifted child. Over coffee, she sobbed into a slightly yellowed Thanksgiving napkin.
"Do you know what this means?"
Unsure whether she was criticizing my use of Thanksgiving napkins well after Christmas, I merely shook my head.
"I read that article and discovered I was a gifted child!" she wailed.
Looking into the family room, I watched as Ben set up an intricate railroad track formation. Beside him, my grandson was attempting to eat the electric train. Luckily I would not have to worry over Jem's giftedness. At four he still assumed he could walk across a toy-strewn floor without looking down. He was gifted with the finest set of bruises since one of our neighbors fell into the Christmas tree while attempting to hang the star on top.
"Look at me, Martha."
It was not a very prepossessing view. Eyes swollen, nose red and mouth quivering, Tish sniveled into the turkey napkin. Unfortunately some of the brown dye had streaked her face, giving her the look of a distraught Indian on the warpath.
"I'm 65 years old and my most mentally challenging moments are trying to decide whether to wash the clothes in hot, cold or lukewarm water."
Ben, who is the same age as Jem, was using Magic Building Sections to make skyscrapers and houses around the train tracks. Jem had somehow jammed his foot inside his dump truck. After several minutes of trying to loosen it, he fell over into the toy box.
“Numbers just defeat me." Tish continued. I haven't been able to balance my checkbook since Eisenhower was president. When I was treasurer of the bowling league, there was a motion to impeach me for embezzlement.”
"Perhaps math just isn't your field?"
"It's not just math. I can't spell, and when I went to one of those speed reading demonstrations, they suggested a good remedial course."
Ben was building an elaborate construction crane. Some of the parts even moved. I had gotten Jem the blocks last year when he was visiting and he contented himself with scattering the pieces around the floor and dropping them down the sink drain. The only time he ever built anything was when he took a long stick and jammed it into one of the round bottoms and made a hammer, with which he proceeded to make dents in all of the table tops.
"I could have been gifted in any field," Tish mourned, "but nobody ever suspected it and now it's too late."
Fondly I watched Jem, foot still enmeshed in the dump truck, clomp across the linoleum. His eyes had the glazed look of a visionary as he hobbled towards Ben's creation. It occurred to me that Jem might be a late-blooming genius. Maybe Einstein couldn't tie his shoes either. Maybe Beethoven couldn't remember to keep his pants zipped up. Jem was staring at the Magic Building Sections as if he’d suddenly had a breakthrough thought.
I suddenly had a vision of the genius that lurked beneath Jem’s vague but winsomely dimpled expression. Banked fires of scientific inventiveness or artistic grandeur were waiting for the right moment to burst forth. The words Pulitzer and Nobel blinked like neon lights in my brain. He definitely took after my side of the family. I watched with great anticipation as he stood over Ben and opened his mouth to speak.
"Gimme a long stick, Ben, or I'll bash you. I wanna make a hammer.”
Then again, giftedness isn't everything. There’s always a need for brute force and Jem seemed to have a corner on that market.
Martha Powers is a former humor columnist who left behind the winters of Chicago for the sun and sand of Vero Beach, Florida. She is the author of eleven published novels. Martha writes fiction thrillers but finds that killing off the bad guys isn't as much fun as writing for laughs. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org