There’s so much superstition and motivational garbage about regret. Regret nothing. Live without regrets. Love without regrets. But who can definitively categorize anything as a regret without experiencing it? You never know.
And isn’t the truest cliche the one everyone learns with time, that you regret what you didn’t do ever so much more than what you did?
I had one of those, when I was far too young for regret.
Every summer between four and sixteen, my sister and I spent with or father. We had good times; she’d have a stroke of she heard me say this, but our father was orders of magnitude better at entertaining his children than our mother was. I’m sure it wasn’t her fault; she went back to school when I was young, and didn’t have the time for things like that except in the summer, when we were gone. Or I could simply be making excuses for her. I excel at that.
Good times, though. Square dancing and dulcimer playing and concerts in the park on the denim quilt my stepmother hand-tied in red string. Yard saling and flea marketing and cutting through Canada to reach New England.
We went to a Greek festival once, and to a score of miniature shops full of tiny chairs and tiny beds and tiny plates and tiny forks. We spent a day in Frankenmuth, pretending to be Bavarian. We stayed in a cabin on Mackinac Island; we slept in a fire tower in the middle of a forest.
We went to a dude ranch once, and I wandered off and fell into a freezing Colorado stream while wading where I probably wasn’t supposed to be. It wasn’t too bad, though; I didn’t get completely soaked.
It was always hard to keep me away from running water.
But I remember one experience I did lose precious childhood sleep over, fretting because I didn’t take the plunge. I don’t remember where we were; the Kalkaska County Fair? Osceola County Fair?
One of the carnies was in charge of a wall–a large white wall of Wacky Wallwalkers.
I didn’t want one, but I was a kid, and the option was given me, and by gum, if somebody offered you a new toy, you took it.
It had nothing to do with the stickiness, nothing at all. I had no idea what they felt like, because it was the first time I’d even seen them.
It was the way they moved, the sudden jerkiness of a step, or six. The jostling jiggle of the loose appendages flying free in the carnival air. The sudden stop after a flip or tumble when they reattached themselves to the wall.
They hurt my sense of reality, my understanding of how the world worked. All I wanted was to deny their existence, to push them as far away from myself as I could without ever making physical contact with anything so offensive.
I couldn’t take it. But it was free. I couldn’t reconcile those two things. Could not. And I kicked myself for it for the longest time, to the point that I had nightmares about giant Wacky Wallwalkers. But I never told anyone.
And I never, ever had a Wacky Wallwalker.