Friday, February 22, 2008

Nose beans and other foolishness

My father's mother spent a lot of time worrying when Dad was a toddler. The house where Dad was born was a sawmill in the early 1800s. It sat right next to a waterfall that thundered over a dam in the springtime. Beneath the falls was a fast stream which ran only about eight feet from the house, right outside of the kitchen door.

Grandma worried a lot about the possibility of my father falling off the dam onto the stones below or about his drowning in the millpond or the stream. I guess she needn't have worried. My father was busy exploring the cupboards and sticking kidney beans up his nose.

Who would've thought it? He was mostly normal in all other respects. My father claimed one particular bean was struck there for a couple weeks. He couldn't get it out and couldn't tell anyone because he was only three and didn't say much in those days.

After a while, his nose began to swell.

"There's a bean up there, Mrs. Walker," the doctor told my Grandmother gravely, "and the things begun to sprout.'' According to family folk tales, Dad was then subjected to an undignified ritual involving fiendishly long and torturous tweezers.


Now why would a boy put a bean up his nose? I asked Dad that very question once. ``Why did they climb Mount Everest?'' he asked indignantly, looking a little insulted that I had asked.

After that he thought it was only fair to raise another question: At the same tender age of three, why had I put all those roofing nails into the toaster while it was toasting, which sent a shower of sparks into the air and blew a fuse?

``DNA,'' I said grinning a suspiciously similar grin.  Other than that, I have no answer to this question.

NOTE: the photograph is Dad, standing in kitchen door of the house on Saw Mill Hill. Quite some time after my grandparents left, it became the summer house of. Author and tv writer Arthur Arent of New York City .  More recently  newscaster Morton Dean owned it.