In the 10 years that we have been a family, there have been two instances that nearly ripped us apart: the time that Lindell, 3, erased his older brothers’ Super Mario Bros. Wii profile and the day that no one wanted to give anyone the “Star Wars” Tatooine skiff because they wanted it for themselves.
The former happened last week. Ford, 9, and Owen, 7, completed all eight worlds of Mario and had unlocked world nine, a secret bonus level. The celebration surrounding this was comparable to that of a Super Bowl victory. Soon after, however, Lindell took an interest in the sleek, white Wii controllers. Through no small feat of his own, Lindell created his own profile on Mario, copied it to the boys’, pressed save and erased everything.
I was at school when this happened, but according to Ford’s play-by-play account, Lindell did it while his brothers watched. They just weren’t quick enough to do the usual: tackle Lindell to the ground before he hit save. Ford described the look on Lindell’s face afterward as “one of satisfaction,” which, once Ford and Owen started screaming, morphed into the classic, guilty Lindell look: eyes shifted to one side to avoid contact, eyebrows raised, lips pursed and pushed to the opposite side of his gaze.
When I got home from school, the kids were already in bed, but Dustin re-enacted the apocalyptic drama for me. He raised his arms and his face to the heavens, dropped to his knees and wailed, “Why? Why? WHY? How will we go on? How will we survive?” According to Dustin, he wasn’t sure the boys could withstand the disaster. Which reminded me of the first time our family was almost torn apart.
Two Christmases ago, I bought online a toy “Star Wars” Tatooine skiff (a flying boat of sorts used to take prisoners to the sarlacc), one that isn’t manufactured anymore. I had planned for Owen to give it to Ford as a gift. When I brought Owen into my room to help wrap it, however, it was the first time he had actually seen a toy skiff. He fell into a heap on the floor.
“But I want the skiff,” he cried. “I’ve always wanted a skiff, and they don’t make them anymore!”
At first I had sympathy for Owen. I remember being 7 years old and wanting a life-size stuffed husky so bad that I would have been willing to sell all my Barbies in a garage sale for it. I rubbed Owen’s back as he cried into the floor and tried to help him understand the spirit of giving: “Won’t it be fun, then, to give your brother such an excellent gift? Imagine how excited he will be!”
Owen wasn’t buying it, and I eventually lost my patience. “If you’re going to be spoiled and selfish, then just leave the room,” I said. I put the skiff back in my closet and called Ford up to the room. Ford and Owen passed on the stairway. Owen’s tear-stained face caused Ford to walk cautiously through the door.
“I bought something for Owen to give to you,” I said. “But he wants it for himself.”
Owen was still wailing downstairs.
“Since you are older and understand that you and Owen share everything anyway, I thought you might want to give the gift to Owen instead.”
I opened the closet door, stuck my head in a curtain of hanging clothes, and pulled out the skiff.
“What?” Ford screamed. “A skiff? I’ve always wanted a skiff.”
Now he was on the floor crying, too.
Dustin came to see what I had done to devastate both boys in a matter of minutes. I explained and pulled the skiff out from the closet again. Dustin fell to his knees and cried, “Nooooooo! I want it!” He was mocking the boys, but when he had finished the parody, he said, “No really, that’s pretty cool. Let me see it.” Still admiring the skiff, he said, “A long time from now, they will say, ‘The Smileys were such a nice family — until the Tatooine skiff came into their lives.’”
He didn’t know the half of it. While working on this column, I searched “Tatooine skiff” to check the spelling. Turns out the toy, in its unopened box, is quite collectible. One site claims you could buy a car with the value of it.
When I realized the skiff that everyone in our family once coveted now lies in pieces at the bottom of a toy chest and that the box is long gone, I channeled Luke Skywalker hanging from the reactor shaft generator in the middle of Cloud City and screamed at my computer, “No! Nooooo! That’s not true. That’s impossible!”
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.