When I was a boy, one of the greatest and memorable days of every year was when the Sears Christmas Catalogue arrived in the mail. The full-color pages created a wonderland of wishes for this starry-eyed country boy. They had it all: the latest toys, games, and sports equipment. They even sold the full sets of Topps baseball cards! I still have several unopened sets from the late 70s and early 80s.
Each year, after us kids would fight for control of the catalogue, I would tell Mom what I wanted – not that I would always get it. Our family didn’t have a lot of money to spend on Christmas, but more times than not, I would find the cherished gift that I dreamed of under the tree on Christmas morning.
One year I must have been in an engineering phase because I requested a bridge and girder set, and to my surprise, I got it. It was this super cool and elaborate set of plastic girders and pulleys, which could be used to make model suspension and draw bridges. It was way cooler than any Lego set that we never had.
So I learned the system of how to make bridges and I delved in with wild abandon and imagination to create these amazing structures, which I played with using my Matchbox cars.
But there was one problem: I wasn’t the best reader or talker at the time. What does that have to do with building bridges? A lot, because one mispeak and I could be branded for life by my brother as an idiot. Well, it happened. One day, instead of saying I want to play with my girders, I mispoke and said “I want to play with my girdles.” My brother, not one to miss such a gift-wrapped opportunity to make fun of his younger brother, snatched on to my misfortunate pronunciation with relentless fervor and passion. From that moment on, I couldn’t build a bridge without my brother commenting: “Look, Mark is playing with his girdles.” Of course, I would tell him to stop, but that just further inflamed the furor.
My bridge building became forever linked with a female undergarment. It made me so angry everytime he said it, which of course is why he said it. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t mind when the bridge set broke and I threw it away. Not that I didn’t love that set. I did. It was one of my best Christmas gifts ever. But by throwing it away, I was also ridding myself of the ceaseless teasing that my fragile ego couldn’t bear any longer.
My engineering career was short-lived because of it, and I ended up hating every science class I ever took. I suppose I could blame it on my ineptitude for the hard sciences, but I would rather believe it was all because of a girdle, used to build a bridge.