Sunday, October 07, 2012 By Aaron Brown
By Aaron J. Brown
One day my parents brought my kids sisters and I to the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota. We had driven from our trailer house on the Iron Range some 240 miles to visit relatives. It was my first time in the big city. I really wanted a Coke from the pop machine but my parents said no. I angrily poked the big red Coke button and, by the hammer of Thor, a frosty can rolled out the dispenser. I would go on to spend two decades trying to replicate how I felt in that moment, with little success.
I’d send away for the free Go-Bot deal with the cereal box tops. You couldn’t pick the Go-Bot. You got the Go-Bot they sent. It took four to six weeks for the Go-Bot to arrive, but looking back it feels more like the fast cut of a well-edited movie. That time in between, where did that go? What was I doing? I was probably learning to read and feel. Unimportant. The Go-Bot situation is what I remember.
The unmarked Go-Bot package showed up and I held it before my face and said, “it will be Cop-Tur.” That was one of the Go-Bots. And it was Cop-Tur. Five more box tops later I sent for another and when it arrived I said, “I don’t care which one it is, so long as it isn’t Cop-Tur.” And it was Cop-Tur. They were all Cop-Tur. That’s what you got.
If you thought mail-order Go-Bots were tough to figure, try love. My teenage years were filled with so many uncontrollable romantic questions. Would she ever like me back? Would she ever leave her boyfriend? Would she ever return my phone calls? Would I ever stop wondering these things?
My way of dealing with this would be to apply some sort of game of skill, and let it speak on behalf of fate, just like my furtive appeal to the Coke machine. I’d go out to the basketball hoop in front of the house and say to myself, if I make this shot, that’s a sign. I might have to wait for her to dump her boyfriend and gradually develop non-plutonic feelings for me, but the ball wouldn’t lie to me. Whatever force in this universe that spun my atoms into their current form would steer this ball into the answer I so desperately needed.
I took the shot, the ball arced through the air, drifted down and rendered the sound anyone who’s ever played basketball knows by heart.
CHUNK! (bounce bounce bounce)
So that was fate, but fate was wrong so I had to try again. And again. And again. I wasn’t very good at basketball. Eventually I did make a basket and pretended it was the first shot, the one that represented fate’s true hand.
Fate had its say, though. And my beautiful family is only possible because of these previous failures.
People sometimes obsess about do-overs. They throw the ball again and again. If I’ve found any peace as an adult, and rest assured, mostly I haven’t, I have found the sense of calm that comes with knowing that there’s no point in doing anything over. There is only doing. That’s all you can control, sometimes.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from the Iron Range. He writes MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts 91.7 KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show on public stations. The next show broadcasts live Oct. 20 from Eveleth, Minnesota.