Recalling my earliest deep regret

I remember my earliest deep regret. And thinking back on it, the depth of the regret seems so out of scope, but, in many ways, this story captures a part of my heart that I lost sight of for years and am only recently re-discovering.

I’ve always liked beautiful things; I’m an aesthete, what can I say. And when I was younger, maybe around 10 or so, I went through a phase where I was enamored with polished rocks. I loosely recall seeing some ad or something on TV for a rock polisher, and I was immediately hooked. They showed so many different rocks–different colors, different textures, different patterns–and each of them was beautiful. At the time, my family lived in a small trailer park in Louisiana, and there were rocks everywhere. The road through the park was a gravel road; rocks as far as my child’s eyes could see. I wanted a rock polisher badly. I wanted to polish the rocks in our driveway. I wanted to create something beautiful from something drab. But, rock polishers were pricey.

I don’t actually recall mentioning this fascination with my friends in the park, but I must have, because eventually this brother and sister from a couple of trailers down the road came by with an offer. They had a small collection of polished rocks. I have no idea where or how they got them, but they were pretty fine looking rocks. They offered to sell me the whole lot for $2. What a steal! I bought them then and there. I might not have had a rock polisher, but I did have polished rocks, and they were beautiful.

And here, let me step away from the rocks to give some needed context. I believe at the time I was still being homeschooled by my mom (I went to “regular” school in 5th grade), and my dad worked nights at a machine shop that manufactured industrial valves. So, my dad was at work while we were all sleeping, and he was asleep while we were in the house all afternoon. It was an awkward schedule, but I always enjoyed hanging out with my dad in the evenings before he went to work for the night (honestly, I also enjoyed hanging with my mom in the day doing “school”. My parents are cool; you’d enjoy hanging with them as well). And often, my dad would stop by as I was going to bed to say goodbye as he left for work.

Back to the rocks. One evening shortly after buying the rocks, my dad popped his head into my room to say goodnight and goodbye:

“Love ya, bud. Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

“Love you too, Dad. Have a good night at work. See you tomorrow.”

“Oh, hey, could I borrow $0.50 to buy a coke at work? I promise to pay you back tomorrow.”

“Um… Sorry… I don’t have $0.50. I spent my money on those polished rocks.”

“That’s fine. I’m sure I can borrow a few cents from a friend. Love ya, good night.”

“Good night.”

A quick, simple exchange. He left, went to work, and no doubt got a coke. But I could not fall asleep. I felt terrible. I didn’t have much money, and one of the few times that I could have helped my dad with my money, I couldn’t. Why? Because I had spent the money on rocks. Polished rocks, sure, but still, rocks. I couldn’t stop comparing the value of my dad with the value of rocks. I felt frivolous, I felt foolish, I felt ashamed.

And I cried. I cried a lot. I’m pretty sure at some point my mom heard me and came in to check on me. I think I tried to explain why I was so upset, but I’m sure I didn’t make much sense. She calmed me down, explained that everything was fine, that dad would get a coke easily, he didn’t need my money, everything would be fine. Eventually, I was calm enough and tired enough to find a fitfull sleep.

The next day, I sought out the culprits.

“I changed my mind. I don’t want the rocks. I want my money back.”

“Sorry, we can’t.”

“Yeah, we already spent your money.”

“Already? … on what?”

“On a Snickers.”