Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Taking the bull (or the dirt devil) by the horns

One of my children has a long-standing terror of the vacuum cleaner.

I have seen his fear wax and wane, as he sometimes hides in tears when I vacuum , and other times good-naturedly watches from the safety of the sofa.

I once tried demonstrating that nothing bigger than the hose attachment could in no way get sucked up into the hose attachment.  And oh the hysteria when he thought I was going to suck the highchair right up that hose.

One day recently, when he was feeling particularly brave, his brother offered him a turn to use the vacuum and he accepted.  He has used the vacuum before, but it had been a long time, so I was a little surprised at the show of bravery.  Surprised or not, I was pleased to see it and went with it whole-heartedly.

So, my little brave one turned on the roaring machine and got to work.  Almost immediately I spotted the unraveled piece of yarn attached to the corner of the area rug.  Not wanting to frighten my fragile worker, I tried to move quickly, but not pounce.  

I should have moved a little more quickly.  

The vacuum grabbed that yarn and began to tug and pull and strain.  Again, not wanting to startle the skittish one I refrained from yelling "TURN IT OFF!!" and from frantically snatching the vacuum from his hands.  Instead I quickly and calmly as possible blindly felt for the switch to finally turn the machine off.

Already we could smell a hint of that burned-rubber smell of a belt worn through.  I turned the machine bottom side up and  began unwinding the now 18-inch piece of string from the brushes.  Once the vacuum had its bottom side exposed the burned rubber smell was strong and obvious.

After a minute or two I turned it on, just to see if we were lucky.  My fearful one backed away crying as the vacuum ran with an odd ka-thunk ka-thunk.

We parked the dreadful machine until daddy could take a look at it.  

When he did, he indeed found a ruined belt.  But even after it was replaced the ol' vacuum just couldn't rotate its brushes.  Which was no surprise or devastating loss; the thing had served us 9 years, through 4 houses and at least that many moves.

More than the damage to the vacuum, I regretted the damage to the timid boy who was using it when it met its death blows.

The dramatic increase in fear was obvious when I used a borrowed vacuum a few days later.

But things rarely stay the same right?

Last night Daddy brought home a shiny new vacuum.  While just the fearful one and I were home this morning, he wanted to take it out of its box and have a look.  

New stuff is always fun.  Even if it is a beastly vacuum.

All was well and good until packaging was cleared away and the beast vacuum stood alone, ready for use, and then the fear kicked in again.  In spite of the fact the thing wasn't even plugged in.

Still, the shiny newness and his brother's enthusiasm were contagious and when we finally did take our toy tool for a test drive he was there for every moment.

We even all took turns.  And I do mean all.

Later, after the vacuum was put away in the closet my once fearful one became a bit giddy.  He giggled and smiled and said, "I can't stop laughing!  I didn't like the old big vacuum, but I like the new red one!"

Is it really that simple?  Is the fear conquered for good?  Over?

I'm a bit skeptical it could go completely so quickly, but greatly encouraged at his recovered bravery.Even as I type, he and his brother have opened the closet to visit and admire the new red machine.

And yes, in case you're still wondering, it is Alan who has found a friend in our new vacuum.  

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I guess even the toughest among us have some secret fears. But if anybody can conquer, it will be that boy! Red and shiny don't hurt either!