My parents had a fair amount of friends, and we did lots of visiting as a family. For the most part, I liked going visiting. Many of their friends had kids our age, so once we arrived we’d say hello and quickly run off to play – we were out of their hair for the duration of the visit.

As a parent I was never that lucky.

One family we would visit often were the Summinses. They had two children, a boy and girl, who were a bit older than me – old enough to not want to be bothered with me when I was really young and decidedly pesky. Therefore I was usually bored at their house because there was nobody to play with.

They did have a nice backyard though which was always a great fallback for an imaginative and abandoned kid like me. In this yard they had a fountain of a boy holding an umbrella, or two kids holding a pail. I can’t remember exactly what the fountain was of but I know I was fascinated by it. It made their yard and garden a place of magic and wonder rather than just a plain old back yard.

It’s no wonder I thought it was magical – in order to make the fountain turn on you had to perform one simple task. Clap your hands. I’d watch as my brother Stefan would clap loudly, and the water would come pouring out. He’d clap again and the flow would cease. Then my sister Wendy would clap demurely. Again the water would flow, and then turn off upon her clapping again.
I waited impatiently for my turn, hopping from one foot to another, and when I was finally given the green light, I’d clap my hands with delight.

And nothing would happen.

No water, not a drop.

I’d clap again, certain that this time the magical fountain fairies would hear my little hands and make the water turn on.
Again, nothing.

I’d stand in front of that fountain clapping my little hands in a variety of ways, but I was never rewarded with even one drop of water. After a time I’d dejectedly sulk into the house with red, sore palms.

This would happen every time I’d go to their house. That fucking fountain would never turn on for me no matter how hard I clapped. I resigned myself to the fact that I was a fountain failure. A few years later the Summinses moved from their house in New Jersey, and I never had to worry about that fountain again.

Years later, when we were visiting them in their Pennsylvania home, I mentioned my lack of success in ever getting their fountain to turn on, and being the ripe old age of 12, was let in on the secret. It turns out there was a switch inside the back door which turned the fountain on and off. Someone – my brother or the oldest Summins son – or maybe both, thought it would be funny to let the fountain work for everyone but me.

Hmmmm. How hysterical.

I can only hope that after tricking me, those two retreated to a bedroom or the basement to play and didn’t realize I hadn’t given up. Because I’d hate to think they knew I was standing in front of a fountain that had no chance of spewing water no matter how many times I clapped and no matter what kinds of methods I employed.

Isn’t it funny the stupid things we remember and compartmentalize from our childhood? Why did my brain decide to store away this meaningless little segment from my childhood?

Maybe it was because I thought I couldn’t make magic. That’s a sad realization for a little girl.

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