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Shattering tales of black and blue pigs

The shiny blue pig is covered with pink flowers.

It sits on the bureau below our wall-mounted television. And it eats pennies.

Actually, this is blue pig No. 2. Number one suffered a sudden, untimely death. I bought the china piggybank when our grandson Malcolm was two, I thought it would be fun to teach about coinage, and maybe later, the concept of saving. It was fun. Every time Malcolm put a penny in, it triggered a little button that played a tune. That produced lots of excited giggles. And dancing.

Each time he came to Gogo’s house, I would have a stash of pennies waiting. He wanted to “I do again, Gogo. Do again.” Five minutes was all it lasted, each July and then December. But it was a fun five minutes, for both of us. Until Malcolm broke the pig.

He was about four. He wanted to move it, which I saw one second too late. I knew that when he pulled it off the table, he would be shocked by the weight and unable to handle it. The pig crashed loudly, splintering and spreading the pennies everywhere. And a little blond cherub was both shrieking and sobbing. He scared himself badly, plus he knew that breaking the pig was a no-no.

Gogo wasn’t mad. She hugged and consoled, but Malcolm wanted only his mom. I understood. “Sweetheart, it’s just a broken pig. The important thing is you weren’t hurt. We’ll get another one.” I felt so bad for him. He and his sister were extraordinarily careful when they visited and had never broken anything.

Before their next trip, I found an identical piggybank online.

Pleased, I had the pennies waiting and couldn’t wait to show it to Malcolm. He wasn’t interested. I presumed it only held bad memories.

So now, I feed pennies into piggy. It sits there, unmoving, reminding me of Malcolm as a little boy, not the 6-foot teenager he is now. But strangely, it has always had a double meaning for me.

When I was a girl, about six or seven, I had a ceramic piggybank. A giant one. It was black with pretty hand-painted orange and red flowers. It was huge – almost 2-feet long and enormously heavy. It was my bedroom doorstop. Understandably, my door was never closed.

Mom tossed loose change into it almost daily. I couldn’t budge it – but I loved it. I kept it dusted and washed.

One Sunday, friends of my mother’s came to visit – a young couple and their two boys. One of the brats was a year older than me, the other a year younger. They headed down the hall toward the bathroom, spotted the pig, and declared they were going to take it home. “No you’re not. That’s my pig,” I assured them. They kept at the banter. Voices were raised. I tried to stand my ground as they tried to push the pig. I ran to the kitchen, frantic, to inform my mother of their plan. She headed down the hall, followed by the boys’ dad.

Just as we all arrived at the bedroom door, the younger boy, grunting, got his end up in the air. The enormous pig was about two feet off the floor. Their father said sternly, “Put that down.” They let go. I watched it fall, crash, and split in half. I shrieked. I cried. My adored pig was shattered. Hundreds of coins scattered everywhere.

The father yelled at them to go get their coats. Grim-faced, my mother said, “I think that’s a good idea.” And he didn’t make his little monsters apologize. I was sobbing loudly when he tried to console me.

“We’ll buy you another pig,” he said.

I yelled back, “No you won’t. You say you will, but you won’t. I’ll never have another pig like that.” I think it was the first time I was really, really angry. Destroyed.

And Warren “Now there, there,” he went on. “We’ll try to find one.”

“There isn’t another one like this one – not in the WHOLE WORLD,” I screeched. The pig had been a gift from a ceramicist friend of Mom’s.

He looked at my mother, not knowing what to make of this angry, mouthy little girl. He was trying to put things right, but they didn’t help with the mess. He told my mom he’d get back to us with a replacement.

And he never did.

I was furious for days. Miserable. Sensibly, my mother just rode it out.

Life lessons come hard sometimes. Maybe piggybanks are destined to break. They’ve been around for centuries, and I’m sure there are many tales of woe.

Maybe the reason I bought the blue pig in the first place was to assuage my hurt over that early loss. Sixty years later. Why do some childhood hurts linger? I’m not sure why and I’m not inclined to spend that much time with a shrink.

Instead, I’ll continue to look across the den at the shiny blue pig. The one with the pink flowers.

Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.

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