I had the great pleasure last Saturday of introducing a little baby girl to the fantastic delights of styrofoam peanuts. They were among the many wonderful things sent to me by my friend, although I am shamed to confess I did not value them very highly when I first saw them. My friend, in a great leap of wisdom and foresight, must have known I would have need of them in the near future, and included them in her package for just such an instance, but I in my foolishness though of them only as a convenient and practical packing device. Now I know better.
Thank you, my friend. Thank you for your styrofoam peanuts.
So, meine kleine Mädchen was greatly entertained by sitting on the floor of my room, crushing them in her tiny fists, and giggling as I dropped them into her lap from the enormous height of three feet. And, marvel of marvels, styrofoam peanuts float. I had forgotten that.
Remember when you were young, how you used to dream of one day going to the styrofoam peanut factory and having a whole room to play in, filled with nothing but styrofoam peanuts? I do. Or at least, now I do. I even remember trying to save up a bunch in a garbage bag once so that I could make my own giant bean bag chair. And yet, somewhere along the line, the excitement of reaching the grand age of ten, the thrill of becoming a teenager, going to camp for the first time, starting high school, going to college, learning to drive (no, those two are not out of order), getting my own car, being independent… I forgot the one great supreme joyous fact that styrofoam peanuts float. I forgot to visit the styrofoam peanut factory. There was a picture in Dr. Seus’s book, I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, that used to be my vision of heaven. It was nothing but the nameless (or if he had a name, I remember it not) character in the book, dreaming of Solla Sollew as a place filled with giant, marshmallow-like cushions on which he could sleep all day. Why does this matter? I am not sure. It just does. I just have a feeling that it is incredibly important for me not to forget that image, nor the amazing near-levitational powers of styrofoam peanuts.
I am struck by the great irony that my great step toward independence has brought be back to a greater appreciation and remembrance of childhood.
I am also reminded of something my all-time favorite author wrote about in what is currently one of my all-time favorite books. I do not really know what else to say, or how better to say it, so I think I shall just leave it up to the author himself.
In fact, the more one explored Mr. Smith’s holiday luggage, the less one could make anything of it. One peculiarity of it was that almost everything seemed to be there for the wrong reason; what is secondary with every one else was primary with him. He would wrap up a pot or pan in brown paper; and the unthinking assistant would discover that the pot was valueless or even unnecessary, and that it was the brown paper that was truly precious. He produced two or three boxes of cigars, and explained with plain and perplexing sincerity that he was no smoker, but that cigar-box wood was by far the best for fretwork. He also exhibited about six small bottles of wine, white and red, and Inglewood, happening to note a Volnay which he knew to be excellent, supposed at first that the stranger was an epicure in vintages. He was therefore surprised to find that the next bottle was a vile sham claret from the colonies, which even colonials (to do them justice) do not drink. It was only then that he observed that all six bottles had those bright metallic seals of various tints, and seemed to have been chosen solely because they have the three primary and three secondary colours: red, blue, and yellow; green, violet and orange. There grew upon Inglewood an almost creepy sense of the real childishness of this creature. For Smith was really, so far as human psychology can be, innocent. He had the sensualities of innocence: he loved the stickiness of gum, and he cut white wood greedily as if he were cutting a cake. To this man wine was not a doubtful thing to be defended or denounced; it was a quaintly coloured syrup, such as a child sees in a shop window. He talked dominantly and rushed the social situation; but he was not asserting himself, like a superman in a modern play. He was simply forgetting himself, like a little boy at a party. He had somehow made the giant stride from babyhood to manhood, and missed that crisis in youth when most of us grow old.
– G. K. Chesterton, Manalive