The word whirligig first presented itself to me when I was 7ish. My Irish grandad had arrived for a holiday visit and found me twirling a button on a string. He called what I was playing with a whirligig and added he’d played with one just like it as a lad. He promised me there were much better toys inside the gaily wrapped packages he’d brought. I smiled and had no words to express to him that my whirligig wasn’t exactly a toy. It was more important. It was my lifeline.
It had been quite a year. My Welsh gran had died, as had a darling boy from school and my wonderful weimararer Mikey. My best friend had polio. My brother had been hit by a car in front of the house—and somehow I was to blame—and my sister had her first operation to fix a clef palate. There was more—I got my first concussion after literally flipping over a boy on the playground at school and my first memorable beating for sassing my mother. Surprisingly, the year ended on a positive note. Will 2020 end on a similar note?
Are you having a whirligig year? If so, what’s your lifeline? Mine seems to be a large, scarred pub table that serves as a perpetually untidy writing desk, library table, storage unit, and muse, with a hidey hole underneath for one of my dogs. My present-day whirligig has a zen nature and has taken a vow of silence. It’s made from a hard wood and the table top is 36+ inches high. Its treated surface has absorbed rays from a rising sun; spilled coffee, tea, and wine; ink blots and magic markers; wax splatters; and dog slobber/ food crumbs. For a desk, it’s GIGANTIC, although I think Willy (in Interpretation of Death) and Goldilocks think it’s just the right size.
The dictionary defines a whirligig (aka geehaw) as an object that spins powered by an invisible force (like breath or the wind). Makes sense, I spin stories on it. The three letters at the end of the word can refer to a large chunk of data (gigabyte), a live (paid) performance, or a job wherein one is hired to work ‘on demand.’ I’ve often wondered if my writing ‘gig’ will ever be up, though like many I’m misappropriating the word, which should be ‘jig,’ meaning trick or jest.
A gig line (in the military) is another imaginary thing…it’s a linear vertical line that extends from the top collar button of a crisply pressed shirt, through the seam of the fly and the belt buckle (if wearing one). It also can be a line that extends from the tip of the point of a collar to the pressed seam extending from the middle top to the bottom of a pair of pants. In the Navy, if your uniform is not properly aligned during inspection, you get a gig fault. I love crossing imaginary lines, and you can see my desk is quite non-linear. Sometimes that makes me giggle.
The words gig/jig and giggle originated in the 16th century, but I doubt people ever said then one should do something for ‘s#%#’s and giggles.’ But that’s exactly what a whirligig is for. When I look back on this year, I hope I’ll be able to giggle, just a little, in defiance, if for no other reason.
It’s a leap election infection year brought to us by the letters W T F. The theme: Groundhog’s Day and everyone has Cooties. Theme song: U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer or Petty’s Don’t Come Round Here No More. We discovered 1 dog year doesn’t equal 7 human years, however, 2020 does. Haircuts are illegal, as is going to bars & sports events; smoking grass is OK. It’s Vegas everywhere—people are losing money, drinking at all hours, and have no idea what day it is. Fringers speculate they’re being fattened up by aliens for harvest. Parents have given up on academic home schooling and are teaching their kids how to be great bartenders. In March, a month with a Friday the 13th near a full moon, we turned clocks ahead. On October 31st, a full moon Saturday, we turn clocks back and are hoping for a reset. I enjoy being alone, however, after striking up a conversation with a spider (it’s a brilliant web designer), I think I need to socialize a bit.
Everyone needs a whirligig, especially this year. What’s your whirligig? How does it work? I showed you mine—show me yours.