GENDUSA COLUMN: The magical Ferris wheel

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

My brother, John, was destined to become an engineer. Since the boy was tiny, Mama said he always tried to figure out how things worked. He took toys apart and put them back together simply to see if they would work the same.

There is a story my grandmother told that still makes me laugh today. John was three and staying at her house during the day. She put him in the crib to take a nap.

Thinking he was sleeping, she went out on the front porch to string a batch of green beans from her garden.

After a long while, she heard her sweet grandchild triumphantly yell from the bedroom, “Now I fix it! Now I fix it!! She ran to his room and into shock! The sweet little devil had fixed it all right.

The crib was against the wall where little John noticed a small tear in the wallpaper. He certainly didn’t think that was right, so he began to peel the wallpaper off the wall in tiny strips that were scattered across the crib. According to John, as far as his little arms could reach, a section of the wall was indeed ‘fixed’!

One memorable Christmas, when my older brother was twelve, and I was six, he created magic for his sister. His bedroom was upstairs in our small home, but his room was quite large because it was a dormer area. Dad built a work table with a large plywood sheet sitting atop two sawhorses for his son’s room. John used the table to create a village where his electric train wound through the little trees and stopped at the depot. Nothing I loved more than watching the locomotive pull its cars and imagining myself a passenger traveling to far-away places. My brother wouldn’t let me touch anything on the plywood board, but I still could dream.

When Christmas arrived that year, it brought an extraordinary gift. It was one of those holidays that I still recall with clarity.  Santa brought John a Ferris Wheel Erector set on Christmas morning.

It wasn’t his first Erector set because he had built many contraptions from the boxes of metal components, but they held no interest for me.

After we opened our presents and Christmas morning turned into afternoon, the young engineer went to his room and began assembling the Ferris wheel. I played with my new doll and pretended my way through the wonderous day.

“Lynn, come upstairs and see what I did!” John shouted that evening. We all ran up to his room. The train was winding its way through the village, and John had only a bedside lamp illuminated so that we could see the lighted Ferris wheel in the center of the town magically going round and round. He even found a tiny little doll of mine to sit on the ride.

“This one is for you, sis!” John knew I loved the county fairs with all the rides and fun. “You can touch this one, Lynn, and even ride your little dolls on it!” I was beyond astounded.

The years passed, and John indeed left home to attend Georgia Tech, become an industrial engineer, and until his life ended in 1998, he always tried to figure out how things worked.

My friend’s grandson, Whit, was nine months old on Christmas nine years ago. He was sitting on the floor when he realized music was coming from a box near him. I watched him as he crawled toward the music. He quietly and methodically tried his best to figure out how the sounds came from the mysterious box, even looking underneath it.

“Well, we have another engineer in the making!” I said immediately. Honestly, I think I was right. Today, the child can build anything and take it apart.

Every Christmas, I try to buy him a gift of Lego blocks or anything an intelligent, gifted nine-year-old can build. However, as I was searching online for a proper present this year, a picture of a toy popped up on my computer. It was a Ferris Wheel Erector set complete with lights and magic. Of course, I bought it, and just before I wrapped it, I sat for a while in my rocker, holding the box in my lap.

I closed my eyes to clear my mind so that I could once again return to the house where a six-year-old sat in wonder, watching her older brother build beauty from metal parts for his baby sister.

John sent a message from heaven this Christmas. How life works is when we figure out that creating beautiful magic for someone other than ourselves is how our world goes round and round and becomes fixed.

God bless you all.