Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

Mother of a Man-Child: The Hurdy-Gurdy of Life February 25, 2011

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The only thing guaranteed in my life at the moment is the never-ending ride on an emotional roller-coaster, as we journey the ups and downs of adolescence with our men-children.  You never know quite what you’re in for on any given day – it could be a pleasant conversation where they actually respond to questions civilly (as opposed to the expected grunt) or an early morning screaming match because they’ve decided to start proceedings with an argument about stolen jocks whilst getting ready for school.

Why is it that so often I now think of my own parents, and my own adolescent behaviour as I parent my children?  Life, like history, has a way of repeating itself.  Teenager behaviour, just like toddler behaviour, is fairly predictable after all (give or take a few interesting events that will become family lore in our little part of the world).  So around and around we go, just like a hurdy-gurdy, with life invariably repeating itself over the generations.

We actually have our very own hurdy-gurdy (see pic).  An ancient piece of playground equipment, that I remember fondly as a child, with hours spent spinning wildly around and around with the neighbourhood kids.  I assume it’s called a “hurdy-gurdy” because it resembles the round disc-like version found at playgrounds.  But our hurdy-gurdy is particularly unique, and very much a part of our family history, and a special part of our lives.  We still talk about the time my sister managed to get her finger caught and mangled in the inner workings of the hurdy-gurdy – it wasn’t a pretty sight trust me.  Hence the plastic ice-cream container designed to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself again (low tech but effective).

The hurdy-gurdy spent years sitting out the back of my parent’s house, no doubt awaiting grand-children.  When finally they arrived, it took more than a little convincing for my husband to allow the junk/scrap metal to be bought to it’s new home.  And so began the painstaking process by Mother of a Man-Child to replace the rotted timber wooden seats, a sparkling coat of paint and new rubber handles for grip (not that we ever had anything that fancy).  And yet another generation (my boys) benefited from the joys of the hurdy-gurdy.  On the odd occasion, my adult siblings would climb upon the hurdy-gurdy late on a Christmas Eve, with much hilarity and recklessness, spinning far faster than they could remember it going (you definitely don’t do rides like you used to as you get older do you?).

As the boys grew, the hurdy-gurdy was cast aside again (parked down the side of our house) with occasional requests by my husband to remove it permanently.  Thankfully we didn’t, because along came our daughter, and only recently the hurdy-gurdy is enjoying life yet again, this time accompanied by the squeals and delights of small girls, who all gaze in wonder at this strange toy, and when they finally understand it’s workings have a wonderful time enjoying wind in their hair, and un-abandoned, dizzying freedom.

Now that my younger sister has a baby and a new house with a good backyard, there is talk of handing the hurdy-gurdy on in time for the next generation to enjoy.  By then it will probably need a fresh lick of paint and a nice new set of handles, and be ready to entertain yet again.

The origins of the hurdy-gurdy remain a little unknown.  My 90-year-old grandmother recalls her husband bought it for my mother and her siblings when they were young.  By all accounts he bought it from a bloke who we think might have made it himself – it almost looks like it’s been fashioned from parts of a Hills Hoist.  In our lifetimes none of us has ever seen anything quite like it.

And as for where the hurdy-gurdy will end it’s life?  Provided it doesn’t continue to be passed along to countless generations of our family (spending the odd hiatus parked in the corner of the yard neglected), I have always insisted it be donated to a toy museum, where for future generations people will wonder at the strange toy that children from another era found enjoyment with.  Just imagine the stories the hurdy-gurdy could tell?  What great wisdom would it impart to us?  Likely it would say the only thing guaranteed is that the circle of like completes itself time and time again, with all the reliability of a spinning hurdy-gurdy. 🙂


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