Does every elementary school have its resident “whiz kid”? The kid who always knows all the answers, always gets placed in the advanced programs, always is number one in anything academic? Well, my elementary school did, and it was me. It was a small pond, to be sure, but I was the big fish there. I was the prodigy of the school. The whiz kid. The genius. Blah blah blah.

And I was so sure that I could do anything. I could solve any problem that required brainpower. As proud as I was that I could solve a Rubik’s Cube, I was actually rather disappointed that I had to memorize a solution book, instead of solving it myself. I was disappointed that I couldn’t figure out how to solve the other three-dimensional puzzles. I used to keep components from broken electronic toys, with the thought that I would one day build something out of them. You know, like an intelligent robot. I was so disappointed that I never had the first idea of what to do with any of them. I was disappointed when I got a set of tangrams. This set:


I was disappointed, because I wasn’t able to solve all of the 179 challenging designs, at least not on first try. This stuff was supposed to be easy! And I was also disappointed by this:


That’s a game called “Hi-Q,” a peg solitaire game. I remember having this game, and being very disappointed. The board had thirty-three pegs (finally got to today’s number!), and the goal was to put all the pegs on the board, and leave one hole empty. You made a move by jumping one peg over another into a hole, and then removing the peg you jumped. Well, the goal of the game was to get down to only one peg on the board. And I should have been able to do it! I never was. I’d leave four on the board, or five even. I think I got down to two once. Games like this are often at restaurants like Cracker Barrel, to keep kids occupied while they wait for their food. They often have things written on them like, “LEAVE ONE: GENIUS … LEAVE TWO: SMARTIE … LEAVE MORE THAN FIVE: IDIOT.” And then I’d play it and end up leaving five. And I’d be so disappointed. (Note: every time I’ve said “disappointed” in this post, the phrase “violently angry” is probably more accurate.)

Sure, I always got A’s in school. Sure, I was able to do square roots by rote when my gifted teacher taught me. But I was never able to solve all these damned mathematical puzzles! It made me so angry. I just wanted to throw things. I sometimes did throw things. I just wanted everything to be easy. I thought everything was supposed to be easy.

Sigh. I still want things to be easy. I still have a very short attention span for tasks. I still have very little patience. But hey — I just tried playing a game of peg solitaire online, and on my second try, I got it down to two pegs! Maybe by the time I’m 86, I’ll get it down to one. I guess I can wait that long. But only if I don’t play it again — otherwise, I’m likely to get mad and throw my computer. Not really. Umm…hopefully not really.

2 thoughts on “Thirty-Three

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