The folks have been going through piles of old photos for organization, and I spotted one that reminded me of my attempts to raise a genuine, honest-to-goodness “dinosaur”.  My folks took a picture that is better left to the imagination.  But first, we must travel into the Wayback Machine.

I’m nine years old, hanging out with Pa at the local Seven-Eleven to pick up a newspaper.  I spot a clear plastic container with a nest and a large candy jawbreaker “egg” labeled as a “Pterodactyl Egg”.  I recall a small folded instructions sheet on how to raise your very own Pterodactyl, but I may be mis-remembering.  I convince Pa to buy me the thing, and back at home I read the instructions and get excited about raising my very own live Pterodactyl.  This is many, many years before the arrival of Jurassic Park on the mainstream.  But I’m nine years old, I don’t have to understand how on earth someone managed to mass produce real Pterodactyl eggs for home use.  I have to get busy raising my new pet!

My folks know better than to get in the way of my creative projects when I’m on a roll, so they let me make a nest of pillows and blankets in front of the televsion set.  Yup, I have to sit on that egg to warm it up and get that little Pterodactyl going.  Unfortunately, the instructions don’t say how long you have to sit on the egg for it to hatch.  But it shouldn’t take long, right?  In the meantime, I make myself a pair of Pterodactyl wings and a pointed headpiece so that my new pet will feel more at ease with his or her new family.  I can hardly wait!

The last of the late night programs finish up and the television programming goes off for the rest of the night.  For all you younger people out there, before the advent of “Borg Cable Boredom”, the half dozen local channels would go off the air around the late AMs to the National Anthem.  You would get static until they resumed operations several hours later.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Poltergeist, that’s where the scene with Carol Anne looking at a static television would come in.  Now it’s all shows all the time.  Anyway, it’s bedtime and I have to keep the egg warm, so I pile on the blankets and go to sleep right there, with my arms around the mound to keep the warmth coming.

Inevitably, I have to accompany the parental units on a grocery run or some other errand, so I worry about keeping the warmth up on the egg.  My folks assure me all will be well, so I leave the blanket pile on and when I come back I resume my “sitting” on the egg.  After a few days of this, I start to get impatient.  Where’s that darn dinosaur?*  What’s taking it so long.  I re-read the instructions and talk about it with my folks, who suggest it might not be a “real” egg, but a gag gift and just a hunk of candy.  Brain cells start to calculate, and I start questioning whether it’s actually possible for a candy egg to hatch a real live baby “dinosaur”.  Denial sets in, but my hopes are crumbling.

I decide I have to check the egg out.  While warm, the jawbreaker shell is still nice and tough.  I shake it and nothing rattles.  Okay, even though I might be killing my new pet, I’ve got to see if this thing is for real because I’m getting tired of sitting on the darn thing.  So I take Pa’s hammer and smash it open.  I figure if I come across the mangled remains of a “dinosaur” I can always go back to the store and get another.  Sure enough, hollow center, but no Pterodactyl.  I’m crushed.  All that time wasted trying to raise a unique pet for a crummy piece of candy.  And I hate jawbreakers too, so I’m not even going to get much in the way of sweets from the pieces.  What a rip-off!

Yup, that picture is of me sitting on my nest wearing my construction paper outfit.  Back to the present, I’m thinking about what the effect might have been on my brain stem, and I think about my fondness for Pterodactyls.  From the Japanese monster movie Rodan, to Pee Wee Herman’s puppet buddy, there’s an attraction there that runs very deep.  I’ve heard it said our failures motivate us, and in this case I believe the phrase applies.  When I think about that time, the memory of my matter-of-fact, childlike belief that I was really going to hatch a real live Pterodactyl from a piece of candy is still fresh.  It’s scary, because I have that feeling and the feeling of disappointment that came after to compare with.  Both feelings stare me in the face.  It’s like that time I saw the Batmobile in an earlier post.  There are moments in your life where reality as you know it threatens to take off into the fantastical and it’s only the disillusionment that brings you back to objective life.  We really are sometimes just a step away from other worlds where who knows what might happen.

I start thinking about that movie The Illusionist, where the young Eisenheim’s failure to disappear with his childhood love motivates him to master his gift and create a masterful trick.  The magician is the person who plays with those two worlds and brings forward magic.  Not necessarily magic in the sense of a power, such as the ability to fly or make a rainstorm, but a reminder of the vast mystery of life.  The kind of performance that kindles the imagination and makes you whole.  I’m thinking my misadventure with the Pterodactyl egg, while foolish, was also spontaneous and imaginative.  Coyote the trickster was sending a message to the future that day.

* I realize Pterodactyls are not considered true “dinosaurs” these days, but I’m not digging into that can of worms today.