At the age of five, Mathieu wasn't what you could call an overly demanding child. He would be content if we simply bought him everything he asked for. And what he asked for depended on which of his friends he had seen that day.
If Paul had a Dragon-ball Z sandwich box, then Mathieu just had to have a Dragon-ball Z sandwich box.
When Sébastien turned up one day with Cosmic Power roller-blades, Mathieu knew his days of walking were over - for ever.
That Sunday afternoon, however, our walk in the park started off as a relatively low-cost, overdraft-friendly outing.
It was one of those almost warm, early Spring days and the park was still a fairly safe place to take Mathieu. It would probably be fairly deserted, and the vendors usually didn't show up until the weather got warm enough to entice people out of their houses.
Not that Mathieu was ever tempted by the vendors, or the wares they usually peddled - giant, chrome-coloured, helium-filled balloons, guaranteed to carry your Granny off into the sky if you asked her to hold it for you, or bags of multi-coloured, life-threatening sweets that fizzed in the mouth with fierce, foaming, chemical intensity. But this was pre-vendor season - or so I thought.
So it was with a sort of blithe, innocent joy that we set off across the Park.
But, as you've no doubt guessed already, my innocence and joy were to be short-lived that day. As we rounded the band-stand, we came across one, lone vendor, a forlorn-looking man whose melancholy expression was explained by the absence of any wind. There was not even a breeze. And he was trying to sell made-in-China, aerodynamic, break-when-you-get-home, toy windmills on sticks.
Mathieu would never have given them a second look if he hadn't spotted his school-friend, Paul, running around in circles with one.
In spite of the lack of wind, he was hurtling around fast enough to make his windmill spin with a malevolent whirring sound.
"Daddy, can I have a windmill like Paul?"
"Sure, Mathieu, as long as I don't have to re-mortgage the house to buy one."
I left him staring spell-bound at Paul's dizzying performance and tentatively advanced a few paces towards the vendor, hoping to be able to read the price before getting too close
I saw "5 fr. 8 fr pour 2" scrawled on a piece of cardboard at his feet, and heaved a sigh of relief. The house was safe.
"What choice of colours do you have?" I asked him.
He looked at me as if I was intellectually disadvantaged, and with a disgusted shrug, nodded towards the bunch of windmills he was holding. There was no choice of colours. They were all identical, sporting alternate blue and yellow sails.
When I cheerily announced, "Fine, well, I think I'll take one of the yellow and blue ones," he handed it to me and took my five francs without saying a word, perhaps hoping that if he remained silent, I might just take my windmill and go away and leave him to concentrate on looking forlorn.
I walked back to Mathieu and proudly showed him his blue and yellow, plastic windmill. He turned around towards me, grinning with anticipation, but his smile disappeared almost immediately, and large, father-torturing tears formed in his eyes.
"What's wrong, son?"
"I wanted a windmill like Paul's."
Without bothering to check up on Paul's windmill, I explained to Mathieu, "This windmill is exactly like Paul's. The man selling them had only one kind of windmill - they are all the same."
Mathieu continued to eye me reproachfully.
"No. It's not the same as Paul's. It's not the same colour. That one's yellow and blue. Paul's isn't."
I gazed around and saw Paul terrorising elderly strollers with his angrily droning windmill.
He seemed to be running even faster than before, creating a slipstream to make his windmill spin.
Surely he too had a yellow and blue windmill, I thought. But when I spotted him, I immediately understood Mathieu's disappointment.
I bent down, and placed the stick of the windmill in my son's little hand.
"This is the one you wanted, Mathieu. It's only yellow and blue because you're standing still. If you run as fast as you can with it, it will be the same colour as Paul's - green."
Always take what you're given, even though you may have to run with it to get what you want.
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