Harry

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Traumatised By A Tomato

One memory from my youth - aged 13 -  that still haunts me today - aged 61 - concerns an incident that took place with my father.

He was cooking something on the stove while I was milling aimlessly around the kitchen and generally getting in his way.

For some reason, I was not in the best of moods.

On the kitchen table, I espied three tomatoes sitting together on a small plate.

I wandered over to them and popped one into my mouth.

After all, I was hungry!

I think that my mother walked into the kitchen at this point and generally started to bustle about.

My father wasn't in a particularly good mood either, and so the atmosphere had an ominous threat to it.

A minute or so later, my father walked over to the kitchen table and pointed at the remaining two tomatoes on the plate.

 

tomatoes on a plate cartoon drawing

 

He looked at me angrily and spat out something like, "You've eaten one of the tomatoes!"

"No, I haven't," I replied.

My mother looked on.

"You've eaten one of those tomatoes!", he said again; his voice indicating that he was very angry indeed.

"No. I. Haven't," I said adamantly.

Now, at this point, I should say that I have no idea why, exactly, I lied about having eaten the tomato.

Firstly, if I had admitted to having eaten it, my father would only have been mildly annoyed, because he was not prone to being particularly angry with me. On the contrary, he was mostly a very mild and pleasant man.

Secondly, lying about anything was something that always troubled me, and so I very rarely lied.

So why did I lie?

It was completely unnecessary.

Well, my memory is that I was already irritated with my father for some reason or other, and so when he accused me of eating the tomato, I just denied it to annoy him.

And then, having gone down this trail, I had to lie again  in order to maintain my position, particularly given that he was now getting angrier.

I also hoped that he might start to doubt his own memory, and so back off.

"Hmm. Maybe there were only two tomatoes on the plate, not three."

But luck was not on my side that day. He knew full well that there had been three tomatoes on that plate.

Some time after we had finished eating, I was in the kitchen again. And he brought up the subject again.

"You took one of those tomatoes," he said to me.

"No, I didn't," I replied.

He looked at me aggressively but, at the same time, I could see that he was a little hurt.

And that, Dear Reader, is where my memory for the incident ends.

Age 61, and I still feel guilty about it. And I occasionally think about it.

Not for long.

Only for a minute perhaps.

And there is always a feeling of guilt and sadness associated with it.

But why this particular incident?

There must have been thousands of incidents involving my father and me wherein I had been a real pain in the butt.

I was not an easy child.

So given all the anguish that I must have caused to both my parents over my growing years, why am I stuck with this relatively trivial tomato incident?

I am not saying that this is the only incident that I can recall wherein my behaviour was unacceptable, but that it is an extremely salient one.

An incident that keeps popping back to haunt me for about a minute; every month or so.

Flashbacks. Uncomfortable feelings. Guilt.

Why? Why? Why?

And there have been numerous incidents in my life that have been far worse in every single way compared to this tomato incident.

I don't remember most of them - and don't want to.

So why does this tomato incident keep popping back to haunt me?

What is it trying to tell me?

Is there anything that I should learn from this?

And now, finally, 48 years later, I think that I have got the answer.

It is telling me that people can be traumatised for almost five decades by the most stupid of things.

 



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