Strange how tiny things can make us so happy in our dotage.

The big moments of our youth are all gone: Our first love, first car, the big love, marriage, children, career highlights. How big and bright they were.

Then, in the autumn of our years when the leaves turn brown and we turn gray, we must fall back on the little things, the tiny moments that just sparkle.

For example: When I went to wash out my cereal bowl this morning, there on the bottom were three words in raised letters: Made in Spain. Spain? Not in China? OMG. I thought only bull fighter posters and capes, mantillas and berets were made in Spain. No sir. The Spanish make cereal bowls. Who would have thought?

Like most of you, I had given up on trying to avoid buying Chinese products. It seemed futile. Now it appears that almost everything in this house was made in China: Mixing bowls, plastic summer-on-the-deck plates, towels, desk lamps, ceramic and plastic red lobsters, Jack the dog’s water and food bowl, his collar. Maybe I should turn him over and check under his fur. Maybe he was made in China. Maybe right there on his belly there will be a barcode and the dreaded words: Made in China.

Personally I have nothing against China. I love Chinese movies and Chinese food. Some of my best friends are Chinese. No, I made that up because it makes me sound global. But despite the annoying ubiquity of Chinese products, my socialist soul aches for them.

I know it’s not realistic, but for some time I have had this Kafkaesque vision of Chinese factories. I see young children who should be in school, elderly couples, a Chinese She and Me, huddled in gray dimly lit factory rooms, rags stuffed in broken windows to keep out the snow, working side by side at a bench, painting red cheeks on Raggedy Ann.

I see this old couple walking home together in the gathering twilight, helping one another over bumps in the sidewalk, avoiding puddles of melting snow in the dim light. She has arthritis in her thumbs from pinching pieces of metal together. He has lung disease from breathing in mercury from those new light bulbs. I see them in my dreams, going to bed at night and dreaming of Androids, tiny poisonous fast food toys, endless ribbons of code bars and hundred foot stacks of FedEx boxes growing ever taller until they can no longer see the moon. HELP! I wake with a scream.

This warped view comes, of course, from my early Catholic childhood when the good sisters showed us the starving children of China and passed the cigar box for our pennies. I wondered if on the long march to the mountains, Mao cheered them on by reminding them that those pennies from little Jerry Devine provided their rice.

Today, the clouds parted. In my hand I held a sparkling clean white bowl with red and green and yellow hand-painted polka dots, and it’s made IN SPAIN! Hurrah.

Tonight I will fall upon my pillow and dream of Carmen Montez, a raven-haired beauty who works in a loft overlooking the Manzanares River in Madrid, where she sits in the light that pours from a Spanish sun. A breeze from the river toys with her hair, as she sips red wine and listens to Lady GaGa on her made-in-China radio.

As she paints with slender fingers, the red and green and yellow dots on my bowl, she may envision that lucky person in America who will enjoy her made-in-Spain artistry. Tonight she will dream of this handsome, older man in America who eats his Cheerios from her beautiful bowl.


J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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