The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – 3 – Childhood


Chapter 3 – Childhood

Mr. and Mrs. Button did everything they could. They cut the newborn’s hair short. They dyed it black. They shaved his face until it shined. And they bought boy’s clothes (the tailor-who had to adjust the clothes to fit a grown man-was beyond surprised!).

Even so, it was impossible for the Buttons to ignore the fact that their son was an embarrassment.

They named him Benjamin. Benjamin Button. He was five feet eight inches tall-about the same height as his father. No matter what his parent’s did, they couldn’t hide Benjamin’s height. His eyes were also a problem. The eyes were watery and faded, and always looked tired.

They tried to hire a baby nurse, but after one look at Benjamin, she left the house without saying a word.

But Mr. Button persisted. Benjamin was a baby, and he will be a baby.

When Benjamin protested drinking baby milk, Mr. Button told him he wouldn’t get any food at all. But finally, he gave in, and Mr. Button started giving his son bread and butter. Sometimes, even oatmeal.

One day, he brought home a toy. It was a baby rattle that makes noise when shaken. He gave it to Benjamin and insisted that he play with it. The old man took it sadly. He obediently shook the toy a few times a day.

Of course, the rattle bored Benjamin, and when he was left alone, he found other entertainment. For instance, one time, Mr. Button came home and found his son smoking a cigar. The nursery bedroom was full of smoke and Benjamin was sitting there with a guilty expression on his face.

In this situation, a parent must spank their child. But, Mr. Button couldn’t do it. He couldn’t bring himself to spank his son, so he simply warned him that smoking is bad for children.

Benjamin’s mother and father continued bringing home an assortment of toys: toy soldiers, toy trains, stuffed animals and more. When Mr. Button went to the toy shop, he passionately asked the clerk, “Is it dangerous if a baby puts this toy in his mouth?”

Even after receiving all the toys, Benjamin would sneak around the house and steal history books and encyclopedias. He would secretly read these books in his nursery and leave his toy animals on the floor.

Gossip quickly spread around Baltimore. When the family went out in public, the people tried to be polite. They wanted to say, “cute baby” and other compliments, but they couldn’t. Instead, they gave compliments such as, “Your looks just like his grandfather!” Of course, this was very true, but Mr. and Mrs. Button were not happy. Benjamin’s grandfather also felt insulted.

Some other parents brought their children to the Buttons’ home to play. Benjamin sat stiffly and watched the boys around him play with marbles. When they started playing with slingshots, Benjamin finally took interest. He tried one of the slingshots and accidentally sent a rock through the kitchen window. His father, who was in the kitchen at the time, got angry. But once he realized that the rock was throw by Benjamin, he was delighted! Finally, his son is acting like a boy.

Benjamin realized he could keep his father happy by simply breaking something once in a while.

Mr. Button tried to encourage Benjamin to do other “boy stuff,” like soccer, but that was too much for Benjamin. He was afraid to break a bone.

Once his grandfather’s initial shock disappeared, he and Benjamin started hanging out more often. They would sit for hours together and just talk. Benjamin felt more comfortable with his grandfather than with his parents.

Everyone around Benjamin was puzzled. Why was his body and mind so old? But Benjamin was just as puzzled as they were. He read many medical journals, trying to find a case that was similar to his. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find anything.

When Benjamin turned five, he was sent to kindergarten. He glued green paper on orange paper. He colored pictures with crayons. He make necklaces from cardboard. He wanted to take a nap during these activities, but his young teacher got angry. Benjamin was very happy when she complained to his parents. She told them that he shouldn’t be at the school. Mr. and Mrs. Buttons told their friends, “We had to take him out of kindergarten because we feel that he is too young.”

By the time he turned twelve years old, his parents started to become used to living with him. They started to feel that he wasn’t different from any other child.

One day, after his twelfth birthday, while looking in the mirror, Benjamin made a discovery. His hair was dyed black, but the roots were not pure white. Instead, they were gray. And his face. Did some of his wrinkles disappear? Was his skin healthier and firmer? He also realized that he could stand up straighter, and he felt more energy.

“Does this mean…?” he thought to himself.

He went to his father. “I am grown,” he announced. “I don’t want to wear boy shorts anymore. I want to wear long trousers.”

His father hesitated. “Well,” he said finally, “I don’t know. Fourteen is the age for putting on long trousers—and you are only twelve.”

“But you’ll have to admit,” protested Benjamin, “that I’m big for my age.”

His father smiled at him. “Oh, that’s not true,” he said. “I was as big as you when I was twelve.”

This was not true—it was all part of Roger Button’s silent agreement with himself to believe that his son was normal.

Finally they reached a compromise. Benjamin agreed to continue to dye his hair. He agreed to make a better attempt to play with boys of his own age. He agreed not to wear his glasses or carry a cane in the street. In return, he was allowed to wear long trousers.

Published by Judy Shinohara

Hello! I’m Judy, living in Japan. I write fun stories for people who are studying English. I also teach English and study Japanese.

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