Monday, April 17, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: When We were Wee

I grew up in a family just like the one I have. Perhaps that’s why every so often I’m compelled to call one brother or the other to apologize. Siblings will be siblings.

We pounded each other. We egged each other on. We tattled. We kept secrets from our parents for each other. We had a blast. Looking back on my childhood my parents are pale shadows on the walls of a clubhouse filled with friends and my ever-present brothers. We’d dig and climb trees, ride bikes and swim. My friends and my brothers' friends were generally siblings and together these packs of children would comb the neighborhoods.

We wandered through a time when kids were still at home during the day and you could always find someone to play with. Garage doors were up. Adventures were waiting to happen. We’d take our allowance to the pharmacy, which was a much farther bike ride that I can imagine allowing my kids to take, and we’d buy baseball cards and football cards and candy and sit on the steps and rip open the pack and chew the nasty gum and see if we got any Cincinnati Reds or Pittsburgh Steelers. When I was growing up, teams had extra nicknames such as The Big Red Machine or The Steel Curtain. Boxing was a real sport on free TV. And the pharmacy was locally owned, no Walgreens.

On the way home from the pharmacy we might stop at the bridge a street over from our house. Nothing grand, but we could lean our bikes against the concrete barrier and scramble down to the creek. There was always stuff to discover there in the corrugated tunnel beneath the street. We’d get wet. We’d get muddy. We’d capture crayfish or minnows or tadpoles. Then we’d go home and drop our bikes in the yard, cut through to the backyard and see what happened next. Other days we’d ride to the lake near our subdivision and do stupid stuff there. Then there would be the inevitable “No boys allowed” times when I would be with a friend dancing to the soundtrack from Grease or playing Barbies.

We moved to a new suburb at the end of 7th grade. In this neighborhood there were no fewer than 10 of us who ran around together. There were crushes and kisses and nights when someone would sneak out and TP someone else’s house. And as much of it as possible was filed away until one of us needed ammunition against another. After all, we were adolescents now.

We’d team up against each other. Once Red and I locked Mr. Middle out of the house and he got in trouble for breaking down the door. We got in trouble, too, but not as much because we didn’t actually tear the doorframe from the wall! Of course Mr. Middle and I had our moments as a team, too. Usually it involved a contest to see who could get Red to cry first. Siblings will be siblings, and yes it is cruel. But there were other times, too.

There was the time we were home alone and we thought it would be fun to play in the rain. This was all well and good until the lightning started and we kept playing. The neighbor guy pulled around in his El Comino and did something that didn’t usually happen in our house. He cursed at us: “What the hell do you think you’re doin? Dumb kids. Get your asses inside now!” Then he parked in our driveway and made sure all of us left our wet clothes in the garage and went in to change and that we stayed inside. Neighbors can’t do that anymore. I can’t imagine what would happen these days if a neighbor made three idiot kids remove their wet clothes in front of him and go in the house. He was right to get us out of an electrical storm. He was no weirdo. Today he’d likely be jailed. I can’t decide if this is good or bad.

I came along a few weeks after the 1970s started and came of age in a Donald Trump/Duran Duran world. But Easy Bake oven? Whatever. Strawberry Shortcake? Whatever. I was more of a General Lee and Millenium Falcon kind of a girl. Like my daughter, I’m a blend of princess (I totally coveted my neighbor’s Barbie Styling head.) and TomBoy (I loved dismantling our clubhouse with my brother’s new tool set.). Neither my daughter nor I could be like that if we didn’t have our brothers. I was the girl who was friends with all the guys in high school. To get a date I had to meet guys from elsewhere in the city.

And looking back that was OK. Because the few times I did date someone from our school my brothers hated it. Like Dash on The Incredibles … “Stay away from my sister!” Who knew? Not me. Not then. Now the whole idea of it just makes me smile.

They are two of my best friends. Despite the poundings, the eggings, the tattlings. Despite the fact that they recall our childhood in dramatically different ways than I, part of how I am is all because I got to grow up with them. And, despite them running my stuffed Snoopy under the sink and turning him gray by leaving his soppy, floppy body on my purple bedspread, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

I love that your brothers are so precious to you. I have two, 18 months younger and seven years younger, both amazing men now. Thank you for sharing yours.
The next time I see Punkin and the Dink I'll with hold beer from them for all the beatings when you were little.
Love your post! Reminds me of rambunctious times with my own two brothers. Thanks for sharing your story.
Sounds wonderful! A lot of it sounded familiar -- I think we must be the same age (Duran Duran-fan age!), and I was one of three rowdy kids, too. But I envy you your friendship with your brother. I love mine, but we've got little in common and barely ever talk except at holidays. Seems strange to say that. Huh.
Deirdre ... we are close, too, not three years between me and Red. Baby, I'm Punkin, Mr. Middle was Button and Red was Dink. And I wouldn't threaten witholding beer from either of them at a family gathering! Parfait ... thanks for stopping by. I'm winding my way through the Scribblings now. Laini ... It doesn't seem strange for you to say that. For as close as I am to my brothers now, there were many years when we were distant. And I think we're pretty close to the same age ... Personally, I dug Roger.
I wish everyone could have such a magnificent childhood as yours stuffed with freedom and safety and siblings and plenty, plenty of playtime! Instead it seems like a lot of kids, at least in cities, have their scheduled packed with so much after school and on weekends. What a lovely, happy childhood you had! I know we can still give that to today's children too but it seems like its not happening as much as it should. Your memories, so beautifully written, truly capture what we should be fighting to preserve.
sounds like a great adventure. I didn't have brothers (until I was an adult anyway.) Love the closing!
I missed out on the brother thing. I had an older and younger sister. I did have a cousin that I was really close too. He sort of protected me and looked out for me even though we were the same age.

Loved reading this post....I remember when the world seemed a safer place too!
There is nothing like having brothers and sisters. Your post brought back lots of memories.

My brother hung my stuffed dog from the

Take care,
Very nice. I love the combination of Princess Tom Boyness in childhood. I too had the best of both worlds.

Sounds like a fun childhood. Thanks for postin it.
Thanks for sharing your great memories of a magical childhood! I too had a grouchy neighbor that yelled at me once for throwing pinecones in his yard (I was 6 or 7). I was scared to go near his house until we moved away. I vowed I would never be that grouchy neighbor to the kids in my neighborhood. I hope I'm living up to that promise - some days it's tough when you see how they behave!
Brothers are wonderful, I know I'd feel lost without mine.
A wonderful moment in time!
I loved the childhood recollections, and not just because it mirrors my own upbringing in the city, where we played in the laneways and also found adventures along the way. I am sandwiched betweenm my older bro and younger sis, and we are incredibly close too for all the years we played and fought as kids.
The bit about going to the pharmacy made me remember those Mad bubblegum cards with fake advertising stickers. Do you remember those, like Chock Full of Nuts and Bolts? I used to stick them on my school binders. Oh, the memories you've dug up. Thanbs for the ride back in time.

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