Sunday Scribblings: Family

For chris n., something "not so dark."

My mother liked to say that she didn’t know exactly how I made it through childhood intact.
And alive.
We were children of the 60s and 70s, the five of us children born to Ed and Marcia. There where the studious girls, the rambunctious boys. Good kids who lived life as if it was going to be taken away with the dawn.
My brother, six years my senior, and I were hard cases when it came to innocent fun. The brothers who stories were passed around the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The lighter-fluid flame races in the basement; the bottle rocket fights with neighbor kids; wholesale destruction of anything – glass bottles of warm, shook-up soda water explode fabulously when hit with a BB gun – with guns, flames illegal fireworks and homemade explosives.
We carried on with fearless abandon. We plotted and planned. We never lied. We simply never told the entire truth.
(Whether by design or indifference, my parents wouldn’t ask the proper questions: My mother would ask where I was until 3 a.m. in high school and I’d say work; this was true, I was on the roof of Wendy’s drinking Blatz beer and throwing rotten tomatoes at passing semi trucks.)

One of our best gags occurred at my aunt’s farmhouse at Christmas. My mother’s whole side of the family would gather for Christmas dinner. I was in college. My brother already part of the working world.
There was a pool table in the basement. A whole passel of younger nieces and nephews where banished to the dungeon to not be seen or heard. My brother and I joined them, not looking for mischief, but not turning anything down – should the opportunity arise.
It did.
A couple of the kids brought down pieces of my grandmother’s fudge and left them on the pool table rail. My brother looked at my aunt’s litter box for her gigantic farm cat, Bear, and smiled.
With two pieces of fudge, my brother and I fashioned a rather authentic looking cat turd. The plan was to stick it in the box and try to get one of the kids to eat it.
We pointed. We cajoled. We dared. The kids said “eeeewww” and “gross” and then one of my nephews finally said, “You eat it.”
And I picked it up, bit into it and showed them my chocolate-covered, toothy smile.
You never saw six little kids run up creaky wooden steps so fast – screaming a garbled wake that startled the women gathered around the old farmhouse table in the kitchen drinking coffee.
Then, silence.
And then, my mother called down the stairs:
“What are you two up to?”
The kids had confessed that I ate cat shit.
We huddled, my brother and I, laughing until tears ran.
“Both of you, up here – NOW.”
“You,” she said, “you’re in college. And you – you ought to know better.”
And she gave a sly smile and a wink.
Not the last she would ever give me.


Anonymous said...

I'm flattered...
An appropriate topic, family can be so warm and enveloping. You were one of the lucky ones to have an obviously good family life. It's an added strength to your writing.
Stories don't have to be deep and dark, only touching the soul, not only of you, but of others. If they lead to a dark place, maybe it is the perception of the reader.
One of those conundrums of life.