Growing up in a big family, you can't help but bump heads with the other relatives. It's inevitable when you put a large number of people in a small space, conflict occurs. You find out pretty quick that your place in the family depends on birth order. The oldest and the youngest got a lot of attention; those in the middle had to try harder to stand out. But you also learn that the older the kid, the more power he wields over the younger. And every younger sibling knows that crap rolls downhill. The older kids usually beat up on the younger ones. And the younger ones had to put up with a lot crap from the older ones.
Still, a smart kid realizes quickly the advantages of forming alliances. It's always easier to defend one's self when you've got numbers on your side. You can outsmart the older sibling, distract him, divide his attention, or one of you may escape to get a parent to come stop a serious beat down. Perhaps we were a lot smarter than we gave ourselves credit for; or maybe it was a some sort of basic survival instinct. Whatever it was, the three of us young ones learned early on how to band together when one of the older siblings decided to kick our asses. Usually, we had it coming for doing something to piss off the older sibling.
My older brothers could be complete jerks when they wanted to be. Luckily for us, they were at an age when they wanted independence and weren't home a lot. Teenagers. Moody bastards. They did threaten us occasionally, warning us to stay out of their rooms, which only served to make us want to go into their rooms more. Not that my older brothers had anything that held our interest for long. And besides, we knew that as long as our mother was home, we'd escape any serious pounding from the older brothers.
Mom was very particular about big boys pounding on little ones. She never hesitated to protect us when we came running and screaming from an older brother who decided to beat us up for rifling through his stuff. She'd stop the older one in his tracks, scold him and tell him to lay off us, and he shouldn't beat up little children. The older brother usually left fuming while giving us the "I'm going to get you when you're alone!" look. And for the rest of the day, we'd stick close to Mom til things cooled off. When it came to older sisters, however, Mom wasn't quite as particular. I'm not sure if it's because she didn't think my older sisters would hurt us as bad as our older brothers; or if she just didn't believe that my older sisters were just mean, horrible people sometimes.
If my older brothers banning us from their rooms made their rooms seem exciting, then my older sisters rooms were the forbidden lands we so desperately wanted to explore, even after all the threats and beatings we got from them. My sisters rooms were different. They had all these fancy and frilly and strange looking things that seemed so otherworldly and alien. Their rooms also smelled nicer. And when you're a young boy bored out of his mind, nothing is as exciting as exploring your older sibling's room, especially if they hold many things you've never seen before. And of course, we luved the thrill of breaking into their rooms and trying to get away with it.
Most times, our older brothers had their own thing going on, and they never really let us tag along with them. My older sisters, however, took turns babysitting us. I think my Mom trusted them more than my brothers to feed us and keep us alive til she got home. Of course, this meant my sisters couldn't hang out with their friends or go to parties with them. I think that's why they were really mean babysitters. Or it could be because we went in their rooms and rifled through their stuff.
Once we found what we thought were rolled up balloons in shiny packets. They were slippery for some reason, but we washed them, then filled them up with water and had water balloon fights with the neighborhood kids. It was a lot of fun. We also tried what we thought were tiny candy neatly arranged in a circle in a small case. It tasted terrible! We spat it out and wondered why our sister kept expired candy! Then there was the time we were tasked to clean the floors. We figured it'd be much easier and more fun to mop the floor by taking our sisters silk and satin garments, tie them under our feet, dip them in soapy water and skate across the floors. It was a such a fun way to clean up the floors. My sisters, however, didn't quite appreciate the shiny, clean floors as much as we did. And when you piss your older siblings enough on a regular basis, you learn to run really fast and dodge objects thrown at you. I was a pretty fast kid. I was also pretty damn good at dodge ball.
The three of us young ones had always been close. Sure, we bumped heads a lot, often fighting amongst ourselves, but if anyone threatened one of us, the other two would come quickly to his defense. Brothers do that kind of thing; they stick up for each other. We spent many summers exploring the neighborhood, climbing trees, walking on rock fences, playing games, pretending we were different people on some amazing adventures. Some days we were spacemen fighting hostile aliens; other days, we were pirates looking for treasure. Sometimes, we'd set up camp in the backyard and sleep under the stars at night.
The summer I was 7, we made slingshots and hunted small birds. Most got away; then my older brother managed to hit one. We let out a cheer and rushed to see our prey. It layed there with a broken wing. It was a strange feeling looking at it, twitching on the ground, desperate and helpless. My younger brother started crying, feeling bad for the bird we just maimed. I was feeling terrible, too. My older brother looked at me, asking what should we do. I just shrugged my shoulders. I didn't know what to do. But watching that poor bird flop around, twittering pitifully, I thought about ending its life. But I couldn't bring myself to do it.
My older brother then thought, maybe we ought to try and nurse it back to health. And I agreed, hoping that maybe the bird would be okay. I went to get a box to put the bird in. But when I got back, the bird had stopped moving. It stopped twittering. I feared that it was dead. We sat there for an hour, watching it, hoping for some sign that it was still alive. My younger brother sobbed quietly, and a few times, I fought back tears myself. My older brother was quiet, but I could tell he was feeling very sad and sorry for what had happened. Finally, he said we should bury the bird. So we picked him up, put him in the box and dug a hole in the yard. We put the box in, and my older brother recited the Lord's Prayer before we buried the box.
We were quiet the rest of the day. My mother asked us what was wrong, but we told her nothing was wrong. And she let us be. That was the last time we went hunting for birds. For the rest of the summer, we shot at empty cans instead.
The three of us shared a lot of experiences that made us closer to each other. I wish I could say that I was just as close to my elder brothers and sisters, but we just don't have the same bond. Growing up, the world was such an exciting and scary place, and when you had someone you could trust exploring the world with you, it was a lot of fun. And having two brothers I was close to made everyday an adventure.
Brothers and Sisters
Once was enough
I say again, once was enough
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The thing about fathers
Veterans Day reflection
A good jacket keeps you warm and dry