Karma delayed is still a…well, you know

So. My computer died. Some awesome tech gods are valiantly attempting to piece together the burned-out technology that was my hard drive and salvage the data I so blithely left lying about without a backup. Meanwhile, using my handy-dandy phone, I will leave you all with the below thoughts.

A neighbor child of about 5 years of age, for some reason only known to the Gods that be, has come into possession of a shrill, ear-piercing, toy of destruction known as a whistle. Not just any whistle mind you, but rather a whistle that seeks out an adult person’s last nerve and gleefully wreaks havoc on the few tattered shreds of sanity that remain intact, albeit not intact for long. I suppose this is karma. A bit delayed, but karma nonetheless.

You see, back in the day, oh many, many years ago, I gave my then very young nephew a set of drums for Christmas. When my kids came along, I was thankfully never repaid in kind by my brother. I’m not sure why. Perhaps he forgot,  perhaps, being an experienced parent by that time, he had sympathy, or perhaps the drums never made it to their house after all and thus my attempts at being the mean sister “cool aunt” were all for naught. Whatever the case may be, I don’t recall my son or daughter ever receiving similar noise-makers to test my patience.

Now, after my kids are grown and the only noise coming from our house is the unpredictable, staccato bark of an anxiety-ridden dog protecting our hearth and home from that rogue leaf blowing across the yard, this child…this neighbor child…comes home with an amazing, mind-shatteringly loud whistle. Just in time for nice weather and open windows. It’s a curse. I just know it. Right when I assumed I was home-free, my brother’s been dabbling in voodoo, black magic, or the like.

And all I can say is: well played brother, well played indeed.

Every Day Parenting

Actually from the time when they were still quite young, my go-to phrase would be “Do you need an ambulance?  Do we need to go to the hospital?”  And if the answer was (or is) no, well then, we’d just get on with the rest of our day. Oh you may think I have a lackadaisical approach to parenting, but I don’t really. I love my children more than life itself and would do anything for them. It’s just…well…I know my children you see.  While my kids are seven years apart in age, they are still, in many ways, very much like my brother and me growing up, thanks in large part to my mother’s well-timed curse.  And I’m determined to get out of this parenting gig alive – preferably with my sanity intact (what’s left of it anyway).

 

parenting style

Riding in Cars

The other week my mom and I were discussing one of the more volatile controversies that continually divides this country. Yes, I’m talking about two-door vs. four-door cars. Who cares how we got on the subject? The question brought before the panel (me, I’m the panel) was why is insurance higher for two-door cars. Before I know it I’m explaining to her that insurance rates are lower for people who own four-door cars because the insurance companies tend to think that the people who own them are more family oriented, less inclined to take risks (like drag racing with friends, taking dares on the number of donuts they can do in parking lots, or driving every day like they’re the getaway car from a massive bank robbery and the entire Sheriff’s office is on their tail), and overall just safer. Two-door car owners are more reckless, at least in the insurance company’s eyes, and, hence, more likely to get into an accident, so they get the higher premium.

My Mom interjected that despite the higher priced premium, she always insisted that our family have a two-door car when my brother and I were growing up. I will take a small detour here (ha! pun intended!) to say that you could not find a more stable, down-to-earth, no-risk-taker, family oriented kind of gal than my mother. But the inflated premium was worth it to her, or so she said.

I personally couldn’t understand why she opted for the two-door car. It seems so logical to me to upgrade to four doors when there are kids involved. I mean, it’s easier to get them in and out of the back seat in general, easier to buckle them into the car seats when they’re small, and we didn’t have to deal with that awkward climb into and out of the car over the folded down seat (with elbows to the head of whoever is in the front seat). It just seemed practical.

Then my mom explained her point of view. First of all, car seat? Ha! Not part of the equation back in those days. Yeah, okay, that makes sense. Second, only having two doors meant that there was no chance my brother and I could throw each other out of the car. Third, having only two doors meant we couldn’t carry through any brilliant ideas of jumping out of the car ourselves. That reasons 2 and 3 were likely scenarios to pop up in my mother’s head sort of sums up my childhood.

Looking back, I can easily envision both of those hilarious tragic events happening if we had the luxury of back seat doors. My brother and I were basically a live-action version of Spy vs. Spy. Take our constant battling, stuff it in a confined metal cage for a few hours, hurl it down a highway at 60 miles per hour, and one way or another one of us would find a reason to pop open that back door to show the other one the exit. Unfortunately, I mean, luckily, yes, luckily, my mom could imagine this too and preemptively put an end to that.

Each summer my father, with the whole family in tow, would navigate over the precarious road that led to my grandparents’ house. Well, this road, barely wide enough for a vehicle, ran snugly along the tall mountain on one side and on the other side was nothing but air. I’ve brought this up before…how my brother and I tried to drive my mother insane by jumping up and down on one side of the car trying to make it flip over the edge. If we had a four-door car for these treks! Oh my goodness how things would’ve changed!

I can see my brother now, swinging from the car door, legs dangling wildly in mid-air, hanging on for dear life. My parents would look back and wonder: did he jump out thinking he could fly? Did he think he could hop from the car onto the branch of a passing tree? Then, they’d look over to the other side of the back seat, where little ol’ Wendy—with her angelic doe eyes and impossibly cute grin—is sitting peaceful as a fawn, and they’d wonder to this day if something more menacing had happened to send my brother flapping in the breeze. I mean, really…who’s to say? Knowing us, it could’ve gone either way. Either scenario is equally plausible, but thankfully no one will ever know.

All because my mother had the supreme forethought to buy a two-door car.  You’d think the insurance company would’ve given her a discount for her smart car choices given the money she surely saved them, but no. I guarantee you though, had they known her little bundles of joy, they would have.

Sibling Wars

Let’s hop back in the time machine and go back to Wendy’s childhood; a time and place that—if I’m forced to be honest—might be best left in the past. Why? Possibly because at my mature(ish) age now, I can admit that there were moments in my family’s history in which I might not have been the nicest member of it.

An example? Still to this day I come damn close to crying with laughter when I think about the time my brother knocked himself out after he ran off our porch and into the clothes pole in our backyard when he was about seven. Absolutely hysterical to me. The funniest part wasn’t that he hit it so hard it left a long, pole shaped bruise down his torso. The funniest part is the fact that the pole had been there, literally, our entire lives. How he forgot about it so completely that he ran into it so hard he knocked himself out is pure comedy. Don’t roll your eyes. It’s my duty as a sister to laugh at stuff like that. That’s what siblings are for, for cryin’ out loud.

Not like he didn’t have his moments of payback. Like the time he hit me in the head with a hardball (a.k.a. baseball) when I was about 6. He and his friends were playing a game we called “rundown” which was similar to what is commonly called “monkey in the middle.” Or if you’re good at baseball terminology, it’s a game centered round being caught in a pickle. When I got beaned in the head, I was the monkey. Being the only girl in a neighborhood full of boys, I was always the monkey or whatever unsavory role there was to be had in the street game du jour. (To be fair, being the only girl in a neighborhood full of boys got much, much better as we got older). But I digress. So, I was the monkey. My brother was manning one base. His friend was holding down the other. All of a sudden—BAM—I got socked right in the head with the ball.

Now I’m not saying it was on purpose or anything. Let’s be clear about that. I have no evidence supporting wrongdoing. BUT if it was orchestrated, I probably deserved it. I could hold my own in the never-ending “war of the siblings” which means I had to commit a few acts of questionable morality to keep up with my brother’s torment.  Need I refer you to the mushroom incident?

That was the great thing about my brother and I. We always went tit for tat. It was never a lopsided fight between the two of us. Sort of like our own personal version of Spy vs. Spy. Neither one of us would have the upper hand for too long before the other took it right back just when the dust was about to settle.

Now, as a parent, I look back on these acts of juvenile recklessness and am stumped on how my mother survived with her sanity intact.  I can totally understand now why she always had that anxious look on her face.  She was probably in a constant state of worry about what one of us would either do to ourselves or to each other next.  Would this be the day we’d have to make another hospital run? Are the cops on speed dial in case one of us went missing…again? Actually – that’s a funny story and one I’ll tell another time.

Luckily my brother and I both survived (not without our fair share of nicks and bruises along the way). We made it to adulthood and, call me crazy, but I think all that silly cartoonish competition as we were growing up only served to make us better friends in the end.  It certainly has given us some great stories to tell around the holiday dinner table.

Keith_Wendy Easter 1971 (2)

 

Keith_Wendy Easter 1971

 

Keith_Wendy unknown

 

Mushroom Musing

I’m sure I had you all fooled, but believe it or not I might not have been the smartest kid in the world. Shocking, right? I wasn’t exactly getting invited to join MENSA on my fifth birthday or beating Deep Blue at chess matches in my free time, and that’s okay. I wasn’t a child prodigy but I was still smarter than my brother and during those precious years of childhood that was all that mattered. In hindsight it wasn’t even a fair fight. He was gullible as anything (which in most cases is an endearing trait but when you have siblings it’s a death sentence) and it didn’t help matters that when I was young, I looked like a sweet angel with nary a devilish thought in her precious little head. It didn’t take me long to realize that the way I was being judged on the outside could certainly be a benefit in successfully getting away with whatever mischievous acts my prank-filled head came up with.

A perfect example of my brother’s credulity comes in the form of a story that’s often told around my mother’s table as a cautionary tale about me. I’m not sure I think that’s fair. But you can judge for yourselves.

One night way back when, we were all out at a restaurant called White Coffee Pot Jr. having a nice family dinner. My brother ordered Salisbury Steak complete with gravy and mushrooms. I, on the other hand, did not order Salisbury Steak complete with gravy and mushrooms.  It didn’t take long though for me to wish very much that I had.

Now, it was quite obvious that my brother was enjoying the hell out of his mushrooms.  So naturally my first thought was to find some way to spoil it so that he would end up giving me his mushrooms. I desperately wanted those mushrooms and had to make him so disgusted at the thought of them that he’d just give them up. Yeah, well, don’t cry too hard for him. Remember, he’s the older brother so you can be sure he messed with me on a daily basis. This was just karma rearing its ugly head. No matter that I was only six years old at the time. By then I was already a well-honed grifter. For those of you with siblings, I’m sure you understand.

I started out playing it coy by planting just a little seed of doubt in his head which quickly escalated to a full on sequoia of uncertainty (after all, I had to get to him before he ate them all or they got cold). A few of the well-timed and expertly calculated phrases included the following:

“Hey, are you suuuure those are mushrooms?”

“You know, I think maybe the cook made a mistake. I’m not sure I’d eat them if I were you.”

“They kinda look a little like toadstools to me.”

“Do they taste funny?”

“You know, you’re looking a little peaked…”

I tossed out all of these questions in a nice, easy-going conversational tone with very subtle yet significant pauses in-between. As the inquiries mounted so did his scrutiny over the dish. I watched his hesitance blossom as the inquisition went on, each question hammering away at his defenses. And voila! The mushrooms were mine.

Big Brother: 0 Little Sister: 1.

It was a very convincing performance if I do say so myself. I’m no Meryl Streep but I really do think I should have an Oscar on my mantle.  The good side to this social experiment, besides my victory with a reward of mushrooms to celebrate, is that my brother lost just a tad bit of his gullibility. I gave him a life lesson free of charge and do you know that to this day he’s never even thanked me? So ungrateful.

ME in blue dress

never judge a book by its cover