My brother is a liar.
Not only that, he’s a cheat, he steals things and he smells like he’s been wrestling inside a giant vat of rotting fish.
Okay, maybe I should have put all of that in the past tense or surrounded it with quotes and introduced it with, I announced to my mom when we were nine and ten. But then that takes all the fun out of knowing his face will go beet-red when he reads this. And I’d almost give my left lung to be there when it happens because that opening paragraph is a form of payback for popping all my Barbie dolls’ heads off, supergluing them together and then using them as a makeshift whiffle ball for batting practice. I might have misremembered some of those exact facts, but the end result was basically the same: I was miserable.
Except when I wasn’t.
And that “non-miserable” status was actually a much more frequent state of mind.
My brother was my roommate, my playmate, and a very convincing Frederick the Great whenever we played war, which happened repeatedly. We agreed to rotate the games we played: we could build stuff with sticks in the woods, sword fight with sticks in a field, or pile up sticks and attempt to light them on fire.
The alternative was that I could get chased with a stick if I didn’t agree to one of the prior games.
It was a rare day when we got to play house, but when we did, it was Little House on the Prairie where I got to be Ma and watch him play Pa. He built us a “log cabin,” fought off warring Native Americans who wanted to run us off our homestead, and started a smoldering fire on which I could cook him his grub. Still sticks, no matter how you look at it.
There was one thing we heartily agreed upon though, and that was food. Everything we did was centered around getting, sneaking, stealing, making, hunting, fishing or feasting on grub.
If we wanted to get up early to bike through the woods to arrive in time for sunrise on the lake, we first had to fill plastic bags with cereal, grab two spoons and strap a thermos of milk to the handle bars. We’d make a quick stop to pick blueberries en route, then it was breakfast on the pier.
If we hoped to act like all the folks with big RVs and fancy tents who arrived at the local campground down the street and who got to eat Toni’s pizza, drink orange Fanta and play pinball while listening to the jukebox, we first needed to put our allowance savings plan into action. If we couldn’t scrounge up enough quarters to cobble together the price of the entire event, we’d settle for just the pizza. We had to have that pizza.
How stealthily could we sneak a fistful of pre-breakfast Oreos out of the booby-trapped cookie jar on a Saturday morning? How many weeds would we have to pull in our ancient neighbor’s vegetable patch before she’d call us in for sizzling fresh perch, drowning in home-churned butter and yanked out of the lake not an hour before?
How many blueberries could we stuff down our gullets while slyly creeping through the woods, hoping to ambush preoccupied squirrels, engrossed in nut gathering? How many wintergreen leaves did we scarf down, pretending it was candy? How many winter snowfalls had us tearing open a package of Kool-Aid or Jello in order to open our own professional snow cone stand with us as our only customers?
Things haven’t changed greatly, although supposedly he’s a grown up. He pays most of his taxes. He drives a truck now instead of a bike. His three beautiful daughters cling to him like ring-tailed lemurs on a mighty oak, so I’m gathering either he’s learned how a bar of soap works or his children have no sense of smell.
He has an actual job that pays more than his childhood allowance. And as sad as he was to give up playing Charles Ingles, he refused to give up centering life around food. Somehow, he learned to read and write while I wasn’t looking. And apparently muscled his way through the Culinary Institute of America.
They call him “Chef.”
I call him lucky.
Yeah, maybe he no longer lies, cheats, steals or smells, but he still plays with sticks. He’s just swapped out those long, woody weapons for shorter, sharper blades.
Still sticks, no matter how you look at it.
*Next week, we’ll go shopping with our chef since he came out for a visit. And once we put the groceries away, chef and I did some sword fighting in the kitchen. Come back to see who wins.
Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott’s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.
- Cooking Delicious Squirrel on an Open Fire – not for the squeamish (bradleymount.wordpress.com)
10 thoughts on “Sibling revelry”
Flatulence will get you everywhere, I appreciate your historical… sorry, I meant hysterical laments of our youth. Oh, wait… that was me reliving the “lemon flavored” snow cone the three of you made me eat. I was so, um, gastronomically negligible and undereducated then.
I do, however, still dream for the days to return to the pier with you, the bag of cereal, milk and whatever change you would be able to “muster” from Dad’s coin jar or sock drawer for us to play Pacman down at the trailer court campsite. What a site, no pun intended. We’ve come a long way, eh? (Please tell me you haven’t passed on the snow cone trick to your kin).
‘Tis nearly the season (more snowstorms pending) for foraging on the Peninsula for fresh local morels, fiddlehead ferns, ramps, asparagus, puffballs, chives, chanterelles… I could go on. The season this year should be grand, God willing and the creek don’t rise. Last year was a lower harvest. I only found around twenty pounds of morels; 2/3rds of which of course I bartered away… a favorite way of receiving other needed services for the house, truck, or a nice local dinner. The other 1/3rd at $50/pound was good for buying my girls their wish list Sunday tea dresses. Mind you, we ate well as plucking bunnies and trout was aplenty last spring.
I should go as I need to remember this isn’t my blog. Wonderful article and great memories, even the torturous ones of growing up with three intellectually superior sisters. Thanks for letting me survive.
Okay, I’d have to agree, morels, fiddleheads, ramps and the lot sound overwhelmingly better than a diet of blueberries and wintergreen leaves washed down with a handful of algae green lake water. Your foraging skills have improved considerably. I’m still trying to save up pizza money. 😉
OH MY HOLY NUTCRACKER THAT PICTURE IS WHAT I DON’T EVEN.
Also yes, Unkle Stoshu, I know the snowcone trick all too well. Genetics, you see.
Ha! You wish I let you out to play in the snow. Now go muck out the sheep barn. When you’re finished you can snack on the chocolate chips that are scattered on the ground. My treat.
That’s just nasty, eh? Get use to it.
Love the cartoons, pity your brother (not)! My boys like to play with sticks, too. They originally tried to make my daughter the bad guy, who they would then kill, but I convinced them that she was the princess they needed to save, and the trees were the bad guys. Whew. Still sticks.
I stand beside you. We need far more princesses in the world. But I suggest giving her a bigger stick than the boys. Now she can save herself. Boys, beware! 😉
At age 4, she’s too little for a really big stick, but she has a fierce growl. She also hits first and questions after. I don’t worry about her. Her brothers are another issue entirely! 🙂
Wow! It is so obvious you love your brother. The love you feel for him comes through your piece LOUD and CLEAR. You are one lucky/blessed woman.
I am really lucky, Tana. It’s a wonderful thing to grow up with a guy who makes you miserable in your youth and find that all the pictures you saved from your childhood – the ones where he’s continually frolicking around in women’s lingerie – have finally come in handy. Blackmail is a nifty device to orchestrate the preferred treatment when it comes to siblings.
And all kidding aside, I think he’s a pretty special guy.
But I still have the pictures.