Everyone has memories of their childhood. They include memories of school activities, family vacations and other events; but the memories I cherish most are the interactions that I had with my siblings. Perhaps, the sibling with whom I share the most childhood memories is my older brother, John.
My parents had visions of us having a wonderful brother-sister relationship, understanding of each other, and we did – John understood that if he tore the head off of my doll, I would crash his Tonka truck into the wall and visa-versa. I spent much of my playtime with headless and armless dolls and his fleet of trucks was usually missing wheels and axles.
Actually, the truth be told, I usually started the confrontations. I loved to annoy John, but I did it very sneakily. For example, when I “set the table” I would purposely give every family member matching flatware except for John. Other times, I would put a penny under everyone’s plate but John’s.
Then there was the farm scene that was on our dinner plates. The scene could be correctly viewed at every place setting, except for John’s. His barn and cows were always upside-down. I never shared these dastardly deeds with anyone else. I would just enjoy sitting at the table thinking how I knew that he was not the same as the rest of the family, but he didn’t have a clue. I guess you could say that, as an 8-year-old, I was secretly passive-aggressive.
Not that there wasn’t reason. I remember all the times that John and I would be sent to our bedrooms with our dinner that we refused to eat. We were told to stay in our bedrooms until our plates were clean. I would gag just looking at the pile of noodles and corn, and struggle for an hour to get it all down.
But John would only be in his room a few minutes and come out with a clean plate. Forty years later, he told me the truth. Our dogs always waited under his window during dinner for the meal that John would occasionally throw out. Our dogs had a consistent diet of rutabagas, cooked spinach, liver and onions, along with noodles and corn.
Then there were my constant milk baths. Our kitchen floor was uneven, so every time a glass of milk spilled on the table, it would travel toward John and me. John, being three years older, instantly summed up the situation, lifted up the oil cloth and the entire 10 ounces would end up on my lap.
By the time we were 11 and 14, we argued so much that my parents hired a babysitter, Eloise, just so we wouldn’t kill each other whenever they were gone. It solved the problem because Eloise and I would bake cookies, watch TV and have “girl talk.” However, seven years later, Eloise started spending more time with John and eventually became my sister-in-law. (John finally did something of which I totally approved!)
We did have times that we “were on the same page,” such as the time that we asked Dad if we could have a swimming pool. Dad agreed that it was a great idea, but John and I had to dig the hole. We drew up our plans, staked out the area, and began to dig and dig and dig. Three days later, the deep end was 6 inches and the shallow end was 2 inches. We decided to take the high dive out of our plans.
We always loved it when “city kids” would come to our dairy. We could convince them to touch the electrical fence, tip a cow, or go snipe hunting. The electrical fence would give us instant gratification, but it would take a while for the odor of the cow tipping and snipe hunting adventures to reach their full potential.
We “dairy kids” would always just sit on the fence and let the city kids do the tipping and hunting because we knew that you couldn’t tip a cow and snipe are non-existent. We knew better than to run through a corral full of cows at night. Their shoes would never smell the same!
There are times that I remember our interactions with fondness, such as the day that John found me hiding in the haystack. He asked me why I was there, to which I replied, “I got an F on my report card.” He looked at me with sympathy and said, “So did I. Do you mind if I join you?” It was comforting to have someone with whom to share the report card drama that we knew would greet us as soon as we walked through the kitchen door.
How do I feel about all of these memories now? I wouldn’t change even one of them. I’m thankful that John forgave me for wrecking his new 1964 T-Bird. (I was trying to drive it into the garage and I missed the door by ONLY 4 inches.) And I forgave him from scaring the wits out of me when he came home late from a date with Eloise and climbed into the house through my bedroom window at 1 a.m.
Given the opportunity to once again needle my brother, I always gladly accept the challenge. Right now, my methods include referring to my toilet as “the John.” I love the repercussion from John that it brings. “At our house we call our toilet ‘the Pat.’“ It’s all music to my ears!
I really love my brother dearly. I know he will always “be there for me” for advice, for support, and to uphold my family in prayer. I totally appreciate all that he has done for me – except for the 24 cans of creamed corn he gave me for Christmas several years ago. Anyone for a meal of noodles and corn?