Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm not old enough to have a 40 year old kid brother!

My kid brother turned 40 this week. He’s not supposed to be that old. It’s bad enough that I’m almost at my jubilee mark. But instead of focusing on my upcoming birthday, I want to recall the day D was born.

I was nine years old, a forth grader in Miss Freeman’s class at Bradley Creek Elementary School, just getting a good start on the road to perdition. 1966 had been a trying year. We’d left Petersburg, VA, where we’d sojourned for a few years, that summer and moved down near the coast of North Carolina. I didn’t want to move. I had nightmares of tidal waves and jelly fish and sharks. I didn’t want to leave behind my friends and move to a place that was obviously so dangerous. And following this turmoil, D came along.

I don’t recall what I did that day in school. All I remember is that I went home with an extra assignment. For the first time in my academic career, as punishment, I had to write sentences. This seemed to be a favorite method of punishing wayward students in the fourth and fifth grade and by the time I’d gotten out of elementary school, having written thousands of sentences, my handwriting was ruined for life. I’m surprised I didn’t become an engineer as I had also manufactured tools that allowed me to write five sentences at a time. Instead of patenting my technology, I offered it freely to other students, which lead to our fifth grade teacher to expand the sentences to paragraphs. This quantum shift that called for new technological designs. But I digress. I was just getting to work on writing the sentences, sitting at the kitchen table, when my dad ordered us to get in the car and we all headed downtown to the old James Walker hospital. That afternoon and evening, sitting in the lobby of the hospital, I wrote a hundred times something about behaving in class. It was long after I’d finished my penance that my Dad finally came down to the lobby and took us home, without mom. It was strange, we knew she was pregnant, but at this point we learned that she hadn’t yet given birth. We woke that next morning and were told that we had a baby brother. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but life wasn’t going to be the same. Of course, credit should be given to my brother. His birth distracted my parents and I didn’t receive a second dose of punishment for my misdeeds. The double jeopardy clause in the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to children; in this incident I got off easy.

D had a tough life ahead. My mother use to put him in my brother's and my room for his nap. If he was still asleep when we got home from school, we couldn’t go into our room. This we cured. One year for Christmas, we got a blacklight and some neat posters of dragons that we plastered on our wall. The room was naturally dark and when you shut the blinds and turned on the blacklight, the dragons glowed as if alive. After telling D a few stories about the dragons, he never slept in our room again. I also think that trick had something to do with my mother’s disposal of our posters. And then there were the stories of the danger of being flushed down the commode which, I’m sure, delayed his potty training. As D got older, he hung around with me a lot. I use to take him canoeing and fishing on Town Creek. We’d float down the creek, fishing the lily pads along the bank. When it was time to turn around and paddle back to the bridge, I’d tell him stories about how we were getting close to the falls and had to paddle hard upstream to save ourselves. D would paddle like mad as we made our way upstream.

With three older siblings who did their best to screw him up, it’s amazing that D made it this far without, as far as I know, any serious mental illness. Happy birthday D! With the exception of your politics, you seem to have turned out okay.


  1. Cute story! I remember that my older brother (nearly 50!)convinced me that those were real fireflies in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland

  2. I had to write sentences numberous times as I recall but once it was mandated that I had to do them after school on the blackboard. When the teacher left for awhile, I snuck out to the music building and 'borrowed' the music bar writer that held five chalks at a time. Unfortunately as I was almost finished I got caught but because I had been clever, she let me off with just writing the last few sentences one at a time.

  3. The mental illness will start with those bells that you will be passing on to his kid.

  4. Diane, I'm lucky, I didn't have any older siblings, just an uncle who was 6 years ahead of me so he became did all the picking on me

    Ed, I don't remember seeing one of those things until I was in Jr. High, but you get the idea of my inventions. It was harder to put spaces in it to allow you to write sentences that were 3 lines long (like the ones my 5th grade teacher assigned).

    Murf, you may be right.

    I realize I left off a part of the story--I'll have to include that later--of what D was doing while in the hospital. When he was about 4 or 5, he came up with a wonderful tale of what he did as an infant in the hospital.

  5. :) what a lovely tribute to your brother ... sending along birthday wishes ...

  6. beautiful. what a sweet post for your bro.

    we call then 'lines' here. and yes i did rather a lot of them.

    my favourite being "i will not set fire to stephen millers boots whilst in class" 200 times.

    but they didn't make me say anything about outside of class ;)
    (i wasn't a bully.. it was an experiment. we were all convinced the teacher was asleep and stephen hated his boots and he didn't mind although he didn't know what i was doing until oh well maybe i should tell this properly another time.....)

  7. I've written a few "punishment sentences" as well. Either we're all trouble makers or elementary school teachers enjoy their sentence sanctions a bit too much.

    Anyway, glad to hear you were such a wonderful older brother. What with all the lies meant to scare the bejesus out of D. Lol.

    Actually, wonderful post Sage. Always glad to hear about your family, you all seem very close knit.

  8. Blackdaisy, thanks.

    Keda, by the time I was in high school, if someone said they were doing lines, I'd think something entirely different and be concerned for them... You will have to write about setting his boots on fire!

    V, I think it was that elementary school teachers enjoyed giving these sentences, but that being said, I wasn't the poster child for the teacher's union (unless they were bargaining for combat pay)

  9. Yes, very nice BD tribute to your brother, hope he sees it!

  10. Heheh...Life with siblings is such fun, isn't it? But they do have a way of turning out to be sort of cool as you all get older together. :)

    Hi from Michele's!

  11. Happy Birthday, D! This story make me almost glad I had no brothers!

  12. This was fun reading. Made me think of some stories my family could tell. I had six brothers and one sister.

  13. LOL makes me thankful I was pretty much raised as an only child! Great memories

  14. Poor little brother....Kinda makes me wish I hadn't been the oldest though!

  15. I am the oldest but that didn't prevent me from getting beat up or scared or anything else. :-) My next two siblings are boys and they loved having an older sister to gang up on.

    I love this memory, sage. Lucky brother.