Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Older Brother Blues: More tales from 1966

I'm going to skip Sunday night quotes as I haven't written down many this week. Instead, let me complete the tale of my misadventures around the time my kid brother was born, 40 years ago last week...

After a few days my brother and mother came home from the hospital. D., having been born in December, came wrapped in a large red stocking. He also got to have the distinction of being one of the last kids to be born at James Walker, for that hospital was closing as the New Hanover County Memorial Hospital was being opened. I would like to say that we were excited, but that wasn’t really the case. It didn’t seem fair that we all had small stockings and D had this huge one! As it was winter when he arrived, with seasonal colds going around, Mom made us all wash our hands and wear a mask if we wanted to be close to little D. I found this insulting and figured I’d see plenty of him in the Spring.

At school, I continued my journey toward perdition. At wits end, Miss Freeman decided it was a time for an intervention. She got permission from my Mom to keep me after school. When all the kids left for the bus, she told me to stay behind. The buses left and there I sat, waiting for the lecture. She surprised me by asking if I wanted something to drink. She took me into the faculty lounge, which was like going into the holy of holies, and brought me a bottle of Pepsi from the machine. I now felt guilty for saying mean things about her. I was cheap; she brought me off with a dime soft drink. We talked for a while about my behavior and my friends, and then she gave me a ride home. As she pulled into our driveway, she asked if she could come in and see my little brother. “That’s fine,” I said, “but you gotta wash your hands and wear a mask.” Undoubtedly my mother wasn’t concerned about her germs, and overruled me, handing the teacher my little brother as soon as she walked through the door.

Afterwards, my mother scolded me for telling Miss Freeman that she had to wear a mask, implying that hospitality over-rules sanitation. She also began an lament about how the house was a mess when my teacher came by. The last time I heard her tell this story, a few years ago, she was still expressing her embarrassment. I think the reason she was so quick to give over the kid was to distract Miss Freeman, keeping her from looking around for dirt which, in my mother’s house, would have required a detailed search.

A few summers later, when my brother was around four, we pawned him off on grandparents and the rest of us (Mom, Dad, my brother and sister and I) went on vacation. Ten days later, we returned to learn that D had an epiphany into his early life. He told us fantastic tales of wandering around the old James Walker hospital, of talking to nurses and getting out of his crib and walking down to the kitchen and fixing himself a sandwich. If he was that self-sufficient in the hospital, why did he regress? Forty years later, I still wonder.

Click here for tales of my brother's birth on his 40th birthday


  1. Another great story. I was intrigued by your phrase "hospitality over-rules sanitation" in which you describe an important lesson that your Mom taught you. In my line of work I have been in about 10 bjillion homes. I have often been befuddled by the manner in which some people will enforce their unique house rules at the expense of hospitality. I think hospitality is a lost "art" in today's world, and I am probably more guilty than most.

  2. Why wasn't the poor kid invited on the vacation with you guys?

  3. blimey! masks??!! poor child must have thought you were monsters!

    great stories babe.

  4. I am glad to have two older and one younger brother. Come to think of do they think the same wa about me?

    *pondering over it*

    PS: My main blog is rooted.

  5. Sage - you tell some really great stories. I hope you're collecting them all to put in a book someday. I don't know what you do for a living, but you have an art for telling stories especially memoirs.

  6. Wow, he was really precocious!

    I guess what I need is another baby I can hand off to visitors so they won't see the dirt here at home, huh?

  7. Kevin, my mother put the concerns of guest over concerns for everyone at home, which I didn't understand at the time, but know I do the same now. Part of it is being Southern, I think.

    Murf, cause we were going to be in the car for four days of driving and he was young and they thought he'd get along better with grandparents

    Keda, if he didn't think we were monesters then, he probably did after a few years

    Gautami, that's the way it was with my family--two older boys and then my sister (but only a couple years between us), then my kid brother

    Editthis, who said I was living?

    Kenju, if it was dirty, it was the only time my mother's home was dirt, normally things are santized.