Saturday, March 10, 2007

Fraternal Relations

I was somewhere around thirteen years old, in that just budding coltish-legged stage of female pre-puberty. Sleepily I walked into the kitchen. My elder brother, a good bit older than me, seemed alarmed. “CG!” he said, “Take that shirt off right now!”

I looked down at my pajamas. It was just a red cotton shirt with a little appliqué of a frog on it.

“Take that shirt off, CG! I’m not kidding! Right now!”

“What in the heck is wrong?” I yelled back, pulling at my shirt and thinking of running out of the room.

“Why, that frog, it’s peed on you and made two little warts on your chest!”

My brothers and any cousins (all male) who happened to be around erupted into laughter as I turned red, slapped the back of his head, and went for the toast.

Jerk, right? Typical brotherhood if you ask me. That’s how I knew they loved me -- that’s what my mother told me and what I came to believe.

And now it has come to my attention that perhaps I relate to the whole world as a sibling. Specifically as though everyone in it were an older brother. Or I treat them as if I were their older brother. Something like that.

There were some great differences in the maternal and paternal sides of my family, although both of my parents were, yes, hillbillies, and were, yes, exceedingly close to all their siblings. But those sibling relations looked very different to me as a child. My mother and her sibs (she was the youngest child of a youngest child) joked, gave each other a hard time, kidded, told stories both true and lies, and were always a pack of fun just to be around. My dad and his sibs were, to my childhood perceptions anyway, no fun at all. Boring. Disapproving, even. Of everything, it seemed. Especially of me.

And I had two older brothers. And fun uncles. And I learned that to have fun, to show love, you give a hard time to, kid, joke, see what you can pull over and off, count coup, and take absolutely no guff from. It is like an extended verbal, mental, sometimes physical wrestling match. There is lots of contact, lots of intimacy, lots of fun.

Not that it makes relationships easy. But it is what I know.

The only problem with it is that not everybody I’d like to have a relationship with relates that way. And nobody wants to be friends with somebody they think is mean. But that meanus ™ is a huge part of who I am. And I think it is a huge part of the brotherly love that the world would be better off with lots more of.


Mushy said...

Ha - really enjoyed that one! Reminds me of myself and my cousins!

Thanks for sharing.

Dramaw said...

Hey there! We were in your part of the country. We had a funeral and just got back home today. Seeing as how we don't have a cow and milk is very expensive to buy at Ellwoods, I have cheese making stuff I bought that could have used a good home! We went to Coeburn expecting COLD. I was surprised to walk outside dressed in Jeans and a turtle neck and feel the warm weather. Nicely surprised. Have a great week!

the Contrary Goddess said...

I'm sorry for your loss, and hope the life was well celebrated. I've got to make a trip over there soon.

I've been out in shirtsleeves several times, but only when working. Tonight milking it was cool, but pleasantly so. Reminded you it was spring, and that is wasn't winter anymore. Grass is growing. Hooray!

Fathairybastard said...

Excellent post. Reminds me of my own situation. My maternal and paternal kin were both fun, in a way, but we spent almost all our time, when we were around, with my moms family; my moms parents, their three daughters and their families. The women ruled that house. I hear all the time from older cousins and my sister about how much fun granddad was when they were young, but by the time I got old enough to know what was going on he had taken up permanent residence in his chair in front of the TV and never really did anything with me.

My paternal grandfather died when I was about 3, and my only memory of my dads mom is of her in a nursing home with diminished memory from Alzheimer's. She couldn't remember her sons any more, but somehow knew who I was. The vibe on that side of the family was always dominated by the memories of the old days, and the relationships between the living brothers, and those were not too close.

I always wished I'd had a larger family and older brothers. Your post makes it sound like a lot of fun.

the Contrary Goddess said...

I don't think there is a thing more important than family. But family, like friends, is a tough thing. I got to know and have pretty decent relationships with 3 out of 4 grandparents, and had a substitute for the 4th (my grandmother died before I was born, but her sister rather took her place in the pantheon) and I've always been saddened that my children have less of that, and they have a lot less interaction with cousins than I had. But I'm hoping they have each other when we exit the picture.

I loved so much about my growing up -- we had this rather open house and people stayed there all the time and sometimes I still can't figure out who they were or why they were there. We had giant holidays filled with food and laughter. But I also had quiet afternoons spent reading Redbook and Ladies Home Journal on the couch with my mom.

Madcap said...

Hi, Ms. Meanus,

Mostly I'm just here to say hello, dragging my butt, I know. Happy St. Pat's!

the Contrary Goddess said...

hey back mc. Or should I say, Ms. Butt.

Anonymous said...

Ha...funny post. I'm probably not as mean as you are...but I take the same outlook as you do.

I love to poke fun and "rib" people that I most care about. It's what they're there for :)