Wednesday, January 19, 2011


When children have nothing to do they'll conjure up anything to entertain themselves soon after discovering stating aloud that they're bored will earn them two days cleaning a garage that has accumulated 24 years of unwanted stuff that somehow escaped eviction. Sometimes this isn't a total failure; it's amazing the things one can do with 11 cans of used lead paint and a rusty hacksaw not to mention 8 stale packs of Winstons my grandfather used to hide in the drop ceiling when he would run downstairs every twenty minutes to 'check on the boiler.'  Don't ask me about the razor blades or the matches, please, but my brothers and I do have some interesting scars.

My house was the one on the street with all the kids inside, outside, everywhere, always. My parents put up with it with good humor mostly because at least they knew where WE were, except maybe at dinnertime when we descended on the kitchen like Mongolian hordes. When we weren't playing wolf-pack out on the street until the lights came on signaling it was time to go home or at least plotingt the next slumber party, we were devising more ways to maim and disfigure each other.

My sister being the youngest and therefore more fragile than the rest of us peasants (I had demonstrated my ineptitude at keeping her in once piece by shattering her collarbone in an unfortunate jungle gym accident), spent much of her time with my mother, shopping or on errands, so I the lone girl, would play with my brothers and my uncle, John.

John was my worst nightmare. He was what people back then called a 'change of life' baby as in, 'Ooops...heh heh..I thought I was too old to get preggers but GUESS WHAT HONEY?' so when my mother and father were dating, my grandmother was foisting her toddler on them to kill two bird with one stone--get some free time away from a screaming snot nosed angel and said cherub with stinky cloth diapers and rubber pants would be the best birth control chaperone one could ever hope for only that didn't work that well because somehow I was born six months after the wedding. So much for precautions.

Grandma was already tired and Mom had us like stair-steps; four one after the other so what was one more? The thing was though...I was technically the oldest of MY PARENTS' children but because John entered the mix, he was the oldest of the group. Because he pulled the YOU'RE NOT MY REAL MOM card on her every change he got, he was able to torture me without restraint and did so gleefully. His pulling rank made Lord of the Flies look like a lemonade stand in comparison and my grandmother was no better.  She owned our house and if John convinced her we were trying to decapitate him, she'd get all nasty with my mother who'd get medieval on our asses.  I learned to independently and stealthily fight boys pretty young and damned effectively as a result. Bones were broken. None were my own.

One rainy afternoon we were killing each other over the Colecovision controls and screaming over the proper way to blow on the cartridges to get supreme effectiveness. DON'T SPIT YOU PIG! when one of thought up a new war game. Bomb.

My brothers ran into their secret lab errr...bedroom which in some states should have been closed down by the EPA and CDC but because we were in New Jersey, they were able to obtain access, and searched for every sock that had lost its match. They quit counting after about 600 and we set out to the task of stuffing balls of socks into a giant misshapen lump. This would serve as our ball as our eavesdropping mom had kiboshed our first idea of a brick wrapped in a pillowcase. I still don't know what her problem was. I figured they should have stopped at me anyway and would be doing the human race a favor by allowing us our own Darwin Awards competition but.....she was the adult and out of cigarettes and chasing my sister around so, "Keep quiet and don't bother me unless you're bleeding or something is on fire."

We took that as a direct challenge. She threw down the gauntlet. It was our honor we had to defend.

The game of Bomb was simple. Divide the living room into two halves. Push all furniture to the walls and make a low wall of whatever might pass for sandbags in foxholes to approximate the terrifying exhiliaration of impending death. We used down pillows, couch cushions, misappropriated rolls of Bounty towels, and when the going got tough, my sister's mangy stuffed dog, Scroungy.

Then we divided ourselves into teams. John was the bully and always a team captain. Sometimes he chose wiry Donny for maneuverability, sometimes he chose muscular David for sheer ruthlessness. By default and my big mouth, I was the other team captain and got whoever was sniveling that he wasn't picked, for John's team.

A countdown began. If the game was short, we started at twenty. We all counted off solemnly, steadily, chanting 17.....16.....15.....14.... lobbing our ersatz ball at and over the head of each other scrabbling around on our knees because standing was not allowed and other than the count, speaking wasn't either. Grunts and groans were though, and an occasional screams should we nearly brain ourselves on the corner of the coffee table but the game MUST NOT STOP until the count was over and whoever had the bomb on their side was dead replete with as many blowing up sounds as we could muster. I must say we were very good at explosive sound effects. I also recall there was a lot of spitting when we attempted machine gun fire.

Many days my mom would walk into the den and find us strewn around the floor like so many corpses. We even practiced not breathing but she always faked us out by reanimating us with, "Okay, who wants a snack?"

There are no atheists in foxholes, and evidently no Hostess Cupcakes either.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my! This snapshot of familiar merry mayhem brought a much needed laugh. You my dear are priceless!