Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Girls

I am told that as a baby and a very young boy I was always saying “Toppit” (stop it), and “lee me lone” (leave me alone) to my sisters. They were always picking me up, showing me off, trying to be little mothers. They used to find me hiding behind a potted plant or our big itchy red chair and say “whatcha doing Boy,” and I’d say, “I’m moopin,” as I dropped a load into my diaper. In contrast, as I got a little older I was desperate for them to notice me. One night they were cooking dinner before mom came home. I could not have been more than seven or eight. Alli must have been strangely subdued that evening because I was the one being rambunctious. They told me that if I didn’t get out of their hair they were going to tie me up and put me in the closet. So naturally I started egging them on, practically begging for them to do it. And they did. They tied me to a kitchen chair and set me in the hall closet all of us laughing hysterically the whole time. Then I started to yell to them that I was thirsty so they squirted me with water, which just made me laugh harder and fall over. I heard my mom walk in the door and my three sisters getting the table ready. “Where’s Jake” she asked followed by a casual “oh he’s in the closet”. Talk about ironic foreshadowing. She must have heard me giggling so she opened the closet door and untied me. I guess that is a really weird story when you here it but it really is a happy memory for me, just Na, Pammy and I having fun together. I used to beg them to let me sleep in their room with them sometimes. They shared a big bedroom downstairs with its own bathroom that I inherited after they went off to college. Sometimes they would let me and I’d lie there and they would tell me stories about high school and all their teen-age friends and I thought I was just the coolest kid ever. I used to sit and watch Renee get ready for a date which for her involved full test runs of wardrobe make-up and hair before taking a shower and starting all over. Pammy used to hang me upside down by my feet and dip my head in the toilet; I didn’t care as long as they noticed me. My big sisters were the shit! End of story.


Renee is the oldest; she is nine years older than I am. When I was a kid she was a teenager with her own friends and her own life. We didn’t become really close as friends until I was eleven or twelve and she would come home from college for visits. That was when we bonded. We have exactly the same since of humor, to this day she remains more than just my sister; she is one of my best friends. When I was twelve I went to visit her at the University of Dayton. Now at this time I bore more than a striking resemblance to Fred Savage who played Kevin on “The Wonder Years” which was at the height of its popularity. Renee took me to a party on campus, and we told a whole bunch of people, who I know now were probably drunk off their asses that I was indeed Fred Savage and I’d be happy to give them an autograph. She also let me have some beer. Needless to say I went to bed that night thinking I was the hot stuff. In those days Renee tended to have big expectations of people. She had an idea of what life should be like and everyone should just follow suit. I’ve always been somewhat afraid of letting her down. When I was twelve she called home and I answered the phone and she told me to stop sounding like such a girl. That was the first time I recall ever having a fight with her. I don’t know if I’d had a particularly hard day defending my mannerisms or what but I wasn’t about to take it from my sister. I don’t remember exactly what words were exchanged or if my mother got involved or what but soon after I received a care package in the mail full of candy and a long letter from Renee telling me how much she loved me and was sorry. Of course I realize now what that was, she was becoming more and more certain of what I was and I’m sure it scared her. After all she was all of 22 and clearly knew her little brother was a huge fairy. Still, what my sisters thought of me held a lot of power, maybe a little too much, especially Pam.

In my young mind’s eye Pamela Cooper was the coolest person on the face of this earth, period, bar none! Pam is seven years older than I am and as a kid I worshipped her. She is one of the most talented people I know. She used to put on puppet shows for me. She would use different voices, and p.s. she made the freaking puppets. Two of them I remember distinctly were little beaded dolls she used called Pablo and Charlene and she would use a bizarre Mexican accent that made them both sound like Speedy Gonzalas. Pablo and Charlene would put on shows for me and I would roar with laughter, and go to sleep in awe. However I do blame her for one of my deep seeded phobias. When she was young Pam saved up her money and bought a marionette. I was absolutely never allowed to touch it, which of course made me obsessed with it. As a deterrent she told me it would come to life at night and walk around the house. Umm, that is still the most terrifying image I can conjure. When I was in college studying theatre we watched videos of the Bunraku, Japanese puppet theatre, I fled the classroom in a cold sweat. I can’t even watch The Lonely Goat scene in The Sound of Music. Pam also is one of the greatest singers you will ever hear, ever. She could have been huge. I used to go to her school plays and watch her in awe and vow that I would follow in her footsteps. Can I say it enough that I thought she was the coolest. In all actuality Pam was a troubled teen-aged girl whose home life was falling apart. She was the exact opposite of the way I saw her but to my young self she was a rock star. I craved her attention. One night that is forever seared into my memory is December 4, 1984. That was the night that Pam took me to see Cyndi Lauper in concert. Pam was sixteen, I was nine, and I thought I’d had arrived. There I was with my cool teen-age sister at a rock concert. She even spiked up my hair. I used to want so badly for her to notice how cool I was. I wanted to be just like her. Or at least what I thought she was. When I got a little older Pam told me that when I was a little boy she used to sneak into my room at night when I was asleep, get into my closet and smell my shirts. She was trying to freeze time so she’d always remember the innocence and sweetness of her baby brother. This story might seem a tad creepy to anyone not in our family, but to me it is so touching that it brings a tear to my eye. I cannot imagine a life without my big sisters; I love them so much. They have always, always been there for me. But I have to admit, with all that estrogen around, did I even have a chance? It was just understoof that for two nights out of the month iate dinner in my room, out of the firing zone so to speak, it was a hormonally charged atmosphere to grow up in.

We were never allowed to fight in the manner that normal siblings do. My mom grew up in a house so chaotic that any semblance of a brawl sent her over the edge, so we managed to fight subversively. It’s really just a matter of preying upon one’s fears isn’t it? For example, Renee is has some weird bird phobia, so what better way to sock it to her than to leave a dead bird on a paper plate on her pillow. Or say when someone crushes a Lego airport that took you weeks to put together, a good form of retaliation would be to use the sash of one’s Homecoming dress as toilet paper. You could keep these things from mom and still get your point across. I mean doesn’t everyone’s sister give them a series of rabbit punches to the kidneys and try to make herself pee on you if you try and tickle her legs.


Once Renee and Pam were having an argument about something so one of them, I can not say who or I'll be punished took a jumbo bobby pin, straightened it and actually speared a turd out of the toilet and chased the other through the house with it. I remember hearing the commotion, looking up to see them chase through the room then going right back to watching TV.

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