Monday, March 27, 2017
There is an established science now of the effect of birth order on children, apparently influencing even such things as career choice later in life. I was the first born in my nuclear family with two younger brothers. If there is one thing in this world that I know for certain, I was born bossy. For as long as I can remember I have known my way was right and everyone else was wrong. Of course, experience has taught me a vastly different truth but to this day my first inclination is that I am right and everyone else is wrong! With such an attitude you know my little brothers never stood a chance.
From the moment he was born my brother Randy was the apple of my mother's eye, so in addition to believing I was the supreme dictator of the universe, I was also inescapably jealous of my little brother. I committed various acts of terrorism against him when he was too small to defend himself - things like kicking up a red ant hill then setting him down amid the angry ants. I pushed him down the stairs. He was a gentle soul who simply wanted to be left in peace but I took every chance I had to torment him I am ashamed to admit.
As we grew a bit older our sibling spats grew into fist fights. Physical fighting only lasted until he became stronger than me then the warfare shifted to sabotage and terrorism. It was every kid for him or herself if there was a chance we could tattle on each other to our mother. As I recall, by some basic instinct of survival, we would not tell on each other to our father who never messed around with getting to the bottom of the matter nor cared about any fine points of justice.
It was not all one-sided. I had worked long and hard to sculpt a clay horse that fell victim to a murderous coup my brother committed when he tore it apart. He could not wait until I discovered the massacre but tauntingly admitted to it during an argument. My poor mother was left to referee and settle such skirmishes.
Of course, my brother and I could knock-down drag-out fight, argue and be generally mean to each other all day long but no one else better lay a finger on either one of us. Then our blood loyalty kicked in, and all the skills we honed fighting each other would be turned against a common enemy. I believe this is how the human species has survived to become the dominant force on the planet.
We were teenagers when my brother committed the last act of terrorism against me. I devoured books by the dozens and one of my favorite things was to prepare a large bowl of popcorn then retire to the safe refuge of my room to read in peace. One of my brother's friends had a plaster cast of a very large snake someone had killed. It was not even painted but as a cast it was intricately detailed and, of course, uber-realistic. I had a large bowl of popcorn in the crook of one arm, my book in the other when I stepped into my bedroom to see a horrifyingly huge, pure white snake curled up on a little pink fuzzy rug. There was one millionth of a stunned second before chaos!
Yes, my brother absolutely knew the ultimate weakness of his first and most formidable enemy: my fear of snakes! Even though some part of my brain registered that there were no such things as pure white snakes, all other data indicated "huge snake" and my lizard brain took immediate control. I simultaneously screamed bloody murder, threw the bowl and the book as I astral projected down the stairs, leaving a trail of fresh popcorn. This was the best possible outcome for my brother and his friend, who were howling with laughter. I was crying adrenaline tears of fear and relief and outrage. My mother, who never made an effort to hide her opinion that I typically got what was coming to me even as she tried to judiciously settle our sibling squabbles, took my side though her defense was lukewarm. (It WAS funny!) She told my brother that sort of thing was not funny to a person as afraid of snakes as I was. But it was damned funny to my brother and his friend... and to me, still, all these many long years later.