Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Brat

I was a brat. I didn’t mean to be; I just was. Or at least that was what my brother Chris thought. Chris was 7 years older than me and everywhere he was, was where I wanted to be. But in the spring of 1972 when I was 8 and he was 15, everywhere he was, was not where he wanted me to be.

Chris was the brother who taught me to swim, ride my bike, climb trees and pop the heads off my sisters Barbies. Of course I would want to be with him. So when mom and dad sat me down and told me that on Saturday afternoons Chris would have to babysit me while they did something with Beth, Brian and Eric, I was ecstatic!!

I couldn’t wait for that first Saturday to arrive. Finally it did and I was alone with Chris. He would have to play with me. I had it all planned out in my mind: we would ride bikes to Forest Park, climb trees and go swimming. But then there was a knock at the door. It was Elsie, Chris’ first girlfriend.

Chris and Elsie went into the den and sat down on the couch to watch TV. I went into the den and sat down right between them and proceeded to beg Chris to play with me stating firmly that mom said he had to. Chris just poked me, pinched me, called me a brat and told me to get lost. I just sat. Elsie was much smarter than Chris. She didn’t call me names or poke me. She just reached into her pocket and paid me to leave. That worked. And it worked for weeks.
 Life was good, until my parents informed us that we had to move. We couldn’t take Elsie with us. Chris was mad and my cash flow dried up. It was devastating. When we arrived at the new house Chris went upstairs to his new room, closed the door and didn’t come out for years. I know he was in there because I would knock on his door and ask him to come out and play with me. He would just throw things at the door and yell, “GO AWAY BRAT”.
Chris did come out of his room in the middle of the night while the rest of us slept. He would go downstairs to the kitchen and bake apple pies. He learned to bake the best apple pies in the world. He would always bake two pies. He would eat one by himself and he’d leave the second pie for the rest of us. I loved those mornings when I woke up and the whole house smelled like apple pie. My dad would heat up the pie and we’d have warm apple pie and ice cream for breakfast. Awesome.
But the years went by and Chris moved to New York City to go to college. More years went by and I moved to Maryland to go to college. Chris stayed in New York City, got married and in the fall of 1990 he had his first son. I stayed in Maryland, got married and in the fall of 1990 I had my first son, Russell.
Russell was born with congenital heart disease and we had to spend a great deal of time in the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. One night when I was there alone with Russell watching his tiny little body hooked up to machines that blinked and buzzed constantly I got restless and decided to take a walk around the hospital. As I walked down a long corridor, I smelled apple pie. I couldn’t help myself, I just followed my nose. At the end of the hall, my brother Chris stepped out of the nurse’s lounge carrying two apple pies and a pint of vanilla ice cream. He looked at me with a big goofy grin and asked me if I wanted some pie.
We gave one of the pies to the nurses working that night and the other pie and the ice cream we took into Russell’s room. We ate. We talked. We laughed. We shared our stories until the wee hours of the morning until Chris had to leave to drive back to New York City. After he left, I stared at the empty pie plate in the trash and thought to myself, “Wow, my brother Chris came all the way from New York City to hang out with me and not one time did he call me a brat or tell me to get lost!”  Life is good.                                       . . .  Happy 55th Birthday Chris!!

Everyone has a story to tell . . .
Audio version of "The Brat"  -  click here