Friday, July 7, 2017

Sibling Rivalry and Nostalgia

It’s become a tradition that during the summers, I keep my nephew for a few weeks.  Obviously it’s because I’m a much better mother than my sister is.

Okay, really it’s because my boys are very close to his age and I have a much higher tolerance for noise than my older sister does. It’s like a neighborhood party around here all summer that every kid in the tri-state area wants to attend, and I love it.

Except for those days when I find myself screaming the F word at all of them before stopping short and going, “Oh, shit. I forgot to take my Zoloft.  Carry on, children, carry on!” and then scurrying down the hall to the medicine cabinet with a cup of water in hand.

It reminds me of my own idyllic childhood, where ours was the house in which every kid in the neighborhood wanted to convene—and my mom was awesome about it. I’m not sure if she, too, popped anti-anxiety meds in order to deal with all of the chaos (she was more of a daytime drinker; potayto, potahto), but in any case, I love providing that for my own kids. (Not the anti-anxiety meds.  The LOVING CHAOS.)

But it’s crazy when your kids are getting older and you start thinking back to when you yourself were a kid.  You see, the thing is, I don’t feel old.  I definitely don’t feel old enough to be the mother of an almost-9-year-old and a 6-year-old, but here I am, KILLING it.  Like, I’m pretty damn good at it, you guys.  But every once in a while—okay, at least once a day—I’ll look around and realize that I’m the adult in the room and not only that, but I’m responsible for these two kids that are mine.

And then I’ll get to thinking back to when I was their age and how old I thought my own mom was and how recent it all seems…it can’t have been thirty years ago that I was the same age as my 10-year-old nephew…can it?  It’s fucking surreal how life works.

The most fun part, though, is seeing your siblings’ kids do something that your siblings would have done as kids, or seeing the way your own children interact with their cousins and remembering how you used to have the same types of interactions with your cousins.  My older sister and I used to spend at least one week each summer at one of my dad’s older sisters’ houses because she had kids who were exactly our age.  It was so fun. Watching my own kids and nieces and nephews takes me back to those days, and even if the memory is kind of a crappy one—like when my nephew and son are fighting and I remember similar fights we had as kids—I still love to reminisce.  I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

Yesterday, I took my boys and my nephew to the KFC drive-through and ordered a bucket of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, potato wedges, and biscuits.  We were all ravenously hungry after three hours of swimming at the local pool.

I was handed the huge, hefty bag through the drive-through window, and I turned around and passed it to the first kid I saw in the back—who happened to be my nephew.  “Now I know you’re hungry, buddy,” I said, “but don’t open the bag because you’ll let all the hot air out and we want to keep it warm until we get home.”

He nodded his head very seriously, and in that moment, I had a flashback from a similar experience that his mother and I shared when we were growing up.

She’s two years older than I am, so when she turned 16, she began driving me to and from school.

She used to skip lunch and instead save the lunch money that Dad gave us every day to use on fast-food takeout for an early dinner on the way home.  I was always jealous because there was NO WAY I would have been able to skip lunch; I LOVE to eat and was always starving by 9 AM.  So I had no money left to buy anything from whatever fast-food joint my sister’s taste buds had deemed “the one” that day, but by the time we were pulling through the drive-through, I was hungry again and would begin salivating as soon as the bag was handed through my sister’s driver’s side window.

“Ugh!” she would say, wrinkling her nose in disgust at me as she passed the bag over.  It was my job to hold the steaming, delicious-smelling food in my lap until we got home. “Quit making that face!  It’s like you’ve never eaten before.  Stop staring at the bag!”

I once tried to put the bag of food onto the floor in front of me so that I wouldn’t get into trouble for looking at it the wrong way, but my older sister had slapped me and made me pick it back up.  “It’ll get cold on the floor. I need your body heat to keep my tacos warm.”

I swear that really happened. 

One day I almost lost it on her.  We were in the Taco Bell drive-through and she had just been handed her Mexican pizza.  She started to pass it to me so that it could scorch my legs per usual as it rested on my lap, but then she stopped, the bag hovering in the air between us.

“How hot are your legs?” she asked me.

I blinked. “Huh?”

She sighed as if I were the one being the dumbass in this particular situation.  “I ASKED how hot your legs are. Like, what temperature?”

My mouth dropped open.  “What do you want me to do?” I asked.  “Jab a fucking thermometer into them and find out for you?”

I’m just kidding. I didn’t say that.  I was scared to death of my sister.  She had once gotten into a physical fight with someone at a party and later laughed, showing off the bite mark that the girl had left on her boob. My dad didn’t think it was so funny.  “Imagine having to tell all of your friends you got AIDS from a girl who bit your boob at a keg party,” he kept saying.  “You need to be more careful when you fight.”

So of course I didn’t mouth her, because that crazy bitch would have probably pulled a thermometer out of her purse and done it for me.  It wouldn’t have been a stretch—our dad is a food inspector.  Meat thermometers were plentiful around the house. (“Hmm…no, I can’t find a pen, but here’s this meat thermometer if that will help?”)

Instead, I gave a slight shrug of my shoulders, an uncertain lift of my eyebrows, and said, “Like, 98 degrees?”

I had just learned in health class that that was where your body’s temperature should hover, and it seemed like a good enough answer to me.

And to my older sister, too. She narrowed her eyes, sizing up my legs to see how much heat was radiating off of them.  Apparently she was satisfied.  She plopped the hot bag on them, muttering, “My Whopper was kind of lukewarm yesterday. Your chicken legs better not make my food cold today…”

Ah, memories.

I wonder what today’s shenanigans with my nephew and boys will drudge up from the recesses of my mind?  I hope it’s something good, like the time my older sister and cousin stole the 50 cents my mom would give each of us to buy one snack for the entire 5 hours she would drop us off for at the pool, and they ate Reese's peanut butter cups in front of me, licking their fingers as I writhed on the wet concrete with hunger pangs...

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