I realized recently that my childhood was a calm existence, one that was sheltered from the juvenile violence of boys. While girls are sugar and spice and everything nice, my husband and his two younger brothers were rough and tumble, 2×4-throwing adventure seekers.
I discovered this while we hosted Terry’s middle brother, Chris, who was visiting from Bend, Ore. On a chilly fall evening, we sat around the dining room table, sipping on North Dakota made white wine, appropriately named “Freezling.”
I sat back as the two oldest siblings reminisced about childhood fights, pranks and some of the craziest things I have heard about boys attempting. I had heard many of these stories before and I have to say, the family is full of good and accurate storytellers. I have never heard the stories waver, unless they are being told in front of a fresh memory that lends new details to the tale.
A story Chris told was new to me. Outside the family’s Fargo home, he painted an iconic American picture: his older brother Terry riding a bike toward him on a sunny evening. That’s when he tried to throw a 2×4 so it would land just under the front tire, that would cause Terry to flip his bike. A large grin spread over his face as he recalled his plan.
“But I aimed wrong and I ended up cracking you in the back of the head real good instead,” Chris said.
“I don’t remember that,” Terry said.
I don’t imagine he would. He probably had a concussion.
These city kids had so many stories involving 2x4s that I lost count. Then there was the story about the youngest brother falling from the rafters of the cabin, the falling 30 feet out of a tree – twice – and the one about convincing each other to do cartwheels off of the top bunk bed. After all of these tales, the brothers tallied the broken bones and laughed about how they survived living with each other.
I wanted to feel included in the storytelling so I shared one of my favorite memories from childhood. Mind you, the existence with my two brothers was not filled with violence, but with clever maneuvers and crafty execution. There were forts to build, golf carts to drive dangerously when adults weren’t looking and fields and woods to explore. We lived in a land of make believe, with elaborate story lines, movie sets and somehow, it always ended up to be two against one. When minor injuries or shattering glass occurred, it was usually met with a harmonized duet of “Don’t Tell Mom!”
Early one sunny summer morning, Mom trucked off to the garden for a full day of pulling weeds. She bribed Kent and I: if we made chocolate chip cookies, we could be excused from weeding, as least for a while. Kent and I together often equaled mischief and this time was no different. When the dough was perfect, we prepared the cookies for baking in the form of dough balls. One of us (probably Kent) had the idea to throw the dough at the ceiling.
And suddenly there were three dough balls stuck to the ceiling. That’s when we heard the front door open and Mom walked into the kitchen to get some water. We talked to her, while avoiding eye contact with each other and refusing to look up.
As she left the kitchen a giant plop of dough landed square on the counter. She never knew, and eventually those three grease spots faded from the ceiling. Don’t worry, we didn’t turn that dough into cookies.
To boys who tossed 2x4s instead of cookie dough, my story sounded lame and was met with stunned silence. While our stories are completely opposite, they are our own. These are the details that are shared around the family dinner table; they bind the siblings and the parents and they bring about laughs, ooos and ahhhs. Our similarities lie in the fact that we have stories to tell and we love to share them. Both sets of siblings especially love to tell stories their parents have never heard – and weren’t meant to hear – until now.
Out of all the stories, the “don’t tell Mom” tales usually bring about the best reactions.