My brother’s 40th birthday is this week. My family already celebrated this event last week with a surprise dinner at one of his favorite restaurants in Idaho Falls, Idaho. At this dinner I was given the honor of toasting (not roasting) my brother. It was rather good, I must say, and if you had been there I am sure that you would have been touched. You were not there. For this reason I am going to relate the story that I told, to you.
This story involves my first experience with a particularly notorious vulgar term. Although I do not condone censorship, in an effort to keep this blog fairly family friendly, I will truncate said term to only its first letter, which happens to be the letter F.
My childhood home was far enough from any schools that I wasn’t able to walk and it was very rare that my parents would drive any of us, so my sisters and I rode the bus nearly every day from 1st to 9th grade. Any parent knows, or at least they should know, that numerous seedy activities take place on the bus. The further toward that back that one sits, the more trouble one is apt to get into. I do not remember where I was seated when I head one of the older kids use the F word that week. Nor do I remember what exact variation of the word he used. However, I do remember exactly where I was seated when I, later that week, decided to shout it at my older sister, Becky. The look on her face was one that only a sibling loves to see; shock, anger and “Ooh, I’m gonna tell mom” all wrapped into one.
I was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old at the time and I am sure that I was quite proud of myself. Little brothers live to annoy their older sisters, and I was very good at being a little brother. Becky did, indeed, tell my mother and I was punished. End of story? Not quite. Enter Paul, my older brother.
Not long after the original F word incident, my little sister Leah, Becky, and I wanted to watch Disney’s The little Mermaid. Because my brother had it on Laser Disk we had to ask him to put it on for us. As it was starting he pulled me into one of the bedrooms and told me there was something that I needed to do before I could watch it. If I wanted to watch the movie I needed to tell him the word that I had recently gotten in trouble for saying, the one that started with an F. I did not want to say it because I had promised my mother I would never say it again. However, I did not want to miss the movie either. As any child in my position would, I chose Disney and broke the promise I had made with my mother. Strangely, Paul made me repeat the F word quite a few times.
It was then that he opened the drawer of a nearby dresser revealing a Fischer Price tape recorder. I was shocked as he rewound it and let me listen to myself repeat the F word over and over. I had been duped. If I was ever to upset him or fail to do his bidding the tape would be played back for my parents and I would be toast! I was too young to realize that he would most likely be in more trouble than I, so I took it very seriously. I can’t remember how long the blackmail lasted but I am sure that it was no longer than a day, if not just a few hours.
This reminds me of a generic plotline from prison dramas where inmates blackmail each other for small favors and lunches. A memorable movie quote from A Very Brady Sequel also comes to mind. “You have to lie, cheat, steal, and even kill to make it in the big house.” Strike out “the big house,” replace it with “the Chiappini family” and you have the lesson that I had just learned. If you are going to survive being one of the youngest in a family of 9, you’ve got to be on your toes!
All jesting aside, it is experiences like these that have made me who I am. Some might think that this would be traumatic for an 8 year old, but in this case they would be completely wrong. I look back on my childhood and relish in these somewhat bazaar moments. They make life fun and memorable. After all, do you recall the time that your brother put The Little Mermaid on for you? I didn’t think so.