in the home of a family of nine


# 001        10 / 08 / 2010

I am ironing. Mama is helping Littlest Sister with her math. Third Brother rushes noisily into the living room, sporting a jacket, sunglasses, and a pistol. We all look up. “Don’t worry, guys. I’m the FBI.”

# 002        10 / 16 / 2010

Littlest Sister tells me that she feels guilty because she knows she should go exercise. I launch into a great monologue about the benefits of a motivating guilt and the depressing weight of an inoperative guilt. “Why sit here and rehearse the reasons for not wanting to do something?” I flourish my cleaning rag. “Just do it!” Littlest Sister puts aside her crochet, and laughs. “You have this strange ability to make people want to do something they don’t want to do.”

# 003       10 / 20 / 2010

We are rehearsing for our upcoming performance. Biggest Brother loses his train of thought when Second Brother starts goofing off in the corner. Turning on him with wrath, Biggest Brother pronounces his dire ultimatum. “Stop it, or I’ll lick your forehead.” He insists he meant “lick” in anther sense. I don’t know; saliva is threat enough.

# 004       11 / 2010

Mama was making strenuous efforts to attract someone’s attention; she was smiling and waving her hands. We all noticed her at the same time. “Are you looking at me?” Papa asked tenderly. “No, she’s looking at me,” said Second Brother, with a dazzling return smile. “She’s looking at me!” Third Brother insisted. “No, no,” said Littlest Brother in placating tones. “She’s looking at all of us.” Second Brother whirled about, shocked. “But that’s Communism!”

# 005       11 / 24 / 2010

That morning, Littlest Brother and I had a repeated conversation about why brothers and sisters cannot marry each other. Even after I simply explained some of the Scriptural, legal, and medical objections, he insisted that in “his town” it would be allowed. He returned to his schoolwork, dissatisfied. Finally: “Samy, do you know what I’d like to do with you? It starts with an ‘m.’” “Hmmm...” I made a show of guessing. “Could it be marry me?” Littlest Brother hid his face and giggled. “Well, yeah. That was kind of obvious.”

# 006       12 / 2010

I am not sure where Littlest Brother (5) picked up the idea that I am very old and need to get married soon. Biggest Brother warned me that Littlest Brother had been asking about my prospects, and one morning I caught him rehearsing a speech for some unfortunate gentleman. “Sir, would you like to marry my sister?” He nodded towards me, where I stood shocked, dressed in my work-a-day t-shirt and old skirt. He turned apologetically to the invisible man. “She has more clothes than that.”

# 007       12 / 27 / 2010

I had carefully arranged myself in one of the front seats before I realized that Biggest Brother would have to walk over me to get to his seat. He made a great show of passing, including falling heavily into my lap. “Stop it, or I’ll hit you with my clutch,” I warned, brandishing my famously compact purse (and perhaps landing a few smart ones). “I thought only cars had clutches,” Biggest Brother joked, stomping on my feet. He reached for his seat belt and elbowed me. “Computers too.” I thought about that. A bit further down the road... “Oh no, wait. That’s a glitch.”

# 008       1/ 01 / 2011

I was brushing my teeth, and I could hear the two youngest boys talking quietly in their bedroom. From their murmur a single sentence suddenly emerged with startling clarity and a more startling eloquence; I narrowly missed choking on the toothpaste. With quiet gravity, Littlest Brother had observed: “I’d rather be a smashed-up pig.” The alternative must have been terrible.

# 009       1/ 07 / 2011

“What will happen to my stuff if I die?” Second Brother wanted to know. “Plunder!” cried Mama, and we all laughed. “No, really,” he insisted. “Where will all my stuff go if I die?” Mama shrugged. “To whoever wants it.” “NO-O-O-O!” was his anguished cry as Second Brother imagined siblings disordering and taking his most precious things. “I’m going to make my will right away!”

# 010       1/ 19 / 2011

It was late, and Papa was tired. “Well, folks, I’m going to bed,” he announced after several unsuccessful attempts to convince us to do the same. “We’re procrastinating,” said Next Sister. Biggest Brother furrowed his brow. “Procrastinating? What’s that, again?” “Always waiting to do things until tomorrow,” was the collective definition. Biggest Brother shook his head. “I thought procrastinates were things that blew up out of volcanoes.”

# 011       1/ 2 0 / 2011

"What should I do with my hair?" Littlest Sister moaned a common complaint among the females on Sunday morning. "You know what the options are," I replied testily, buttoning my blouse. “A braid, a flip, or a scalping.” It's not as bloody as it sounds. Those are actual family names for real hair-styles. The scalping is so named because Mama likes to use her fingernails to achieve a perfect part.

# 012       1/ 2 0 / 2011

We'd eaten and cleaned up after our evening meal, and the little boys were eager to dance. "Alright," I agreed, taking out my iPod, "but there will be no games of Ninja during the Virginia Reel." Their new favorite is the Circle Waltz, surprisingly. Recently, Third Brother has become interested in actually learning and doing proper waltz steps. Pleased with his success, he said, referring to the square structure of the dance,  “I like boxing.” I guess that's the macho way to put it.

# 013       1/ 20 / 2011

I had just gotten comfortable in bed when I heard my name being urgently called. "Yes?" I asked, coming out and blinking sleep from my eyes. Mama and Littlest Sister were in convulsions of laughter. "Do you know what this little boy says he's going to ask the next good-looking man that comes along?" They indicated Littlest Brother who was hiding his face in the bedcovers with merry embarrassment. "Oh no!" was my response. Littlest Brother is on a campaign to get me married. "He's going to ask him some questions. Are you married? Are you a Christian?" "Well, those are good questions," I laughed. "Wait!" they cried. "Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you have money? Do you have a house? Do you have lots of clothes?" “Are you a hobo?”

# 014       2/ 07 / 2011

Biggest Brother came into the house with a grin spread over his face. While doing outdoors work he had overheard Third Brother quoting loudly from a favorite movie: "Joe, don't be a sap!" Littlest Brother, eager to show that he understood the joke, likewise proclaimed on the top of his lungs, “Joe, you need to take a bath!” Yes, I seem to remember some interesting games of Chinese telephone.

# 015       2/ 08 / 2011

Littlest Brother had set aside his arithmetic book and was struggling to lift his special chair. "Where are you going?" I asked him, taking it from him and prepared to help move it. He grinned mischievously. “I'm going to go play hockey.” His sport is basketball. "Do you mean hooky?" "Uh, yeah."

# 016       2/ 15 / 2011

Littlest Brother was matching words that sound the same but are spelled differently. In my best teacher voice I said, "These words are called 'homophones,' which just means 'sounds the same.'" Littlest Brother giggled. "Don't say 'homophones,' Sammy. It reminds me of a video game." I was nonplussed. "Uh, did someone say that word in a video game?" He giggled again and began quoting the cafeteria lady from the JumpStart First Grade program. I didn't hear any mention of homophones. "Did she say 'homophones,' though?" I ventured again. "No, Sammy. She said 'sandwiches,' and you said 'homophones.'" Okay. So I still don’t get it.

# 017       2/ 17 / 2011

Biggest Brother came to me, and his frustration was obvious. Literature is not his favorite subject, and poetry is worse. "What is this supposed to mean?" he asked, waving Edwin Markham's poem over my head. "He's talking about the calm in the center of a hurricane, and then he says it's like being 'In the hollow of God's Palm.'" "Oh, you know," I said and stretched out my hand, pointing to the indent in the center. "That is the hollow of your palm." "Well, for heaven's sake, I thought he was talking about a palm tree." He can be forgiven. Hurricanes and palm trees sort of go together where we live.

# 018       3/ 02 / 2011

Biggest Brother swung open the bedroom door. “I know it’s probably eleven o’clock,” he apologized to us girls. Less certainly, “Is anyone awake?” We managed a collective moan. “You have to hear what’s going on next door,” he told us, referring to the boy’s bedroom. “Next Brother is talking in his sleep. Know what he said? It’s hilarious! ‘She’s ugly. Have you ever seen her sit on a log?’ And then there was a sound of gunfire from Third Brother’s bed. Pshoo. Pshoo. Pshoo.” Boys are noisy even in their sleep.

# 019       3/ 11 / 2011

Littlest Sister called dramatically, “Come here right away, because your fate is sealed!” “What?” Second Brother was confused. “Your fate is sealed,” she repeated urgently. Biggest Brother hadn’t heard either, and was glad for the clarification. He said, Oh! I thought you said ‘Your face is seen’!” The next day, we repeated the story and enjoyed a good laugh. “What’s that?” Mama asked from the front seat of the van. “Your face peeled?” Chinese Telephone is a way of life for us.

# 020       3/ 28 / 2011

You really know you’re home-schooled when your sister bangs on the window and yells, “Put that gun down, and finish your school!” (To be quite clear, it was a water-gun Third Brother was wielding.)

# 021       4/ 2011

New neighbors have moved in next door and have begun intensive yard-work that includes cutting down the bank of trees that used to stand between us. Littlest Sister observed dryly, “They’re really going to regret tearing down their sound barrier.”

# 022       4/ 10 / 2011

Littlest Sister responded to Biggest Brother’s statement with extravagant skepticism. “Boloney! Salami and cheese.”

# 023       4/ 12 / 2011

“You should have known I was going to take a bath,” Second Brother chided his mother. “I take a bath every night, starting last night.”

# 024       4/ 21 / 2011

Next Sister picked up an abandoned motor scooter while walking with the dog. Although the seat was missing, it seemed in otherwise good condition. Biggest Brother, though, had this to say about the tires. “They were deflated, as was the man when he discovered that the lady didn’t love him.” We all love Sam Weller of The Pickwick Papers.

# 025       5/ 08 / 2011

“I see a queen ant!” Littlest Brother announced excitedly. “How do you know it’s a queen?” I asked, teacherish. “Because it has wings,” he replied. “Kill it!” urged Second Brother. “Why?” “So it won’t make any more ants!” Littlest Brother dubiously eyed the crown-of-thorns plant. I wouldn’t smash a bug that’s on a spiky plant.” Smart kid.

# 026       5/ 08 / 2011

Papa darted through the polka Littlest Sister and I were dancing across the living room. “Your mother and I are going out to get gas for the van,” he announced. The opportunity was too great to be missed. “Have a gas while we have a ball!” I am given to intermittent attacks of paronomasia.

# 027       5/ 17 / 2011

Third Brother is playing policeman today, and his brothers are obliging him with an endless succession of bad guys to apprehend. Littlest Brother creeps up behind him, brandishing a ruler. “This is a machine gun,” he informs the officer menacingly. “Put your hands up, and don’t try any funny business! I might laugh.”

# 028       5/ 22 / 2011

I wasn’t sure at first that I had heard correctly. Next Sister was peering into the mirror and suddenly exclaimed, “Wow! According to this mirror I have two eyebrows.” “Most of us do have two eyebrows, you know,” I observed dryly, “except for those of us cursed with monobrows [family joke].” It turns out that the beveled edge of the mirror gave the appearance of two brows over one of her eyes, which would be a strange thing indeed.

# 029       5/ 25 / 2011

“You’d better put your nettle tonic in the ‘fridge unless you want to get botulism,” I warned her. Next Sister leapt out of bed, but turned at the door and asked with bright interest, “What is botulism again? It sounds like some weird belief.” “I believe you die from it,” I returned. When she came back, we had some discussion on botulism and Botox. “You put your nettle in the ‘fridge, right?” I interjected. “Yes,” Next Sister replied. “I didn’t want to get botched.”

# 030       5/ 29 / 2011

Littlest Brother stepped into the bathroom, but was soon out again, exclaiming, “You-reek-uh!” I remember that Archimedes uttered this same phrase, also while running out of the bathroom—but for a very different reason.

# 031       6/ 03 / 2011

Third Brother didn’t catch the trick question the first time around. Could you give your friend the larger half of an apple? his math book asked. “No,” was his correct response. Why? “The pigs!”

# 032       6/ 12 / 2011

You can tell summer has arrived in Florida when a dinner-table discussion can appropriately center around roaches and roach-traps. One roach-trap claims to infect a roach so that it will take the poison back to its nest. Next Sister was dubious. “Roaches don’t even have nests!” Mama tilted her head. “No, I didn’t think roaches were congregationalists.” “Actually, they’re non-denominational,” Biggest Brother declared. Mama rolled her eyes despairingly. “They’re Universalists.”

# 033       6/ 19 / 2011

Littlest Brother has several times impressed others with his vocabulary. People do double-takes when a six-year old wants to know where the “eating utensils” are kept or expresses his opinion that something “reeks.” Indicating a plug-in air freshener, Littles Brother asked Mama, “Is that what you click when you smell a stench?”

# 034       6/ 26 / 2011

It’s lychee season, and the streets are lined with signs and vendors. Our tio loves lychee, a sweet and slippery fruit like a huge grape in a hard peel; we bought some as a Father’s Day gift for him. Several weeks later we attended a baby shower which Tio also attended. While exploring the edge of a small lake, the boys found small elongated black creatures swimming in the water. “Leeches!” Biggest Brother declared. Littlest Brother was excited. “Oh, Tio loves leeches! Let’s give them to him!”

# 037       7/ 04 / 2011

We had enjoyed a spectacular fireworks show, and now we were tramping through a dark, muddy alley on our way to the parking lot. Now and then someone ahead would shout the warning, “Puddle!” Most of us wound our way around the pools of dark water, but Second Brother splashed right through a very big one. Coming into the lit parking lot, we remarked on his pants, which were soaked to the knees. “Well, no one warned me until I had three feet in it!”

# 038       7/ 17 / 2011

Papa and Mama were out on a date; we children stayed home and watched episodes of Larkrise to Candleford. As each came to an end, everyone begged to watch another. Finally, we decided on—really—only one more. We sighed when the credits began to roll, and a voice announced, “Larkrise to Candleford is back next Sunday at eight o’clock.” Biggest Brother sat back in his seat. Who would stay up ‘til eight to watch this?” There was a brief pause, and then we all looked impulsively at the clock. It was 10:56 P.M. The hilarious laughter that ensued was proof enough of the late hour.

# 039       7/ 12 / 2011

We had just come from the beach—the nine of us and an aunt and two cousins. Everyone was talking at once, and in the babble some conversations combined to become quite ludicrous. “Do you want to get electrocuted?” Next Sister shrieked. With all seriousness, Papa seemed to reply, “It’s on my list.”

# 040       8/ 26 / 2011

Next Sister wasn’t feeling well, but she had trouble diagnosing the trouble. “I have a headache, she moaned. “Well, I don’t know if it’s a headache, but it’s kind of achey and it’s on my head.”

# 041       9/ 03 / 2011

Biggest Brother wanted to know what LOL stood for in an email. “‘Laughing out loud,’” Mama and I answered together, “and ROTFL is ‘rolling on the floor laughing.’” We all chimed in with the acronyms we know. “IMO is ‘in my opinion.” “Or you can say IMHO for ‘in my humble opinion.’” “TIA is ‘thanks in advance.’” “TTFN is ‘ta-ta for now.” (Biggest Brother liked that one.) “How about HTH?” I was about to reply, “Hope that helps,” but Next Sister had a better idea. “HTH. That’s for ‘Hold that horse.’”

# 042       9/ 15 / 2011

We are studying the nervous system and our senses. After reading I ask the boys to tell me the five senses and the parts of our bodies that help with these. The first answers are quick: “Eyes and sight.” “Ears and hearing.” “What else?” I prompt. “The no-o-o-se...” Third Brother hesitates. Littlest Brother giggles and suggests, “My sense of humor.”

# 043       9/ 19 / 2011

Second Brother was quoting a favorite line from the animated version of Hiawatha. A talkative rabbit had asked, “Do you know what I like better than talking to people? Carrots.” It was a late night, though, and when Second Brother tried to say it, it came out a little differently. “Do you know what I like better than talking to carrots?”

# 044       9/ 18 / 2011

“My heart is beating a hundred times a second,” Next Sister declared breathlessly. “It’s the refined sugar in the sausage,” Papa suggested. Next Sister shook her head and sighed heavily. “Not my physical heart.” Excuse the misunderstanding.

# 045       9/ 26 / 2011

Gentleman paper-doll was being rather attentive to Lady paper-doll, who was trying to choose vegetables for dinner. Father paper-doll came up rather suspiciously and wanted to know what the Lady was doing. “Shopping for fresh produce,” she replied. Father glared at the blushing Gentleman. “That’s not the only fresh stuff you’ve been picking up at this market.”

# 046       9/ 27 / 2011

I was reading aloud William O. Steele's exciting book The Buffalo Knife. There was a constant danger of hostile Indians, and our protagonist's hair often stood on end. Littlest Brother observed knowingly, “That makes it easier for the Indians to scalp him.”

# 047       9/ 28 / 2011

Biggest Brother has been experimenting with a 3-D animation program on the computer. After dinner, he wanted to show us his latest creation. "Come to the office to see my freaky face," he said. I couldn't help it. “I can see your freaky face from here.” "That was good," he said after he was done laughing.

# 048       9/ 29 / 2011

Second Brother landed a smart one on the seat of Third Brother's pants. "Excusez-moi," he begged with a flourishing bow. Third Brother chased him until he landed a smart return. He apologized too. “Excuse me, Ma.”

# 049       9/ 29 / 2011

Second Brother was bent over his health textbook. "What three steps should you take to stop severe bleeding?" he read aloud. I offered my own answer. “Three steps toward the hospital.”

# 050       10/ 01 / 2011

I hadn't realized I wax so long on the topic of nutrition, but Littlest Sister advised Mama, “If you don't have time to talk, don't ask her about food.” Consider yourself warned.

# 051       10/ 04 / 2011

One grabbed Littlest Brother by the arms—another, by his legs. A playful tug-of-war ensued until Littlest Brother shrieked: “Oh, please! Not the limbs!”

# 052       10/ 16 / 2011

Don't ask me how Sweeney Todd became dinner-table conversation, but Mama soon acquainted us with the plot of this Victorian "penny dreadful." Second Brother shook his head over the details of the barber's murderous method. “I know what he would do if he had any brains. He wouldn't do it.”

# 053       10/ 16 / 2011

We were enjoying the last of the wild boar Second Brother had shot earlier in the year. Much of the ham was tender enough for eating, but there were some pieces that defied all chewing. Littlest Brother pulled one stubborn piece from his teeth and stared at it. "Too tough?" I asked him. His reply: “You could make a scabbard out of this.”

# 054       10/ 16 / 2011

Littlest Brother had this choice dinner-table advice for Papa. “Don't laugh when you are drinking orange juice. It will come out of your nose.”

# 055       11/ 08 / 2011

It was evening, and we were curled up in the parlor behind the humming projector. We were watching Moby Dick with Gregory Peck as the obsessed Captain Ahab. The crew of the Pequod was pursuing Moby Dick across the screen, and a crazed Ahab triumphantly identified each of the harpoons bristling in the whale’s white side. Littlest Brother, snuggled beside me, remarked, “The whale is probably thinking, ‘That was a tasty leg.’“ Two fighters fondly reciting their victories...

# 056       11/ 11 / 2011

We passed around the phone one evening, talking to Grandpa. Third Brother, it seemed, was receiving the infamous “girlfriend” interrogation. We heard only his incredulous reply: “Of course I don’t have a girlfriend. Insane-ity.” This said in a British accent and followed by, “Oh, never mind.”

# 057       11/ 15 / 2011

Next Sister rushed into the kitchen. “I forgot to turn the crock-pot on,” she exclaimed, punching buttons. “We’ll have dinner late today.” This announcement was met with a sudden piercing wail. “Destruction, death, and desolation!” Second Brother was Very Hungry.

# 058       11/ 18 / 2011

It was the familiar contest between female and male over the necessity of regular bathing. Mama insisted that Biggest Brother needed a bath today, but Biggest Brother was not convinced. “In fact,” he challenged. ”If I wasn’t working tomorrow, I could go without a bath three more days.” Mama shook her head definitely over this. “Like fish and company, you stink after three days.”

# 059       Archive: 2010

We took Third Brother to the ear doctor, thinking he might have a hearing problem. The doctor checked him first with an otoscope. “There are no structural problems,” he assured us when he was done, but noted that “He does have a short canal in his left ear.” The doctor then excused himself to prepare the hearing test. Third Brother sat silently in his chair. Finally, he said thoughtfully, “No wonder I would have trouble hearing with all that water.” “What water?” I asked. “Well, he said there was a short canal in my left ear.”

# 060       Archive: 2007

“I need a drink of water,” Third Brother declared. “My throat is laughing.” “What?” Mama asked. “My throat is laughing,” Third Brother persisted. “I need some water.” It took some further questioning to discover what he meant.—His throat had a tickle.

# 061       12/ 12 / 2011

Littlest Sister tripped, recovered, and tripped again. She drew herself up in the doorway. “I will leave while I still have my dignity,” she intoned. It was an opportunity not to be missed. Next Sister and I began to babble at once, our favorite lines (slightly adapted) from a favorite play. “You lost that some time ago. If you haven’t noticed, it can’t be very important to you.” We all laughed, and then Next Sister sighed. ‘We’ll never be able to say that again.” (Originally, Richard Rich was lamenting the loss of his innocence in A Man for All Seasons. Thomas Cromwell was unimpressed.)

# 062       12/ 30 / 2011

We were watching the opening credits for A Man for All Seasons, starring Paul Scofield. Having created a few movies ourselves, film credits actually interest us, and we like to read aloud familiar or interesting names. John Hurt starred as Richard Rich and Corin Redgrave as William Roper. The actors’s names were listed side by side. “John hurt Corin Redgrave,” Biggest Brother read aloud. “The big meanie.”

# 063       01/ 11 / 2012

Littlest Sister is doing algebra this year. Until now, she has found math fairly comprehensible. It has not been so with the new strings of numbers and letters. “I hate algebra,” she declared to me. “I mean, I H-A-T-E it!—To the second power!

# 064       01/ 12 / 2012

Hoodwinked is a favorite family movie with plenty of quoting material. ("Be prepared! Be prepared!") A favorite scene is when the police use the tape-recorder to slow down the incomprehensible speech of a caffeinated Twitchy. ("It sounds like he's saying words of some kind!") Twitchy's frantic message is unexpectedly verbose: "He resides at the top in a cave fortress," he said of the Bandit, "where my companions are trying to detain him." Third Brother was quoting this line, but it came out a little differently: “Where my friends are trying to entertain him.” "Sweet tea and cookies! We've got to do something!" "I know. The song was catchy, but the choreography was terrible."

# 065       01/ 13 / 2012

Someone was beating a tattoo on the front door. "Who is that?" Next Sister asked us, as she went to open it. "I have a dead feeling it's Mama," Third Brother intoned. (He was "dead sure" it was Mama?) "A dead feeling?" I asked with a smile. Third Brother tolerantly explained, “A feeling that is dead.”

# 066       01/ 29 / 2012

In a large and affectionate family, a lot of playful pinching and swatting happens. My favorite response is to turn quickly on the offender and laugh as they scurry away shrieking. “The wicked flee when none pursue,” I observe, quoting a favorite proverb from the Bible. The other day, Littlest Brother pinched me and ran away before I could (possibly) return the favor. Having had no such intention, I began “The wicked flee...” but Littlest Brother interrupted me indignantly. “I am not a wicked flea!”

# 067       01/ 29 / 2012

Next Sister recently had her hair cut short and layered. Mama curled it on Sunday, and Next Sister got plenty of compliments on her cute style. Asked for her own opinion later that day, Next Sister sighed. "I do like it curled," she began. “With straight hair, I don't know so much.” There was a brief silence and then an explosion of laughter. Curly hair is a sign of intelligence.

# 068       01/ 29 / 2012

We were discussing glasses and eye degeneration. Seven of us already require the aid of glasses or contact lenses. Second Brother threw back his head despairingly. "Are we all going to be blind when we're old, or what?" “We'll see," I said. Or not.

# 069       02/ 03 / 2012

We had a medieval theme for Littlest Brother's birthday. Biggest Brother and I, with the mandolin and flautino (as the recorder would have then been called), were traveling minstrels come to regale the king with "Happy Birthday to You." Our presentation was begun a bit prematurely. "Wait," Next Sister interrupted, "for the video camera." Biggest Brother shook his head. "Those haven't even been invented. “We'll be waiting a long time."

# 070       Archive

“What is gesundheit again?” Littlest Brother wanted to know after I wished a sneezing sibling “health.” “That is what you say when someone sneezes,” Third Brother explained. “Like when they go ‘Achoo!’ and you say, ‘Blast you!’” “It’s bless you,” I said when I was done laughing. “I hope you haven’t said that to anyone.”

# 071       02/2012

I was serving dinner to our hungry family, and with so many white plates hovering under my spoon, I got serving sizes confused. Papa looked at his little bit of chicken. “I guess that’s all I get?” he joked. In my embarrassment (not yet complete), I stuttered, “Would you like some more on?” “Are you calling me a moron?” Papa asked indignantly. Never end a sentence with a preposition.

# 072       Archive: 2010

Mama delivered a dire ultimatum to Biggest Brother. “When you graduate from high-school, you can go to Patrick Henry College. “Or else you are going to Arlington.” “The cemetery?” Biggest Brother grinned. Give me liberty, or give me death.

# 073       03/05/2012

We were exchanging early memories. “What is the first birthday you remember?” someone asked. I remembered details from my second birthday. “Huh,” said Biggest Brother after listening awhile. “I don’t remember any of my birthdays.” Littlest Sister rolled her eyes in mock commiseration. “You poor, depraved child!” “Uh, that would be deprived.”

# 074       03/05/2012

“I love you!” Littlest Brother received this declaration with equability. “I love you,” Mama said again. “You’re supposed to say something back.” Littlest Brother considered this, and finally ventured, “I know you do.”

# 075       03/28/2012

After Mama underwent some tests for severe dizziness, she was not impressed with the obvious diagnosis: “You have acute vertigo.” We had fun suggesting responses. “Yours is pretty cute too.”

# 076       04/2012

Cubans have an old wive’s tale that getting your feet swept with a broom dooms you to lifelong singleness. (This was manifestly to keep young people out from underfoot—er, from under-broom.) Biggest Brother was sweeping the kitchen after dinner one evening, and I got in the way. “I swept your feet,” he said markedly. I suggested, “Maybe that’s why I can’t be swept off them.” “Har, har.” Biggest Brother later struggled to take out the garbage. In frustration he cried, “I can’t tie the knot!” Feeling very punnish, I wondered aloud whether his feet had been swept. Biggest Brother rolled his eyes. “Har, har.” Well, he isn’t married yet.

# 077       04/2012

Next Sister had a minor accident while moving the truck in the driveway. It sounded impressive, but she had only nudged the van’s trailer hitch. Biggest Brother came in after surveying the damage, and assured us there was only a small, round dent in the front bumper of the truck. “Looks like Kirk Douglas.”

# 078       04/26/2012

We kept looking at each other and smiling wordlessly, but this became too much for Third Brother. Finally he asked, “Why are you looking at me with those historic eyes?”

# 079       05/02/2012

I walked into the guest room and saw a drooping figure curved into the computer screen. “Sit up straight! Do you want to be a hunch-back?!” Grandma sat straight up. “Oh, no, not you,” I laughed, embarrassed. “I was talking to Littlest Brother.” After some silence: “Since going to the chiropractor I have been very conscious of posture.” [awkward exit]

# 080       05/08/2012

I was recounting Alexander Dumas’s effusive description of Mercédès in The Count of Monte Cristo. “She had hair black as jet,” I said, “and her eyes were as soft as those of a gazelle. She had the arms of Venus de Milo.” I stopped to consider this, and then wept with laughter. “Venus de Milo doesn’t have any arms!” (Mercédès had them, obviously.) “Venus de Arles, is what I meant.”

# 081       05/09/2012

The children were watching the Pixar film Cars. Second Brother was frustrated with Lightning McQueen’s lack of focus in the final race. He screamed, “Drive like a car—not a philanthropist!” You know—the kind of philanthropist that enters a race to let the other cars win. (Second Brother meant ‘philanderer,’ since McQueen was distracted by his girlfriend Porscha.)

# 082       05/16/2012

There was a shoot-out in the playroom. The boys, all brandishing pistols, found places to hide behind the furniture. Littlest Brother threw himself into an office swivel chair, and crouched behind the chair’s high back. However, the force of the impact caused the chair to swivel, exposing him to the others. There was a spatter of shots. As Littlest Brother lay on the ground, he gasped out, “The chair—it turned on me!”

# 083       06/11/2012

The children have been doubling up the last of their schoolwork, in order to enjoy a longer summer vacation. Second Brother worked on his books into the evenings, and he was excited to have only half a page of multiplication left of the day’s work. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is his favorite poem, and he exclaimed, “Half a page, half a page, half a page onward!”

(Speaking of fun quotes, Littlest Brother recently yelled “Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!” before he jumped into the swimming pool. We’ve been rehearsing the assassination scene from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.)

# 084       06/10/2012

I have worn Eternity by Calvin Klein as my signature perfume for three years. The big bottle I received for Christmas two years ago seemed like the widow’s jar of oil. Finally, last Sunday, I used the last of the perfume, and ceremoniously carried the empty bottle to the recycling bin. To my family I announced: “I have just run out of Eternity.” “Didn’t think you could do that,” Papa remarked.

# 085       07/12/2012

The letter ‘P’ has rubbed off the label of my essential oil. It now reads ‘ATHCOULI.’ Gesundheit!is my immediate thought.

# 086       07/15/2012

Third Brother got a good whack in the eye while roughhousing with siblings. He was afraid it would bruise and asked me, “What do you put on an eye before it gets black?” I was about to answer when Biggest Brother interrupted with this Mark Twain-esque answer: “A fist.

# 087       08/18/2012

Next Sister needed help carrying heavy things into the kitchen, and the younger brothers surrounding her seemed incognizant of the fact. Mama called to them, “Why don’t you guys help her? Why are you all just standing around?” Third Brother added, “Like Christmas Eve.You know how Christmas Eve is always standing around? Just get over here, for heaven’s sake!