Today my baby brother Turtle turns 46, and in his honor, I'd like to tell you a couple of stories about him.
Turtle and I did not get along when we were kids. I'd say to my mom, "I HATE him!" and she'd say, "Don't say hate." So I'd say, "Well, then I dislike him intensely!" and that was apparently OK, even though it makes no sense at all. I hated him because he had the ability to say exactly the right thing to infuriate me, and I had absolutely no ability to moderate the intensity of my emotional response to his relentless teasing.
We grew up on Lowell Road, which was paved to just past our house. Then one day the giant dump trucks came and dumped tons of paving rock on our street--and in a hot second, Turtle and I were both out there hurling rocks. Who could resist the temptation? Why else would they dump a bunch of rocks there, if they didn't want us to throw them?
It was all fun and games until I threw a rock and hit Turtle in the head. He started bleeding copiously and crying--but I cried harder. Even though I hated him sometimes, I didn't want to actually kill him.
I may have hated him at times, but we also had fun playing run-the-bases on the side of the house. We could play this game for hours, Turtle and his friends and me; we wore dusty brown tracks into the grass that my dad worked so hard to keep green and lush. He'd attack the dandelions one by one, and religiously follow his Scott's lawn care regimen--but by the time we were done pounding, running, and sliding, the earth would be showing through and the grass would be patchy.
We made up games like Just Barely Made It in the family room. Just Barely Made It involved climbing from one piece of furniture to another without touching the floor, which was a pit of hungry, snapping alligators. From the love seat, to the swivelling desk chair, to the ottoman, to the blue stuffed rocker, we'd imagine our way across the room like climbers facing a hundred-foot drop with the slightest mistake.
Sometimes we got into trouble together. When mom was sitting in the aforementioned big blue rocking chair, we'd sneak up behind it and tip the chair backwards until she was lying on her back with her feet waving in the air, screeching at us to put her back upright.
"You kids get back here right this instant!" she'd holler, and we come in all innocent-like.
"What's the matter, mom?" we'd ask innocently, not noticing that she was stuck like a turtle on its back.
"Get me back up before I break my neck," she'd say, and we'd oblige. Eventually.
Every Halloween, Turtle would collect massive amounts of candy. He'd hoard it in his room, selling it off piece by piece to the kids at school who ate theirs within a week. This was back in the day when kids could roam all over their suburban communities without their parents, ringing doorbells of total strangers with nary a scary thought. We used pillowcases for maximum-strength candy totage.
And the candybars, children, the candybars! They were full size--not the lame microscopic portions that we dole out today. Turtle would bring his Hershey bars to school after a couple of weeks, and sell them to his classmates at a huge mark-up. The Hershey Bar Index puts the cost of a full-size candy bar at 10 cents in 1970. My entrepreneurial brother would sell them on the playground for 50 cents or more. He even sold candy bars to the retarded kid for the silver dollars that the kid stole from his mother's pocketbook.
I'm happy to report that his sense of ethics and responsibility is no longer stunted, and he is one of the most trustworthy, ethical, and kind-hearted people that I know.
Happy Birthday, Turtle!