Today is kind of a macabre milestone: it’s the day I have officially lived longer than my father. So I’ve been thinking a lot about The Nukes – my Original Nuclear Family. The Nukes consisted of my father, who was a salesman of many different products, mostly home improvement services; my mother, who was a stay-at-home mom; my sister, the baby of the family; my brother, the middle child, and me, the oldest. We lived in a row house on the outskirts of Philadelphia (if you crossed the street, you were no longer in Philadelphia). There were about 65 houses on my street, so there were lots of kids around to play with, and lots of Halloween candy to harvest.
I was 8 when my sister was born. When she was in utero, and people were guessing the sex of the baby, I would get really upset if anyone dared to guess it would be a boy. I felt it was akin to an election, so if people kept guessing “boy,” that was what would win. Luckily, I got my heart’s desire, a baby sister. I adored her, and I still do.
My brother, 4 years younger, was something of a devil. He wasn’t bad, just sort of a wise guy, saying outrageous things to people and then wondering why they would get upset with him. He still does that! He would laugh when my mother got mad at him, and when she would hit him with her slipper, he would laugh harder. She used the slipper because he was very skinny and it hurt her hand to hit him. Of course, it never occurred to her NOT to hit him. That’s how it was back then. I thought it was barbaric and I have never hit my children.
I was the smart one, my brother was the sports fanatic and my sister was the sweet one. I was pretty rebellious, which caused a lot of friction between my parents and me. By the time my bro & sis came along, the ‘rents were already worn down and just gave in. Example: I begged for years to get my ears pierced. Finally, I was allowed to do it – I think I was 13. When it came to my sister, however, my mother said, “Come on, let’s get our ears pierced!” She was probably 8 or 9.
We grew up and went to college, got married, and had sons. My sister’s marriage is the only one that stayed intact (coming up on 30 years). The 7 cousins are remarkably close, considering that my 2 kids live almost 200 miles away from the other 5. They spent a lot of fun times together when they were little and we would come from Connecticut to Philadelphia or to my parents’ condo in Margate, NJ to visit .
1993, in Margate, NJ
It is a source of great joy to me that they remain so close –thank goodness for Facebook! Somehow they all managed to grow up healthy and without getting into major trouble – no addictions, no arrests, no grudges. I must knock on a lot of wood here. I feel lucky to be so close to my nephews and in their lives, even if only virtually. I get to see pictures and celebrate their successes via the magic of FB.
2010, in North Guilford, CT
One of my nephews is a sports anchorman on a Nebraska TV station. That is pretty cool! He started out doing standup comedy (brought down the house at my mother’s funeral when he told funny stories about her) but as my brother’s son, sports is his religion and now it’s his career. His brother is also a sports nut, and he’s involved in social media. I don’t really know what he does on a daily basis, but I find that is true of most males & their jobs.
Another nephew is a high school math teacher, which I think is really a special thing to do. His younger bro is close to getting his degree in medical engineering. My youngest nephew is a junior in college, studying marketing and working part time. My older son is an IT dude and my younger son is a manufacturing engineer (I don’t really know what they do each day either). I can’t believe they all get up and go to work like responsible adults. How did that happen?
Among the 7 of them, there is 1 tattoo, 5 pierced ears, 2 beards, 1 wife, 1 fiancée, 2 long-term girlfriends, and 3 swinging bachelors playing the field. There were 7 Bar Mitzvahs between 1994 and 2004. My mother died 7 weeks after the last one. One of the prayers at her service discussed the significance of knowing when your work on earth is done. I think she knew she couldn’t check out before the last Bar Mitzvah – not that she had a good time at any of them (terrible social anxiety), but at least she was there.
It’s wonderful to have siblings with whom to dissect all the madness of growing up in our family. We each see things from our own perspective and often disagree about parental intent or even whether certain things happened at all. But it’s always endlessly fascinating and oh so validating. There are only 2 people in the entire world who experienced what I experienced in the formative years and beyond. We speak our own secret language when we talk about that!