How I Survived My Brothers

The one with the red hair is my imaginary sister, Denise.

“Hey! Wanna play a fun game?” my older brother grinned and snapped his gum, a bright pink blur flashing between his grimy teeth. “Like, super cool fun?”

“Well–no. Duh.” I stuck my chin out. I was an awkward seven year old girl with pigtails and tortoise shell eyeglasses; a jumble of spindly arms and legs. “I’m busy,” I sniffed and continued to comb Cowgirl Barbie’s horse’s mane with a tiny purple brush.

“Aw! C’mon! It’s called Rocket Launcher!” he pleaded. “You’re gonna looooooove it!” he sang with an ominous high-pitched voice.

Why did that suspicious tone suggest otherwise?

I stood up, smoothing my red polyester pants and straightening my glasses. “Okay,” I shrugged. “I guess.”

Little did I know, “Rocket Launcher” did not involve a rocket. But there would be plenty of launching.

It was the late 1970s, and I was growing up with five brothers. This particular lazy Saturday afternoon, two of them and I clambered up the rickety steps to the attic; the shadowy place where ghosts, dusty boxes of 45s and my great-grandmother’s ratty fox stole lived.

“Okay, I’m gonna be here…” my older brother laid down on the attic floor and raised his legs up, pulling his knees to his chest.

“And you are gonna sit on his feet,” my younger brother giggled, a little too maniacally for my taste. “And then we’re gonna launch you! It’s just like you’re flying! It’s so cool!”

“Yeah, yeah. Very cool.” Both my brothers nodded and grinned.

I blinked.

Maybe I wanted to impress them. Or maybe it was the tempting “very cool” description.  I’m not sure why I did it. Or how I managed to be launched into the air only to come crashing down 15 feet away onto a box of baseball cards. Or how I didn’t notice the dozens of rusty nails protruding from the old rotting beams in the attic’s roof, mere inches away from impaling me during the launch. But I did it anyway. Every man (or tomboy) for him/herself.

Back then my life was filled with wrestling matches on the front lawn, BB guns and tree climbing. Often there were more wild adventures such as throwing a four foot steel rod inbetween the spokes of my brother’s Schwinn to see what would happen. Our father was less than thrilled when my younger brother limped into the kitchen, trailing blood from the perfectly round hole in his foot where the steel rod had once been.

I survived a rough and tumble existence, even joined in most of the time. We all had our share of scratches, bumps and bruises. Over the years, three of my brothers had stitches, one a concussion and one suffered a BB pellet to the corner of his eye in an unfortunate ricochet accident. Usually if we were injured, we’d slap a band-aid on it, suck it up and move on. My father was big on the washcloth cure. As long as we could put a damp washcloth to the wound, we’d be just fine. There were the occasional tears and mostly they were mine; crying behind my closed bedroom door, drowning myself into my plush purple pillows, clutching my Laura Ingalls doll for dear life.

My brothers did show their love and affection for me from time to time. Mostly with headlocks, noogies,  and relentless teasing. I can still hear their haunting voices taunting me from the past even now: “Darla and Shaun Cassidy! Sittin’ in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” Sometimes I’ll have flashbacks of the Barbie Massacre. I woke up and shuffled into the bathroom one morning only to find a few of their perfectly coiffed heads floating in the murky toilet.

This is the wearied look of a girl with no sisters and Barbies in the toilet.

Still, as tough as I tried to be for them, as much as I attempted to shield my tears behind closed Shaun Cassidy postered doors, there was always that small soft trusting spot buried deep down inside. Where my lip-gloss and rainbow ribbon barrette true sweet self longed to bloom.

Oh, Shaun! Our love was doomed from the start.

Which is why I believed them when they offered to apologize for the Rocket Launch Mishap by whipping up my favorite “Triple Thick Chocolate Shake”. They had renamed it the “Triple Thick Surprise Shake”. I was surprised they could be so considerate and eagerly gulped it down, still wallowing in my trusting nature. It wasn’t until I reached the bottom of the glass and tasted the ketchup, Tabasco sauce and pepper combination that I realized my brothers were merely boys after all.

Today, I am still that trusting sensitive little girl. Add to that my ability to be tough on the outside and I can endure most anything. I survived five brothers.  I will always stand up for the underdog, having been one most of my childhood. I will speak out without hesitation if I sense any injustice. No one can push me around. My headlock technique is top-notch and I’m not afraid to use it. Besides, now I am a little wiser. I refuse any chocolate shakes with the word “surprise” attached to them and never ever do I say, “Okay, I guess,” if someone suggests I be launched.

Thank you, dear brothers. You’ve taught me well.

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74 thoughts on “How I Survived My Brothers

  1. Oh no. This did make me laugh. I’m sorry though if it’s at your expense. Wow! 5 brothers–you are tough! I Love your dad’s “washcloth” cure, a very empathetic gesture to make things better. My dad wasn’t so discrete…rather than water, every scratch or cut got a good staining of mercurochrome painted on the ‘boo-boo’. I guess he was wise in doing it though, because the orange spot probably prompted sympathy from others who may have asked “aw, what happened to you?”

    1. Oh, no, laugh away, Georgette! I can laugh about these things now, thank God. To give my father a little credit, he DID actually add a little soap to the washcloth. I may be wrong about my recounting of the number of stitches and concussions and other injuries. There were so many! my poor poor Mom. I was tough. I was once run over by my best friend on her bike. She completely rolled over me after I fell down onto the road. I had tire marks on my stomach. I limped home, my father gave me a washcloth and I was good. 😉

  2. Such a wonderful post! I just love the picture of you with the wearied look. 5 brothers. I can’t imagine. (I got off easy – 1 older brother and 1 older sister.) But I sure am grateful that it put another ‘underdog defender’ in the world 🙂

  3. 5 brothers, wow. I only had 1 and he was 4 years younger than me. We hardly ever fought. Now I have three boys and 2 girls and they fight constantly. It drives me bananas. I know my girls will grow up tough and have plenty of protection, though. They take full reign with the teasing and aggravation, but don’t let anyone else get away with it.

    I’m sure your brothers would love this post, as I did.

    1. Thankfully I have one younger brother, so eventually we became closer and he was more on “my side” when it came to fighting. I did have plenty of protection growing up though, so there was that benefit. I’m sure my brothers would laugh at this post and probably deny most of it. 🙂

  4. John Erickson

    You survived 5 brothers – amazing. I barely survived an older sister. There wasn’t a year that we started school in the fall without a sundry collection of bumps, bruises, cuts, and scrapes. My dear sister put me in the ER TWICE in one summer alone. And yet, somehow we managed to continue conspiring on new stunts of idiocy for our mutual delight.
    Well, until she turned 17, and lost 90% of her common sense. Or after her first boyfriend dumped her a few years later, and she became a total … well, it rhymes with switch. It sounds cruel, but I don’t miss who she is. I do miss, however, having a sister.
    Wanna go for the vacancy? I promise not to launch you into space (though I may take you on a drive that’ll turn you equally white), and the only surprise I’ll put in your chocolate shake is more chocolate! So whaddaya say – it’s a great job (though the pay stinks) and the hours are reasonable. I’ll throw in a copy of that Shaun Cassidy album (yes, I did actually buy that). Deal? 😀

    1. Damn, in the ER twice, huh. Maybe I should be thankful I didn’t have an older sister after all. You poor man.
      I would be happy to fill that vacancy (you sold me on the Da Doo Run Run album) but I don’t know if I can ever trust a chocolate shake again. Oh, and launching is definitely out. I forgot to add to my story that my brothers had (in their infinite wisdom) set up a mattress in the corner of the attic to provide some cushion for my crash to the floor but I, of course, missed it entirely.

      1. Bua ha haaa! I just choked on my water again. Yes! that would be absolutely perfect, John.

        I should change mine to “My Barbie’s in the Toilet” or “Beware the Chocolate Surprise” Pretty much sums up my life.

  5. Kim

    Oh, Darla! I loved reading this. I watched a lot of that happen when you lived in Florida, and I heard about some of the stories when you were back in Maine (the bb gun story stands out the best). Because Davie (my only brother, for those of you who don’t know me) is so much older, I was pretty much an only child growing up. I envied the fact that you had siblings so close to your age . . . it was like you always had a playmate. Had I known ALL of the stories, maybe I would have been thankful for my brother that was always out of the house on a date, working, etc!

    1. Yes, Kim, that’s right: don’t envy me! Consider yourself lucky. I am grateful I had brothers (I can say that now, probably not then) but they really were relentless.

      The BB stories are legendary. Do you know about the one when Danny shot a BB into someone’s house next door, near the baby’s nursery? Thank God no one was hurt and I’m sure Danny feels horrible about that to this day, but I swear, we were all lucky we didn’t get killed most days.

      Another great story is when Chris was all of three years old and got into my dad’s car, put it in neutral and the car slid back and nailed Leon Gorman’s (the president of Bean’s) car. (or maybe not, the story has morphed over the years and seems more ridiculous the more I hear it!)

      Oh and the number of times a window was broken by a baseball or some other flying object, good lord. I always remember something breaking, my brothers running like hell and my mom’s angry face and her screaming. Good memories!

    2. Oh, Kim, I also have to point out Darrin in the top picture. You see that sly look on his face? the wicked gleam in his eye? Right after this picture was taken I do believe he pulled that gun out of his holster and shot Denise point blank.

    1. Ha! Thanks. I’m happy you liked it. I was trying to get across my hesitation and had to weigh my options: to launch or not to launch? Impress my brothers or save myself from serious injury? “I blinked” said it all for me.

      Oh, Denise. She was such a good sister. I have no idea what happened to her. My mom probably sold her at a yard sale without telling me, right next to my older brother’s precious rare baseball cards.

  6. Ah, I remember being lauched (and doing the launching) as well- but we did it outside on the lawn. Such memories! And so many brothers. It’s a miracle you survived. My own two brothers were more than I could take; fighting constantly until probably high school. And yes, one of them gave my Skipper doll a hair cut. My final word to anyone who is steaming mad at their brother: don’t slam the front door if your hand is on a pane of glass. (14 stitches).

  7. See, the lawn would have been a much smarter choice, Sue. Far far away from rusty nails and hardwood. We did have lots of wrestling on the front lawn though. Our favorite thing to do was to pretend we were SuperFly Jimmy Snuka (an old wrestler my dad watched at the time) and throw ourselves off the front porch, crash-landing on whoever was unfortunate enough to be waiting on the ground. Amazing we didn’t break more bones!
    Having two brothers, you know how it can be. How terrible about Skipper! And you got stitches? yikes! I managed to never get any, not sure how.

  8. Love these stories. I had 3 little brothers, the youngest born on my 17th birthday (a lot of people thought he was my child). So they weren’t old enough to wrestle or get into too much trouble while I was still home. It is a wonder you didn’t break more bones.

    1. Thankfully, my brothers were a little easier on me than they were on each other. My three older brothers and I did have quite the age gap as well, so I basically suffered the wrath of the two closest in age to me. Might be the only reason I survived.

  9. Snoring Dog Studio

    Sweet stuff! I grew up with three brothers and so I do understand the tormenting so well. Thankfully I had one sister who could support me sometimes when she wasn’t throwing in with those scoundrels! Now, I, too cherish my bros for their support, teaching and caring. It was all worth the growing up years.

    1. I often dreamed of having a sister, just one ally would have been nice! But I did have a best friend who also had only brothers and we bonded and took care of each other the best we could. I do appreciate my brothers and am lucky to have had all those playmates growing up. Plus now they realize what they put me through all those years ago and are extra nice to me!

  10. Hi,
    5 Brothers, talk about being out numbered. I just can’t imagine what it must of been like, but you managed to survive without too many injuries, not an easy thing to do I imagine.

  11. Darla, this was excellent. By the way, I had the same horse. Loved that horse. Did I realize you had 5 siblings? Because, I have 5 siblings, too. I’m the youngest though, and there are five girls and only one boy. (And no, we did not put his GI Joe’s in the toilet.) HA!

    This was a great story. Truly. I loved reading it. Glad you lived through the childhood years. 😀

    1. I seem to remember that the horse was named Dallas or Blaze. Oh, how I wish I still had it for my own daughter to play with now. You had five siblings, too?! Well, I can honestly say that I feel for your brother, I really do. 😉 I should have retaliated by throwing their GI Joe’s in the toilet… but I actually had a conscience. 😀
      Glad you enjoyed my stories, Lenore!

  12. This is fantastic. I had no idea you had five brothers. You are unbreakable! We went to a friend’s house for brunch today and our only boy looked around the table and his face lit up as he said, “Dad! We’re not outnumbered, look!”. Even split, boys & girls.
    I had that Shaun Cassidy album too, and my sister had the pink satin jacket. Ten years ago I did a tour with his brother Patrick and Shaun came to one of the parties and was looking for a cigarette. I promptly gave him one of mine and then called & told my sister (“OMG!!! I just gave Shaun Cassidy a cigarette!!!!”). After that I was able to quit. I knew I could never top that with anything in my smoking career.

    1. It took me a bit to pick my jaw up off the floor to respond to this comment, JM.

      O. M. G.

      yeah, that would get me to quit smoking, too! Good lord! You are living the life I always dreamed of, my friend. 😀 hell, I would have been happy with just the pink satin jacket!

  13. My headlock technique is top-notch and I’m not afraid to use it.

    😀

    I will bear this in mind, should we ever meet!

    (I’m curious now to peer inside my brother’s brain and see what he has to say about growing up the one boy to three girls.)

    1. Yeah, if we ever meet Deb, beware the noogie! 😉

      I’d be curious as to what your brother would say, too. My husband grew up with two sisters, no brothers, so he had the experience of being the odd one out. I think he’s much more sweet and sensitive than a typical man because of it.

  14. With that kind of training, your kids don’t stand a chance. They’d better surrender now.

    Great post, Darla. Another funny and intimate glimpse into your past, and into the person you’ve become. “I blinked” was my favorite sentence, too.

  15. Priya

    You’re a force to reckon with. 😀

    I enjoyed every bit of this post, including the parts that made me gasp in awe at your resilience. But my favourite part is your eyes in the second last picture.

    1. Ha! Yeah, that was usually a good tip-off that something wasn’t quite right. But I would ignore my gut feeling anyway. Too trusting. Plus I suppose I wasn’t the sharpest rusty nail sticking out of an attic’s roof.

  16. Wow. I can’t imagine. I have three boys and I hope to have a girl someday. Whenever it will be, it will be a girl with, so far three, active very much boy siblings. Scary thought. I better watch them well. I always read these things in stories- funny to hear them in reality. Nice job and getting through it. 🙂

    1. If you have a girl, be prepared. She’ll have to be one tough cookie. But once I was older, it was nice to have them around to protect me. Of course, I didn’t have any steady boyfriends until college but… 😉

  17. I had 3 brothers, but they were all younger and outnumbered by 6 girls. I always thought the girls with older brothers had a definited advantage because they learned how not to cry, and their brothers would introduce them to all their cute friends. Now I see the seedy underbelly of big brothers and thank my lucky stars. Thank God you survived!

    1. Good lord Peg, I’d say you had a definite “girl” advantage growing up! 😀 I was lucky to have at least one brother that was younger so I could tease him a bit (when the others weren’t around).

      I was never introduced to my brother’s cute friends. It was more like, “Hey. Dude. Don’t you dare go near my sister or I will KILL YOU.”

  18. Seriously, I barely made it out alive with just ONE brother. Kudos, lady. I still cringe when I think about basketball. My brother’s version consisted of throwing the ball at my face without warning 😦

    1. Yikes, Tori! I think my brothers pulled that b-ball trick on me more than a few times. So in a way, even one brother can be just as hard to survive. I’d like to say they toughened me up a bit, but if I’m being honest, it just made me more emotional and sensitive to others’ pain in life!

    1. I bet she is! No one will mess with her either. Her brothers will protect her. I am happy my son is already very protective of his little sister. Granted, she probably won’t have any dates until she’s in her 20s, but my husband is fine with that. 😉

  19. My husband is the youngest of six children, 5 boys and 1 girl. My sister-in-law was second in line, I think that helped with her survival.

    I like you even more knowing we share a love of Shawn Cassidy and his satin jackets.

    The best part of blogging is discovering other blogs. I’m so glad you found mine because now I get to enjoy yours.

  20. Diana

    I came here by way of Accidental Stepmom and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed this and could relate a bit even though I only have two brothers. My older brother managed to bestow his own special form of torture…hitting me in the mouth with a baseball while trying his curve ball on me, he and his friends teasing and my sister, and making me climb in the back seat after he would pick up his friends as he drove us to high school. Good times.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Diana. Always good to know there are others out there who’ve survived things like baseballs to the face, yikes! Your story about your brother driving you to high school reminded me of one of my brothers. He had this rusty hunk of junk van that literally had NO FLOOR in the back. A huge gaping hole where I’d sit and dangle my legs and watch the road rush by underneath. He called his car The Magic Bus. It was pure magic that I didn’t fall down into that hole. Those were the days!

  21. Aww this post makes me laugh and makes me want to defend you from your brothers. But it’s good to hear, I guess. Boys will be boys…I am learning. I can’t stop my two year old from constantly wanting to push, hit, tackle or whatever else he wants to do to his younger brother. I mean, I do stop him, but sometimes it happens in the blink of an eye and I wonder why? It’s like he gets these “testosterone surges” (as my mother calls them) and just wants to tackle anything in sight. Sigh. Ah, well. I will just resign myself to being a referee for the next sixteen plus years 🙂

      1. Washcloths. Sounds like a plan. One of the many posts I wanted to write but never did, was about how all of us have bruises! Me, from being clumsy and bumping into things while holding screaming children, and them from…you name it. Falling while walking, being pushed…you know just bumps and bruises. But we’re surviving 🙂

  22. Oh, dear God. I only had one older brother and I barely survived. You poor thing. I do recall a similar Rocket Launcher experience except my brother called it the Rooster Booster.

    I had that same horse, though it was black.

    [Shaun Cassidy, if you’re reading, you were so blind. Darla and I were so worthy of your affection. Your loss, buddy.]

    1. Now if my brother had called it the Rooster Booster, I’d like to think I would have declined. 😉 (nah, I’d probably be game for anything back then)
      I had two, yes, two horses, the black one and the brown one. I do believe they were called Midnight and Dallas. I wish I still had them for my daughter.
      And, yes, Shaun: your loss, pal! Hmph.

      1. Yes – Dallas and Midnight!

        The name of the twin brother of Jack Tripper? The name of Barbie’s horses, circa 1980? Wow. That is unbelievably impressive. I may need to borrow you as a fact-checker on my future 1980s-related posts.

      2. I’m a regular treasure trove of trivia (whoa, too many TRs in that sentence!) I would be honored to be your fact-checker, but after reading some of your hysterical posts last night, I don’t think you need me at all.

      3. I don’t know if I placed this “reply” in the proper sequence but just wanted to say a big ol’ thanks for your kind words! Really! Yes, when I get 35 subscribers to my blog, you can say you remember way back to when I only had 30 🙂

    2. I hate it when I don’t know where the proper “reply” button is either! ha! Yes, I will be sure to say I knew you when because I have this strong feeling you will be FP very soon, your blog is fantastic.

  23. I very much enjoyed that post, and remember too well the “rocket launch” I got duped into, or the Chuck Norris kick-deflecting pillow that my brother let me “use” when he practiced his karate moves (hint: it didn’t work), or the loogie strings hung directly over my face as my brother sat on my chest with his knees on my arms. Boys.

    I thank my brother (and later brotherS) for making me tough. Even today, I can kick some ass if I’m called to do it, and I trust no one when he says, “Hey Shannon, pull this finger…”

      1. Shannon

        Ha! Four. One blood, and three who “married in” when I was in high school. It was too fun “getting” brothers. And one little sister who distrusts me to this day (I was pretty bad to her as a kid).

        Our version of noogies was the dreaded knuckle-thump-on-the top-of-the-skull. There was even the more deadly tookie-feathers (I might have to share a video of that one).

        As my kids will attest, the knuckle-thump is by the best way to inflict immediate pain, er, uh command ATTENTION, without leaving a mark.

  24. Pingback: Firsts and Lasts in Maine | Rachel's Table

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