||[Mar. 31st, 2008|02:19 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
In 1974, three months before my fourth birthday, my little brother was born.
In 1973, we'd moved into our house. It was lumpy and lopsided and you couldn't find a 90' angle in the whole place, but it was ours and it was better than the various apartments we'd lived in. It had a HUGE yard, a ridiculous "barn/garage" structure, and it abutted a swamp. Mom painted our bedroom while pregnant, but I ain't gonna say nuthin' about paint fumes and my brother's brain. Nope. I'm bein' good.
I had the impression that babies were cute and fun to play with; ergo, I was looking forward to the birth. I was wrong. I also thought I'd get to hold him a lot, an idea encouraged by lots of folks because it was cute. Unfortunately, my bro was the arch-his-back and flip-out-of-your-arms type of baby. You'll notice in this picture there's a lot of STUFF keeping us in place.
Check out little boy blue there. Freakin' huge. There's a bunch of other pictures wherein I am smooching his head ("kiss your baby brother!") and he is screaming his lungs out.
ETA: ALMOST FORGOT! Sitting in the backseat of the family car, looking up at the scary and looming hospital, with Dad in the front seat, while we waited to pick up Mom and the new baby, is one of my first coherent and clear memories.
The observant LJ reader may recognize the colorful tail feathers of THE CHICKEN LAMP in the background. Yes, that is the very same Chicken Lamp that lives in my dining room, the only legacy I requested when my parents began their Grand De-Crufting Process.
And here's the only photo I can find from 1975...
It's a little washed out, so in case it's unclear, I am holding a home-made stripey teddy bear, probably made by my Mom (she sewed a lot), and grinning like a loon. My legs have already outgrown my body. I have patches on my knees cuz I was a helluva tom-boy and I always wore out the knees in my pants long before anything else. I don't remember the heart-shaped ones. I only remember the iron-on denim ones from later on...
And that bean-bag! Well, first off, it was the 70s, so gimme a break. Second, we LOVED that thing to death. And it held up for years. Jeez, I'd forgotten about that thing. Best lounging seat EVAR.
The backhoe behind me was probably my brother's. We used to call them "digger machines" because, honestly, no one around us bothered to tell us the real name. We regularly came up with names for things based on their function.
Positive narrative: I was disappointed in not being allowed to play with the baby more. On the bright side, we had a huge yard and Mom & Dad bought me a swing set, which was AWESOME. Man I loved me some swings.
The swamp in the backyard was part of the original forest that covered the area. Probably before we moved in, but ramping up sometime after we got there, were development projects all around us. Our little dead end street was OLD, as were a couple of others in the area. But behind us, stretching along behind the whole street and well beyond, where it was once forest, it became THE DEVELOPMENT. Yep, that's what we called it. "They live over in the development" or "I got lost in the damned development today."
Fortunately, they left a wide swath of forested land - maybe 50 feet at its narrowest, often considerably wider - between us and The Development and winding throughout The Development itself. Much nicer than today's land-clearing McMansion Expansion. And the wildlife did its best to continue surviving despite the effects of The Development. When we were young, we regularly saw deer in our backyard. Little herds, usually two does and buck. There were raccoons, skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, moles, mice, salamanders, and the occasional loose dog, plus tons of birds and insects.
And there was also our cesspool, which had the most lush and verdant grass you could imagine. It was also stinky. But there is a strange kind of magic in having a dangerous and forbidden spot in the middle of one part of the lawn, tantalizingly sitting there in plain sight, with no explanations (or, perhaps, no explanations that made sense to me... I remember myself as being much more of an "observe, discover, and draw conclusions" type of little kid than one who asked questions).
When you ask questions, adults notice you and shoo you away. Wise little people stay below the sight line, move quietly, and learn much.