Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Adventures in Babysitting

It was like a scene from a movie. Those little shits! I had to give them points for ingenuity—what could they do if they decided to use their power for good instead of evil?

They were two and five years younger than me, and since our parents’ divorce, I often had the unenviable chore of babysitting my brothers. It was not a job for the fainthearted. Over the years they inflicted different levels of cruel and unusual punishment on a variety of caretakers, leading me (at the ripe old age of 12 or 13) to tell my mother that I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown if I had to be responsible for my brothers for one more minute. Our mother’s brilliant solution was to put everyone in charge of themselves. No one was responsible for anyone else. Nice in theory; impossible in practice for one uptight good girl, one rebel without a cause, and one baby brother who just wanted to be included.

It wasn’t all bad. We often found ourselves having a good time. Enjoying our freedom and using our imagination to create fantasy worlds where we played characters that had nothing to do with the real life we lived. Sometimes we even played characters based on people we knew—our favorite being the youth pastor from our church, Ross, and his wife, Bonita. We played Ross and Bonita for days, and I can’t for the life of me remember why. It was one of our favorite games, and when I think back to it, it always makes me feel happy even though the exact nature of the game is fuzzy.

There were many times; however, when I didn’t want to have anything to do with my brothers. I wanted to make up dances and do gymnastics with my friends. I wanted to pretend like I was an only child and didn’t have to worry about anything but myself and my fabulous, spoiled life. I believe it was one such time when, exasperated and tired, I sent my brothers to their room and told them to stay there. I went into the front room and settled in to watch my soaps—a habit picked up from my mother and grandmother. On a commercial I checked at the door of my brothers’ room and heard them playing with their little, plastic army guys. Satisfied that they were going to leave me alone, I allowed myself to get caught up in the latest drama unfolding on Days of Our Lives, and completely forgot about my annoying little brothers.

When the show was over, I came back to reality and took the dreaded walk down the hallway to check on my brothers. As I approached their room, I could hear them playing. They were still playing army guys, and I was surprised at how long that game had held their attention. I decided I’d better open the door and see what they were up to. The scene that met my gaze took a minute for me to process. On the bed was a pile of little, green army men sitting right next to a tape recorder from which came the sounds of my deceitful little brothers playing army guys. The curtains were billowing out of the open, screenless window. There was not one little boy in sight.

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