Tag Archives: Brother

I’M A SLOW LEARNER

The back door to the house I grew up in, swung out onto a set of narrow concrete steps. With no handrail, opening the storm door on a windy March day was like raising full sail in a hurricane. That was the kind of day my Dad called a “Winnie-The-Pooh-Day and the kind of day I called fun.

I'm Telling Mom!

I’m Telling Mom!

After the school bus dropped us off, I would convince one of my younger brothers to open the sail door first. With little brother flapping in midair, clinging to the tiny plastic handle and screaming how he was going to tell on me, I’d casually unlock the house.

After dropping my books on the floor of the hallway, I’d turn around and head back outside.

Slippery Slide

Slippery Slide

An orange rusted swing set stood a few feet from the back steps. The swings had long ago busted and been removed, but the metal slide still survived.Polished to a sheen with Mom’s precious waxed paper, it became a treacherous and savage ride.

Turns out, little brothers are also perfect for experimenting with the trajectory and uncertainty of a safe landing, depending on the number of bricks used to raise the end of the slide.

Now, where did that little brother disappear to?

Now, where did that little brother disappear to?

The frame of the swing-free swing set became my jungle gym. I started out stepping from the crossbar and grabbing the top pipe, then dropping to the ground, but progressed to hanging upside down by my knees. This was much more enjoyable when accompanied by Mom screaming through the kitchen window, ” Teresa Carol, you get down right now before you kill yourself!”

On one particularly daring day, I began to swing back and forth. The aroma of a slow-cooked pot roast wafted through the kitchen window and it guaranteed that it wouldn’t be long before I heard what I wanted.

“If you fall, I’m not taking you to the emergency room,” Mom shouted.

I waved and smiled.

Through the corroded window screen I saw her finger jab to my left, indicating a little boy with a broken arm. “I’ve already been twice this week from your brothers shooting off that slide!”

Not content with the amount of screaming coming from the kitchen window, I took a move from the Summer Olympics and decided to throw myself forward and land on my feet.

To my surprise, that is not what happened.

I fell flat on my back and, with a simultaneous thump and whoosh; all the air left my body. I tasted the tang of blood in my mouth and time slowed unbearably. Like I was underwater I heard Mom’s muffled howl, “Mike, save your sister!”

My older brother’s face appeared above mine.

I made note of the ha-ha-you-look-like-a-wide-mouth-bass-gasping-for-air smile on his face and vowed to pay him back…just as soon as I could get the oxygen to return to my burning lungs.

I should be able to tell you that it was the last time I ever tried that move. But, I’m a slow learner.

I Own a Crack Den for Wasps

No Flip Flops

No Flip Flops

I finally gave up one of my Crazie Town mid-life crisis dreams.  The one where I tour the United States with The Ugly Duckling; the 1955 camper I bought two years ago from the flip-flop-wearing not-a-killer, Ed.

No sitting with her on a beach or on a mountaintop.  No Tin Can Tourist Rally or Sisters on the Fly event for us.  But, she has made it possible to fulfill another mid-life crisis dream.

Before the Vintage Camper vision, I’d dreamed of having a little cabin on our 113 acre family farm.  I’d gotten pretty close, meeting with a shed-building company and designing a 10×10 rustic hut.  A week from installation, they called the county for a building permit and were rejected.  It seems that even though across the road there is a plastic skeleton sitting on a broken toilet and next door they have 12 English mastiffs chained up, I’m not allowed to have a structure without running water.

With a lot of tears a little creative thinking, I realized I already owned the perfect little cabin — on wheels.

Ugly Duckling to the Rescue

Ugly Duckling to the Rescue

I drove  hill and dale looking for the perfect place to park her.

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And finally settled on a knoll overlooking the pond. Before you go, “ahhh” I should tell you that this has got to be the world’s ugliest pond. What ever Bubba my dad hired 30 years ago to screw it up  fix it, managed to make it worse.  It’s not deep enough to sustain anything but a few frogs and an acre of pond scum.  But, it’s water and I’m dreaming of the day the crops produce enough money when I can screw it up fix it.

Maybe it is the OCD in me, but I’ve enjoyed carving out my own, personally-designed campground.

I cleared out piles of cedar branches.

Wrestling with Nature

Wrestling with Nature

I bought a picnic table and, against my straight brothers’ wishes, painted it shocking pink — to the delight of my gay brothers.

LGBT Friendly Campsite

LGBT Friendly Campsite

 

Built a fire ring

PERFECT!  Maybe? Nope.

PERFECT! Maybe? Nope.

and, like the giant sofa the movers place in your house that you decide needs to be six inches to the left, I moved the fire ring and rebuilt it again.

Let There be FIRE

Let There be FIRE

I also discovered that the Ugly Duckling is like a crack den for wasps. Not the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant kind, but the one with wings and a painful sting.  And, shortly after that, I was crushed to discover that in an 8×8 space, you should never use a broom to chase them away.

Wasp-1/Mayor-0

Wasp-1/Mayor-0

 

Th-th-there’s Nothing Out Here That Can Hurt Us, Right?

When we last left our heroine, the mayor of Crazie Town, she was enjoying the bucolic surroundings at a remote farm in eastern Kansas. [Click here  to get caught up.]

Nothing but peace and quiet for miles

Nothing but peace and quiet for miles

I sat dozing in the sun, enjoying the peace and quiet when I was startled awake by the roar of a heavy-duty pickup truck pulling up beside me. My brother, Rick, jumped out and, without a word, fired up a weed-wacker.

HolsteinHeiferChewallTractorA few minutes later, I heard the “putt-putt” of Dad’s ancient tractor and watched  my nephew, Jordan, appear on the horizon behind the wheel.  The rusted red monster limped it’s way toward us with one nearly-flat tire.  Jordan made short work of carving out a grass free zone for us with the attached dilapidated mower, that banged an out-of-balance tune with every turn of the blade.

While they worked, Mary and I opened the box containing the privacy tent I purchased to cover the deluxe port-a-potty I’d purchased. I laid the items out on the ground and dug around in the “it can’t be empty” box looking for directions. Fortunately, Mary had put together her fair share of tents, so I handed her the foreign objects and she assembled them into a….well, not a tent exactly.

“Uh-oh,” Mary said. “There aren’t enough poles and two stakes are missing.”

“No problem,” I said, looking at the short, sagging, expensive privacy tent. “We’ll just pee in that stand of trees over there.”

Jordan and Rick disappeared as quickly as they’d arrived.

Eventually, I got around to opening the box with the grill I’d purchased and ripped open the package of hardwood charcoal I’d purchased for a premium price at the organic grocery store.

Somehow, I managed to cook up a delicious dinner of sautéed salmon with shallots and butter. I decided this camping thing wasn’t so bad after all.

Mary produced a bottle of champagne she’d purchased to celebrate my first camping trip.  Neither one of us had ever opened a bottle of champagne but we’d seen it done on TV enough to know there would be a loud POP! followed by the flow of bubbly alcohol. She pointed the bottle toward the setting sun and wiggled the cork.  We cringed, waiting for the explosion.

“Thump.”

The cork fell to the ground between our feet.

Image 6

“Uh-oh,” Mary said “Isn’t it supposed to have bubbles in it?”

“No problem,”I said and added ice to our glasses. We then christened the camper. Well, not exactly christened. I didn’t want to hit The Ugly Duckling with the bottle of champagne for fear she would collapse.

We relaxed into our camp chairs and watched as nature provided a perfect opera. A triplet of deer pranced by. They paused to gaze curiously at us, and then leapt gracefully off stage, toward the creek. A turkey wandered into camp and, surprised to see us, gobble cursed us as he hurried away, stage left. A meadowlark arrived on the table in front of us and sang the closing aria.

There we were, sitting there, minding our own business, wiping melted marshmallows from our chins, when I heard a loud “HUFF” coming from the tall grass behind us. It  sent the hairs on the back of my neck to stiff attention.

“Uh-oh,” Mary said. “That sounded big.”

“N-n-n-no problem,” I said, quaking in my boots. “Th-th-there’s nothing out here that can hurt us.”

To bolster our courage, we broke out a quart of melted chocolate ice cream and gulped it down.

“HUFF.”

“Uh-oh,” Mary said, jumping into the fire ring next to the coals. “It’s still there.”

“No prob–”

“HUFF!”

shutterstock_125462789

“Problem! Problem!” I shrieked. “Run for the camper!

The next day I looked up the sound on the internet.

It was a MOUNTAIN LION!

Click on the huff and then on “Cougar – Montana” to hear the sound. HUFF!

Then again, it could have been – according to the Parks and Wildlife Game Warden – The long call of a roe deer.  HUFF?

The Man with the Neon Green Wig and a Half a Mannequin

Everyone Needs a Half a Mannequin

Aunt Kathleen would be sorry she missed this garage sale

I parked across the street from a church garage sale and watched as this man worked to arrange his purchase – a half a mannequin – into his bike cart. He reminded me of my Aunt Kathleen. Last week, I wrote about the great time I had as a child, visiting her fun-filled home [Click Here] and, a half-mannequin would have been a great addition to her play room.

Somewhere along the line though, as I progressed into adulthood, the tons of items in her home went from amusing to annoying.

When Grandpa died and she had to move to town, I helped her pack up all the junk treasures stacked in the rambling two story farm house so we could cram them into a tiny cottage she’d bought.

Every article had to be examined and evaluated for its worth and, as it turned out, everything was worth keeping. The only place we made progress was in the pantry where, with significant wheedling by my brother, Rick, and I, she agreed to part with the dusty jars of green beans that her mother had canned twenty years ago.

We also managed to toss out several things during the time Aunt Kathleen ran screaming from the house when we discovered at six-foot long black snake living in the pantry.  Rick picked up the rusty shovel that was in the kitchen (you keep a shovel in your kitchen, right?”) and killed the snake, tossing it through the back door where Aunt Kathleen had stood moments before. I froze, a scream ready to erupt when Rick punched my shoulder. “Quick,” he whispered. “Start shoving stuff into these trash bags.”  We managed to fill six bags before she returned.

Aunt Kathleen eyed them suspiciously. “Did I really agree to throw all that away?”

I ducked into the pantry while Rick dragged the bags out to the trash pile.

“Wait!” she cried and took a step to follow Rick out the door.

I held up a broom with a broken handle and said, “This can go in the trash, right?”

She gasped and snatched it from my hand. “Of course not. Mama used to use that to sweep off the front porch.”

That’s what I’ve learned about hoarders – each item has a strong emotional attachment, and to throw it away is akin to having one of their limbs cut off.

The fork with only three tines?

“Mama used to eat her pie with that fork.”

The moth-eaten military uniform?

“Your dad was wearing that when he came home from the war.”

And so it’s gone for the last thirty years. A broken television, kept because she’d bought it with her first paycheck, the new one placed on top of the old one. As she grew in girth, new clothes were hung on top of the smaller ones, which must be kept because she remembered where she’d gone in the outfit. The five hundred decorating magazines blocking the front door — filled with  projects she planned to create with the broken dishes she’d been collecting for years.

And now she’s gone and I’m tasked with going through it all again. The family and I spent a weekend shoveling out and sorting through the first layer. A hundred plastic bags from the dollar store with her purchases still inside. Another hundred bags stuffed with only empty plastic bags. And a dozen stacks, from floor to ceiling, of puzzles.

As I worked through the pile of thousands of empty envelopes and junk mail I could hear my brothers and sister mumbling. “What the? Why would she keep…the plastic tabs removed from her insulin medicine/the empty containers of hand lotion/the expired food?

Our next clean out will be in the basement. I wandered through it the other day and without the layer of trash, I found myself reappraising what’s left.

“Why, here’s a perfectly good wooden clothes-drying rack.” That doesn’t count as hoarding because I’ve been wanting one of those.

“Here’s a cast iron skillet.” That doesn’t count because I can use it in my camper.

“Well, what do you know. There’s her old treadle sewing machine where she taught me to sew.” That’s not hoarding – that’s keeping a memory, right?

The Art of Peeing in the Dark

Emergency Room Visit

Emergency Room Visit with the Ugly Duckling tagging along

My theory that putting two Pressgroves together will cause the Universe to spontaneously  explode, has been proved.

A few weeks ago I’d been with little brother, Rick, and ended up in the Great Bend Emergency Room.

This week, I was with older brother, Mike, and we blew the entire electrical grid at The Legends. (You’re probably wondering what this has to do with peeing in the dark – but as Dad would say “Stay in the boat and see where it goes.)

I’d conned my older brother, Mike, into riding with me to the large shopping area to look at camping equipment. Don’t laugh at me. I really am going camping…some day.

One of the things holding me back is the bathroom situation. I have the world’s smallest bladder and I didn’t want to spend my camping evenings stumbling around in the dark trying to find the public outhouse – not to mention the “ewwww” factor of an outhouse.

At the camping store, I planned to purchase my own commode and a privacy tent. I could explain to you what that is, but the internet does a much better job.

“Need an alternative to littering your campsite with poo holes? Check out the Cleanwaste Privacy Tent. This portable outhouse shelters your Cleanwater portable toilet, so you can do your business in private.”

Mike and I put the tent into the shopping cart and headed over to look at flashlights. He cleverly pointed out that a headlamp flashlight would be ideal – hands free.  Thrilled with my purchases, we drove to lunch at a nearby restaurant, where we had a lovely meal.

Because I have the world’s smallest bladder, I headed off to the bathroom.  I’m sitting there, minding my own business when POP! The lights go out.

My first thought was – Dang, I could really use that headlamp right about now.

My second thought was – I wonder if it really is so dark, I can’t see my hand in front of my face. I’m waving my hands in front of my face when I heard whimpering from the stall next door.

A little girl whined “Mom, what’s going on?”

Her equally terrified mother said, in a rising voice of panic. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

“Hold on,” I said. “You stay where you are and I’ll wander around until I can find the door.” So there I was, arms straight out in front of me, walking around until I hit a wall. I slid my hands along the wall (trying to ignore my “ewww, bathroom wall!” voice) until I located the door.

Pulling it open, light flooded the room. The mother and daughter ran out, leaving me with the dilemma that I needed to wash my hands.  If I let go of the door I’d be plunged into darkness and, even if I could find the sink, I’d have to run my hands along the wall to find the door, sending me into a lifetime spiral of DARK!…dirty hands…LIGHT!…dirty hands, DARK!…

Even though Husband disagrees, I think this is justification for me wearing the headlamp all the time. Don’t you?

I Shouldn’t Tell. I Couldn’t Tell. Okay, I’ll Tell.

Congratulations! So far, you’ve made it safely in your journey through the Crazie Family Tree.  Keep climbing to learn about Craig.

If you’ve lost track of the other Crazies, click here.

Last But Not Least

Leave me alone. I can do it myself.

Sibling Position #8 – 18 years younger than me.

Although I noticed very little as a teenager, I did notice, in my senior year of high school, that Mom had been sick for several weeks. She came home from her teaching job exhausted and spent her time at home wrapped up in a quilt on the sofa. When she and Dad called a family meeting, I burst into tears, expecting the worst. Then they told us Mom was pregnant.

Mom Pregnant at my high school graduation

Mom Pregnant at my high school graduation

Drying my tears, I heard sobbing from the corner of the room, as my 21-year-old sister imagined the humiliation she’d  endure when her college friends discovered her parents still had sex. Ewwww!

Mom and I got busy arranging for the new sibling. A classmate and I spent the last semester of our Home Economics class frantically sewing maternity clothes – one set for my mother and one set for her.

At the end of the summer Mom and I  worked to squeeze a crib into her tiny bedroom.

Certain she’d had enough boys, we pasted cutouts of Holly Hobby dolls on the wall and bought pink dresses and blankets.

With her previous pregnancies, Mom’s doctor encouraged her to keep smoking as they’d determined it kept the size of the baby smaller, making for an easier delivery.  He’d also prescribed diet pills (amphetamines at that time) that she took during pregnancy, so she could fit back into her girdle and long-line bra as quickly as possible after the birth.

But, now it was the 70’s and danger lurked around every corner. For the first few minutes after Craig was born, Mom refused to open her eyes, certain that he’d be completely deformed from the fumes she’d inhaled at the ceramic’s class she’d taken before she realized she was pregnant.

None the worse for wear, Craig came into the world at a healthy eight pounds plus. I’ll never forget the blissful smiles on may parents’ faces as they walked in the door with him.

I can’t say the same for little brother, John, who was being replaced after ten years as the baby in the family. Craig says he was well into his teens before Mom and Dad convinced him that he was not the adopted stray John said he was.

Craiger McGregor

Craiger McGregor

Mom spent the next eighteen years being an overprotective mother to her littlest one. Dad spent the time trying to toughen him up. The picture to the left is a perfect example. As Dad coerced Craig to go higher, Mom yelled from the porch to get him down before he fell and broke his arm. Which is exactly what Craig did – fall and break his arm, I mean.

Perhaps, like my mother, I’m feeling overprotective. All the stories I can think to share about Craig are just too embarrassing.

I shouldn’t tell you the story about the time, as a four-year-old he stood on the hood of the car at a baseball game with his pants around his ankles, peeing like the famous Manneken Pis statue in Belgium.

And I couldn’t tell you about the time when Craig, as a fourteen-year-old boy special ordered an item using Dad’s credit card.  The package arrived….no, no. I’ll stop right here. I wouldn’t want to embarrass him.

Wait. What am I saying?

Okay, I’ll tell.  The package arrived – and because Craig had used his parent’s credit card it was addressed to Dad.

At dinner, Dad opened the package.  His brow furrowed in confusion.  He looked across the table at Mom and said, “Ginger? Are you trying to tell me something?”

Shut up with the self doubt, dust yourself off and try again.

The sixth scamp arrives

The sixth scamp arrives

If you’ve lost track of which kid is which, click here AND here AND here AND here AND here.

Mayor of Crazie Town and Rick - The No Bullshit Kid

Mayor of Crazie Town and Rick – The No Bullshit Kid

Sixth in line is little brother Rick (six years younger than me.) Unlike the rest of us, who are prone to share our drama with anyone who will stand still long enough to listen, Rick keeps his sentences short and to the point.

I remember one time Dad rigged up a rope swing. I believe his motivation came from the fact that he was trying to nap and our wooden screen door banged shut a thousand times in twenty minutes.  He pulled the grain truck under an oak tree, propped a ladder in the bed and flung a hefty rope over a limb.  Picking up a sturdy stick, he tied it to the bottom of the rope and returned to his nap.

It took us a while to figure out the most dangerous way to use the swing but eventually figured out that by standing on top of a tractor parked on an incline, we could swing nearly horizontally to other side of the gravel driveway.

Entertained long enough for Dad to finish his nap, he wandered out to sit on the front porch step sipping on an iced tea from his favorite blue tupperware tumbler.

“Hey, Dad, look!” Rick pulled the rope taught,  positioned himself on the stick/seat and jumped off the tractor. He swept through the air. At the highest part of the arc, the seat broke and he crashed to the ground.

Instead of crying, he stood up, walked over to Dad and said, “I broke my arm.”

Last year, when I received my first rejection from an agent I sent a copy of the email to all my siblings. As expected, they sent me their best wishes and comforting words of hope. This is what I got from Rick.

Clearly you are not supposed to do this. You should just give up like all the other unknown authors.
Who do you think you are?
I think you have tried hard enough.
If it hasn’t happened by now, it probably will never happen.
These are the only bullshit things I could think of right now. I am sure you have said these to yourself, so shut up with the self doubt, dust yourself off and try again.

 

I immediately printed it off and stuck it on the wall where I look at it every day.