2002-08-03 02:23:22 (UTC)

A Story from the Past/Learning about Girls

I wrote a column for our small local newspaper, The
Brownsville Times, for several years. Some
of my columns were based on family stories. This is one.

It can be tough living in a house where all the children are
the same gender. I know. I live in a household with a
husband and four sons. The only other female in the house
is Spice and she's a cat. Forget the pink organdy dresses,
the delicate butterfly barrettes, the cute little socks with
lace on the cuffs. Spice won't stand still for it.

I remember my husband breathing a sigh of relief when our
fourth and last child was born and the doctor announced it
was (another) boy. If it had been a girl, my husband said,
he feared that I'd immediately leave my hospital bed, go to
my sewing machine and begin making dresses up to and
including a wedding dress. He and the boys would have had to
survive for the rest of their lives on nothing but peanut
butter and stale crusts of bread.

I try to bring a sense of beauty to the house. I keep a
bouquet of flowers on the dining room table but then, trying
to locate the source of that strange smell, I find a filthy
sweat sock someone's tossed behind the sofa. I've been
through the stage when a four-year old runs excitedly into
the house to tell me he's found a wonderful present for me
and, expecting to see a handful of limp dandelions clutched
in a chubby little hand, I turn around instead to find
myself nose-to-nose (assuming they have noses) with a garter
snake. The good thing is that it takes a great deal to
surprise me anymore.

This brings me to the story about my younger brother. He
had two sisters, one older--that was me--and one younger.
He knew that boys who had only brothers, or more
importantly, boys who had no sisters, were missing something
and he wished he could too. When we were in high school
he decided that he was going to help his friend Steve, one
of those poor boys who had no sisters, find out exactly what
that was. Steve, you see, was in love. He wasn't just in
love, he was deeply and completely in love. Sharon was
perfect. She was sweet and kind, spoke in a soft voice and
always looked lovely. The poor guy was definitely smitten.
And, according to my brother, his friend just didn't have a

"You don't know what girls are really like," my brother told
him. "You just see Sharon when she's at her best. She's
not like that all the time." Steve countered that he didn't
believe that was true. He had some experience. After all,
there was a girl living in his house--his Mom. "That
doesn't count," my brother snorted. "Mom's aren't girls.
They're well, Moms! It's different!" Steve continued "I
don't know what you're talking about, anyway. Whenever I
see your sisters they're always nice and look great." I
grinned, pleased. My brother groaned. Steve's true love
was on a pedestal and there she remained. There she
remained, anyway, until my brother came up with a plan and
his plan, I was to discover to my horror, included me.

My alarm clock rang at 6 a.m. on that cold winter morning.
I got up, slipped my big feet into my even bigger pink fuzzy
slippers, put on my ratty and stained but much loved
chenille bathrobe over my faded flannel nightie and stumbled
down the stairs to the kitchen. Big plastic curlers fell
out of my hair like confetti and I stopped every few feet
to pick another one up and stuff it into the pocket of my
robe. I filled the tea kettle with fresh water and examined
the reflection of my face in the toaster as I waited for the
water to boil. There were sleep creases on one cheek and a
red mark--a pimple?--on my forehead.

I yawned and tried to rub the sleep out of my eyes. I
didn't turn around when I heard the kitchen door open. I
knew it was just my brother returning from his early
morning newspaper delivery route. Then I heard him say
triumphantly, "See? What did I tell you?" I turned to see
Steve standing there. We both started screaming at the same
time. Steve was screaming in terror at what he was seeing
and I was screaming at my brother, him what did he think he
was doing, inviting someone to the house at that time of the
morning. In the middle of all this screaming I heard
my brother repeating, "See? See? This is what girls are
REALLY like!" I stopped and looked at Steve's stricken
face. He was pale and looked as if he were going into
shock. I ran back upstairs to my room and stayed there
until my brother came up to tell me that Steve had gone

I heard a few days later that Steve had broken up with
Sharon. She was heart broken and couldn't understand what
she'd done. I knew she hadn't done anything. Steve's eyes
had just been opened by my ever helpful younger brother.
Steve's Dad was transferred a few weeks later and they
moved away.

To this day I wonder if Steve ever recovered from that nasty
shock or if the people he knows now wonder why such a great
guy has remained a life long bachelor.