Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking

By Larry Teren

Summer of 1957, I am four years old, my sister has just turned six. We are outside playing with other kids. (Yeah, back then you can play outside away from in front of the house without supervision) For whatever reason, sis says to me, “you’re stupid.” Taking it in, digesting it in my young mind, I quickly determine that it is not a compliment. I reply back to her, “no I’m not.”
She immediately comes back with, “yes you are.” In one of my earliest attempts at using the ‘best defense is an offense’ strategy, I turn the tables and start saying, “shut up, shut up, shut up.” Using the classic Jackson Boulevard greeting, she finally says, “go away, crybaby.”

Seeing that I am going to get the least bit of sympathy from the other kids hanging around as they are her age or older, I leave in despair and head back home. I tell Ma that her daughter has called me stupid. Ma says that she doesn’t mean it. That she is probably frustrated about something. I have no idea what Ma is saying but at least I have her ear.

When sis comes home, I remind Ma to tell her to say she is sorry. Sis starts bejabbering to Ma that I said shut up to her three times. And she reminds Ma that she has told us it is a naughty word. Naturally, I don’t get a chance to explain that I only said it because she said I am stupid.

Cut to 2012, fifty-five years later. A typical phone conversation with sis. She says, “are you nuts?” I reply, “the hell with you.” She: “You’re sick in the head.” Me: “go you know what yourself.” Phone conversation over.

I call Ma an hour later and she tells me that she is aware that I was fighting with my sister over the phone. Ma: “why can’t you guys get along?” Me: “She started it and she always has to be right.” The thing is the argument usually has to do with how to deal with Ma.

Summer of 1972, I work at Wieboldt’s in Chicago’s Lincoln Village while also going to college.
To encourage loyalty as well as spur sales, the employees are given a generous 20% discount on in-store purchases. I take advantage of it to buy my kid brother, fourteen years younger, Billy-the-Kid brand clothes, usually pants. Maybe even one time a Chicago Black Hawks pair of pajamas.

Cut to 2012. My brother emails me that he ordered a present for me. I asked what it is. He writes back that I’ll know when I get it. Since he has everything he orders online shipped to Ma’s house, I have to wait to pick it up from there.

It is a box containing two long sleeve dress shirts- one in blue, the other white. The white has a button-down collar. I email him and ask why he did this. He replies that he doesn’t like the way I dress. I’m hoping he next doesn’t like my ten year old car and the way it handles the road. Ya think?

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