My brothers were 10 and 12 years older than me. So early on I learned two things: 1. how to throw (and block) a punch and 2. my physical safety was rarely their primary focus.
It was 1970 and I was 6 years old. Our neighbor had given my 16-year-old brother an archery set for Christmas. (The prior year, this same neighbor had gifted us a Ouija Board. If you haven’t guessed, our neighbor had no children of his own, and that was probably for the best.)
Mid-Christmas morning, my brother coaxed me outside to try his new archery set. First, however, it was my job to stuff the burlap target with pine straw and hang it on the fence.
After a few wild misses, my brother told me to get the target and bring it closer. Despite my protestations, he persisted in coercing me to bring the target closer to him. With nothing to hang it on, there I stood, mid-yard, holding a partially stuffed burlap target against my stomach with my head peeking out over the top.
And then commenced the shrieks that would be heard around the neighborhood. Having been watching from the kitchen window, my mother, all five feet in diameter, came flying out of the back door, right at my brother. With a string of exclamations regarding his lack of intelligence, she chased him around the backyard while trying to hit him in the head with her slipper. It only ended when my brother jumped the fence and hid in the neighbor’s yard.
For countless years afterward, I donned a woven Beanie hat with an arrow stuck through it to every holiday meal where, like a scene from the Matrix, we hysterically reenacted my many pretend puncture wounds. And admittedly, half the humor was found in how irritated my mother would become seeing that Beanie each year. This and so many other ridiculous family stories are treasured even more with many no longer with us.
Here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season full of fun, friendly gatherings, lots of joy, and many old and new stories to be created and shared.