Brotherly Love

My brother Johnny once paid me $5 to leave him and his neighborhood friend Tom alone. I took the five bucks. After a respectable 20 minutes, I found them. “You promised. Give it back, you big baby.” Johnny hissed.

John loved calling me, you big baby.

He also loved suffocating me with blankets in front of the TV and holding my head underwater in the pool at the Cape. Adam seven years older than me was disinterested in torturing me, while Johnny four years my senior relished it. Just the same I wanted to hang out with both of them.

I had friends up on Christian Hill but that wasn’t close enough for the quick after school hang out. I only had our neighbor’s granddaughter to play with and she didn’t visit all the time.  Unlike my brothers who had their two friends Tom and John L., also brothers, just down the street.

I was the sidecar. The mascot. The tail. The pain in the ass sister with five bucks in her pocket dying to play.

Who are they kidding I thought, how can you play hide-and-go-seek with two people? They needed me, even if they didn’t readily admit it.  Who else would circle around the house for what seemed like hours trying to find them. Who else would race a sled alongside them and appreciate the yellow shag carpet remnant they lined the sled with or marvel at the fake paper licenses they created for pulling themselves over for fast sledding down Mr. Ouellette’s backyard hill?

I made for the slowest snowball target. The gullible player in 52-Pick Up. I was the lightest projected human off ramps of snow and given the sacred “booster” request, meaning someone would lie on his belly and link their sled behind mine and just as I was about to hit the ramp, pushed my sled forward with all his might.

Getting air, as every kid knows, is like breaking the sound barrier.

One booster from John L. sent me flying vertical. Plastic crackling over the ice. My red sled fell away from me like the space shuttle loses its rockets when it hits the atmosphere. I ripped through the sky and then gravity barreled me straight back to earth. My head a pumpkin thud. Sky and tree branches seemingly moved in a circle. Faces suddenly popped into view. My response to are you okay, slow.

A goose the size of a plum started growing at the back of my head. No blood, a relief; a good indicator that my parents would not have to kill anyone with a look that night.

A fearful, don’t tell Mom, okay? And then a comforting, you’re okay. Somebody rubbing my head until I had to push the hat back up above my eyes. I can’t remember if I cried. I’m sure I did. It was Kryptonite to the boys when it came from a real accident.

“Man, did you see her go up?” Head shakes and ohhhhs lasted the whole way back up the hill and over our fence. They knew how to cheer me up. Our round-toed spaces boots barely gripped the chain link as we climbed over.

That night I sat next to my mom on the couch. She stroked my hair, hand stopping at the bump on my head. My eyes wide.  She called it a guza. A bum­p– oddly similar to us calling it a goose in English, though I am sure the only relation is the sound.

“Aw, nothing. Jus’ bumped my head sledding.”

Some moments called for discretion, especially when future launches were at stake.

Years later, discretion was the same friend that would get me into my first party.

6 comments to Brotherly Love

  1. Adam Matusiak says:

    Awesome post Jannett thanks for bringing back the memory so vividly! I remember that we used to hose down the hill a bit to make it as icy and fast as possible. Ah the good ole days…

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Yes! Haha. I do remember that you used to hose it down. I think we even brought a bucket down for more careful layering. It was all about the layering! Something that just came to me this morning- when I clonked my head I remember the security guard from the Assisted Living place (when it was still being built at the bottom of the hill) came over to us. I remember his flashlight in my face. Good times on that hill.

  2. Denise says:

    Brings back memories of mishaps with my older siblings. One time after a particularly heated chase through the entire house I ended up pinned against the gas stove, my back turn the knob and my hair caught on fire….ahhhh the memories. My brother cut the burnt parts out and sent me off to school only to have the school nurse call my parents later in the day.

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      That’s one for the books Denise! I have never heard that story before. Hilarious. It’s a wonder we made it through childhood.

  3. Jolyon says:

    I don’t know any Polish, but I love etymology and your insights on the vagaries of your mother tongue are why I love your blog. On a hunch I looked up Goose: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=goose which apparently sounds the same in Polish as it does in American English, if that source is correct.

    As far as the slang term ‘goose egg’ goes, from my fringe Farmer Boy days of youth I remember that geese were To Be Feared on the farm as they could come out of left field and peck the heck out of you with just one jab – and leave a welt the size of.. well, a goose egg. “Boy that goose sure gave *you* an egg! haha!” I suppose it’s not so far fetched that Polish farmer’s might have developed a similar slang term after centuries dealing with geese on the farm.

    • Jannett Matusiak says:

      Thanks for the link Jolyon!I loved it. Yes, I agree, that sounds like a very likely source of the word goose or guza…Makes perfect sense to me! Language being born out of the very things around us. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog! Thanks for reading.

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