Luck Was On My Side.

My parents never got up in the morning, so my brother and I were always on our own. Mom was always tired, Dad was always hungover. The rules were simple: Play quietly. Don’t use knives or the stove to make breakfast. Don’t wake them up.

My brother and I shared a tiny bedroom that didn’t even have enough room for two twin sized beds.  His bed was a “youth” size and mine was essentially a toy chest custom built by my father with my crib mattress thrown on top. We had a small dresser to share and one of those chests of drawers made out of cardboard that were all the rage in the dime stores of the 80s.

My mother couldn’t stand to sleep in a room with my father because of her immense dislike for the man.  She chose instead to sleep on the living room loveseat.  My father, ever intent on tormenting her, took up sleeping on the large couch.  This rendered the living room, the only room truly large enough for two children to play in, completely useless to us.  Their bedroom, though vacant, was off limits. We were forced to play in the upstairs hallway just outside of our room.

One Sunday morning, I was 5 and my brother 7, we were playing one of our make-believe games.  The exact details are sketchy some thirty years later, but since the games were always more or less the same, I can offer the gist. All of our dolls and stuffed animals were involved, each with its own unique personality and back story. There had been weddings and divorces, some of them were related and others were just friends.

Our relationship to this crew was never quite clear. We could have been their parents or their human overlords, but more likely than not, we simply interacted with them the way the people interacted with the muppets on The Muppet Show. Everyone knew who was human and who wasn’t, yet the mostly harmonious relationships were never regarded as odd.

Much of the morning had gone by without us waking our parents.  No fights had broken out, physical or verbal, and we hadn’t grown bored of each other’s company.  We felt triumphant and confident that our morning would be a success.

But our success was to be short lived. Our cast of characters was not enough and we decided to add Casper the Friendly Ghost and a band of evil spirits to the mix. I was working with Casper to outsmart the mean ghosts who had done something naughty.

I got it into my head that I would get rid of the bad ghosts by pushing them down the stairs. The problem with young children is that they don’t understand the laws of physics.

 I was completely unaware that you cannot push a ghost, particularly an imaginary one, down a flight of stairs without you yourself falling down said flight of stairs.

As I tumbled and bounced, eventually coming to a halt by slamming my head into the wall at the bottom of the landing, all I could think of was how much trouble I was going to be in.

But luck was on my side, as was often the case for the younger, allegedly favorite child.

Thankfully for me, when the recipients of the 1981 Parents of the Year Award heard the ruckus, they only yelled at my brother for letting me get hurt. And then they went back to sleep.

I’m also linking up with the Challenge Grid this week, because I enjoy overextending myself.  Please click through and read the work of other writers on the grid.  Also check out the the speakeasy where my fiction piece is hanging out with the other pieces of fiction.

30 Responses to “Luck Was On My Side.”

  1. christie says:

    How did you do both that creepy one on the speakeasy and this one? It’s impressive. This one is my favorite kind– you paint of picture of neglect, alcoholism, and bitterness of your family and still how your spirit shined. and it still does.

    • I had this one brewing for a while and the photo prompt lead me on the speakeasy. And I was in a good mood for writing so I guess it was just good timing. Thanks for the compliments. It’s funny how much you don’t realize how wrong something really is until you’re older and you get some perspective. I didn’t quite know how off we all were.

  2. TriGirl says:

    This breaks my heart, though I know that’s not your intent.

  3. IASoupMama says:

    Oh, sweetheart… My heart breaks for you.

    Although I remember those enchanted times when playing with a sibling didn’t end in fighting and tears. When my own kids do it, I let them play a little longer, ignoring bath and bedtime to let them experience the friendship of siblinghood.

    • I only have one child, so I don’t get to see those moments. I remember a few times where my brother and I got along or were in cahoots on some caper but mostly we fought. Some of the fighting was regular sibling stuff and some of it was him trying to shoot me with a harpoon.

      Enjoy the friendship your children share. I imagine that’s an amazing thing to watch.

  4. I don’t have firsthand experience with alcoholism, but after reading this post, I almost feel like I do. You paint a picture so well with your words, and I can really see you and your brother, playing together at the top of the stairs.

  5. Rachelle says:

    Wow, what a powerful depiction of growing up with alcoholism. This was a great post, and you really brought it to life. I felt like I was taking a running start at the ghost with you!

    • Thank you. I always regarded this story as just a dumb, clutzy thing I did as a kid but it hit me that while it was dumb kid stuff, it was exacerbated by adults who weren’t really paying attention as they should have. Growing up though, I never saw it that way. Thank you for your comment!

  6. I feel sad that you had to grow up that way. I echo Christie’s comment. It’s spot on.

  7. You do this so well – images come alive through your words. I felt like I was watching you and your brother playing and could feel the fear of getting into trouble taking precedent over any physical pain you must have felt falling down the stairs. I relate so much to that! Another great story – congrats!

  8. Kianwi says:

    You and your brother remind me so much of my brother and me. Glad you had each other in that mess! We fought a lot through our own mess, but we always had each other’s backs.

    Perfectly told story!

  9. Azara says:

    I have a group of childhood friends who get together monthly and we often joke about the differences in parenting in the late 70’s-80’s vs now. One of my friends was left with a hitchhiker her parents had picked up on a road trip while they went shopping for the afternoon. Fortunately he was not a psycho and she was fine, but really! And there was no alcohol involved in many of these stories, just poor judgment (by current standards anyway). No one wants to be a crazy helicopter parent, but sometimes I wonder how we all survived to adulthood in the first place.

  10. Kathleen says:

    You are such a great story teller, Michelle. I loved the way you presented your parents in such a matter-of-fact, lighthearted way. You didn’t include all the adult analyzing that I’m sure you’ve done in the years since then. Instead you let the reader draw his/her own conclusions and feel the story without being told how to do so.

  11. Gina says:

    I agree with Kathleen. You are a fantastic story teller, Michelle! I felt the relationship (nastiness) of your parents and that of you and your brother “making do” in the hall. It’s very sad but, unfortunately, we all didn’t have magical childhoods. Wonderfully told tale.

  12. I’m always amazed at the insight you gained from growing up in the household you did. You seem to have made the best of every situation, which is commendable.

    The only question I have is did the ghost get hurt?

    • The ghost got away. It was quite a shame.

      I will say that I spent a good amount of time in therapy. I accept my parents for who they were and most days I forgive them. The only other choice is to let it drag me down and run the rest of my life. I know others who have done that and it just isn’t for me.

      Thanks for the comment.

  13. Recipients of the Parents of the Year Award, indeed! Michelle, this is SO well done. You said so much without ever really specifically coming out and saying anything. The word choice, the flow, the pacing–all of it was fantastic. Good job!

  14. Heidi says:

    Michelle, here and at the Speakeasy?! Good for you and good for us because both posts are excellent.
    It’s amazing how you found the bitter in the sweet then and how you manage to find it now. Wonderful writing, Michelle. For realz. :)

  15. Angela Ryan says:

    This absolutely brought back my own memories of playing with my brother as a youth. You truly are an excellent story teller. You capture youth so well. We, too, had those awful cardboard dressers. Ugh.

    • We had cardboard everything. The dressers, the boxes for under the bed (not that my bed had an under, but you know). At least you could write on them. I had phone numbers written all over mine. Because nothing make trashy furniture trashier like writing on it 😉 Thanks for the nice comment :)

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