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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Unsettled Chapter 23- B: "Three Peas in a Pod"

The Boys' Room from 1961 to 1970

When we moved into the house on Buckhannon, it came fully furnished. Dad had worked that into the sale. Not just the big pieces but small details, pictures on the walls, and a bowl of wax fruit on the cabinet outside the kitchen. When Mom and Dad walked into the "master bedroom," Mom's eyes widened. It was the first time in their ten years of marriage to have a matching bedroom set. Unfortunately, everything in that room had to be moved into the smaller front bedroom so they could put the three boys in the largest room. To Mom's credit, she looked just as happy once their room was set up in the smaller quarters. It was Dad who looked disappointed when he noticed that the room they'd given up was the only one of the three that had a locking door. (He always meant to change the hardware but it never happened.)

Mom was the kind of mother for whom personal sacrifice on behalf her children soon became a sort of joy that made her look through our door and sigh:
"Well if you aren't just three peas in a pod."
Having only seen peas from a can at the time, and not liking them at that, it was an expression I did not fully understand. For the longest time, I thought she was saying, "Three pees in a pot" which would have made as much sense in that it reflected something we did nearly every night and every morning, it was a sort of sword-fighting game we boys enjoyed as a means of saving water between flushes. It was a skill we finally mastered just about the time the three of us could no longer fit simultaneously around the toilet, but I digress and should not talk of such proficiencies in mixed company. Where was I... Oh, yes.... "Three peas in a pod."
Our boys' room would remain unchanged for nine years with three twin beds side by side on the hardwood floor with only the slightest walking room between them. There was a small standing area in front of the closet, between the beds, three dressers against the wall, and the small study desk in front of the door. Nothing in our bedroom "matched" except for the three bedspreads, which for many years was a "Cowboy" theme used well beyond the days when Paul and Dave cared about cowboys.

But for many years we reveled in the Western theme, and we often re-enacted fight scenes from the Saturday shows, Roy Rogers, Rin Tin Tin, and classic old western re-runs. After a few hours of "learning from the masters," we'd go into our room and have a brawl. These were pillow fights of a different sort. Rarely did we ever hit each other with our heavy feather pillows, but we'd go several rounds with our "bad guys" pillows, whose ticking was so leather-tough, we never knocked the stuffing out of them. Between fights, we'd ride pretend horses back and forth across our unmade beds, which were so close we could "jump creeks" by leaping from the first to the third bed and back without touching the middle bed. It was great fun!
We were not supposed to jump on beds, but sometimes we forgot...forgot, that is, until Mom stepped in and we froze in place. With all the jumping and pillow slugging, the room was like a shaken snow globe with dense glittering dust dancing in the window's sunbeam.

You can imagine the mess in our room when that settled down. We didn't have dust bunnies under our beds; we had herds of "dust buffalo" roaming across the hardwood range in search of stray underwear to call home. When Mom dust-mopped the floor, there was no telling what she'd find in the fuzzy blobs that lurked in the dark corners.
Once during an indoor game of "hide and seek," Dave and I made the mistake of hiding under our beds. The good news was no one found us; but the bad news was we came out looking like we'd been tarred-and-feathered (in dust buffalo); good news was we found our wadded bags of forgotten Halloween candy; bad news was it was March and that winter some mice had chewed all the chocolate off the Clark Bars; but the good news was some of the Bit-o-Honeys were still wrapped and tasted fine.
[It was the winter we had mice 'til one by one, following loud "snaps" from the kitchen in the night, they mysteriously disappeared. We had woke once in the night hearing mice under our beds, but Dave threw something under there, and it got quiet, so we went back to sleep. It wasn't until we found the Halloween candy that we realized what had caused that delicate nibbling sound in the night.]
In those early years, on the rare occasion that I slept in on a Saturday (or on a summer day), I'd see that Paul and Dave's beds were already empty and a strange feeling of abandonment would yank me form the covers to the kitchen in hopes that they were there, but sometimes they were long gone, beginning the day without me.
It was my experience that each new summer day was like a play with a set and cast of characters, and once the curtain was drawn and the acts had begun, it was hard to come in late and get a good part. I hated being the "little brother" straggler. It may not have been deliberate, but late comers on a summer day were sometimes treated like "extras" with non-speaking parts in unimportant scenes. (Perhaps this is a feeling best understood by "youngest siblings," the runts of the litter. My little brother Jimmy was born when I was twelve, but it would be years before I was not treated like the "baby of the family.")

That's why I hated waking to an empty room and why my favorite mornings were the ones when we woke up well before or favorite Saturday shows were on TV. I'd turn my head toward Dave's bed and ask:
"Are you awake?"

At first we talked with our eyes closed, voices muffled by our pillows, but eventually we'd roll over, pick the "sleep" from the corner of our eyes, re-fluff our pillows, and begin telling the dreams we'd had in the night. We'd stare up at the blank ceiling as if it were an empty canvas, and there our dream stories would play out in brilliant strokes and colors.

Of the three of us, Dave was the best dream teller. He looked forward to sleeping, because he looked forward to his dreams. Sometimes he'd speak of them when the lights went out in hopes of continuing the same dream from the night before. Even better than Dave's dreams was his ability to retell them. Saturday mornings, when there was no rush to get to school after telling our dreams, we'd draw on backs and guess the picture the other lightly sketched between our shoulder blades. Like his stories, Dave's drawings were so intricate that I could never guess them, but as all who play this game know, the picture is secondary to the relaxation that comes from a gentle back-rub with your face buried deep in a feather pillow.

The older we got the rarer such mornings became, and by that summer of 1970, drawing on backs was a forgotten art form, and the sharing of dreams from the night before almost never happened. The morning after our camping trip to Georgian Bay, we woke with the room fully bright from a long arisen sun. It was nearly ten o'clock, an hour that never saw us in our beds on a beautiful summer day.
Chapter 23-C still to come....


Anonymous quilly said...

I am the youngest. I know that left out/ left behind feeling.

24/4/09 2:37 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

We were so close in age that I didn't get that feeling very often, but 1970 is the cusp of that time in my life when the older two brothers were moving on and I was still lingering in childhood. (I was 14 but still about 12 in nearly every way.)

25/4/09 7:04 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

I am the middle of three boys Tom...and to be honest when I was included it usually spelled doom for me so I chose to not be. We too shared a room...a nest of heathens to be sure.

26/4/09 4:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I relate to "quilly" as I too was the youngest and also a "bonus baby". (my oldest sib is 16 years older, my next oldest 14 years older and the "baby" before me...10 years) I always felt "adopted" when growing up because my picture wasn't included in the albums OR could I relate to the family stories. I never did quite feel "caught up" in feeling included...a very weird experience too, I must say. Maybe that's one reason why I love to read the story here!!!

27/4/09 1:08 PM  
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