In this slice, I reminisce on a time when my mother went back to work, leaving my brothers and I on our own for a short while until she came home. Although fighting was inevitable, more often than not, we surprised ourselves with ingenious solutions, even after monkeying around.
When I was in the 2nd grade, my mother started a part-time job. Because we were outgrowing our two-bedroom Cape Cod home, my parents decided to add a dormer and convert the attic into bedrooms. Her resume of life experience was extensive, candy store sales, money management for her father’s bookie business, President of the Mother’s Guild, school secretary, school librarian, and school gym teacher – Pall Mall cigarettes and all, while her professional experience was slim and only included her role as a Girl Friday for the Colgate Corporation. Wanting a job with flexible hours, she became a banquet waitress for the Bethwood Restaurant. Although she would be home with us in the morning, we would be on our own for about an hour after school. At eight, ten and twelve years old, apparently we were ready for the responsibility.
Despite the usual in-fighting that occurs with siblings, for the most part, we policed ourselves. Every day, we followed the same routine – we came home, disposed our uniforms, changed into play clothes, and headed out the door to catch up with friends. Once the street lights came on, or my father whistled, we headed back. If we were beyond earshot of his dinner signal, somebody familiar with the sound, would pass along the message, mindful of the consequences.
Although we would fight with one another, as mentioned, more often than not, we were thick as thieves, united together and ready to defend one other. Like the time one of the Walker kids got into a scuffle on the bus with my brother Michael, Joey and I joined the rumble taking on the other two siblings. And even though Michael and I intentionally held the storm door closed one day, causing Joey to barrel through the glass, we cleaned up the mess and stood together to take the blame.
One rainy day when we couldn’t play outside, we decided to attach the chin up bar from the bedroom doorway upstairs to one of the doorways downstairs. The boys wanted to test their strength and show off, and I wanted to practice my gymnastics. They went first, and then lowered it for me. Hanging from the back of my knees, I started pumping, swinging faster and faster. Getting ready to dismount, I swung up in one final push, when all of a sudden, the bar detached from the sides, causing it and me to drop to the floor. In shock, with the wind knocked out of me, my brothers got worried and told me not to move. Knowing a back or neck injury could be dangerous, they understood I needed to be still. With quick thinking, they found a piece of plywood in the basement, slipped it underneath, and lifted me up to my parent’s bed.
I think my dad was home earlier than my mother that night. As it turned out, all was well. My parents agreed that my brothers did the right thing. The three primates stood tall – nothing like a near fatal accident to stir up emotional pride, rather than anger on our monkeying around!