Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's time you met the Family....... Part 1

     For those regular readers of the blog, you know that many of my themes and stories come from my adventures growing up in Canandaigua NY in a family of 14.  We did it the traditional way, 2 parents of different sexes, and then 12 kids (Wait, that's not the traditional way?, go figure)  I started the practice of nicknaming them in the blog, with "They Call My Brother Aquaman", and it stuck from there.  It gives them anonymity, protects me from lawsuits, cuts them out of future book and movie deals and is fun too.   To date I've introduced only half of them, so I thought I'd finish the job here and create a primer of sorts, for reference.  The blog celebrated it's first full year earlier this month so I felt it was time you met the family.  In no particular order......

     The Sergeant-Major is an older brother of mine, in fact all of my brothers are older, so that doesn't really separate him from the rest.   This brother will always be defined by his military service, at least to me.
He was old enough that he was headed off to college and the ROTC program when I was still young.  His service also directed a lot of our family vacations, as my folks wanted to visit him often.  I hate him for that.  You check the top family vacation spots and tell me which falls above the other, Fort Campbell Kentucky, or Disney World? (I'll give you a hint, it's the one with the Mouse, not the Uncle in red, white and blue).  On one trip I woke up just in time to see a sign pointing to the log cabin that Abe Lincoln grew up in, 2 miles down the road.  We couldn't go though, we had to get to the base with the rows of identical houses, and hunker down there for the entire week, Weeeee!  The Sergeant-Major had a distinguished career in the Army, and served in both Germany and Korea.  He was promoted early, and often, and left the service with a high rank. He and his wife raised their family while traveling the world, and still to this day hold the record in the family for moving and staying farthest from our home town. They always make it a priority to travel back here for big events though, and their record of attendance rivals some of my siblings that live within a hour and a half, amazing ! The SM is also one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, if you check his office, he has more certifications than you would think possible. I think he took classes every year he was in the military, and for all sorts of things.  He continued this habit as he exited to work in civilian life.  I will always see him as smart, patriotic, strong, and disciplined as these were my first impressions of him growing up (Now, I don't work with him, so if he became that annoying guy at the office later, that's not my fault).  I am sure he has his faults and foibles, but since I was further removed form him, I just grew up with the facade.  He has 3 children, is married, and currently lives in a state that starts and ends with the same letter.  Meet my brother, the Sergeant -Major. 

    Some of my nicknames for my siblings are admittedly better than others, but when I named my next sister Nightingale, I knew I had nailed it.  Consider the similarities to the bird first, the Nightingale is migratory,
so is my sister, she has migrated back and forth from home to Buffalo most of her life.  The Nightingale is one of the few birds that sing/work at night.  My sister has almost always worked the overnight shifts in her nursing career.  The Nightingale belongs to a family of birds commonly called chats (You've met some of the other Yargers, right?).  Then, let's compare her to Florence Nightingale.  Florence, never married, dedicated her life to nursing, sister Nightingale, the same.  Florence enjoyed a wide variety of close friends throughout her life, both male and female, sister Nightingale, ditto.  Florence rejected her parents wishes early on, and pursued her dreams independently, sister Nightingale had a very similar start to her life in Buffalo, raising a son, independently.  Florence earned the nickname "the Lady of the Lamp" during her time in the Crimean War as she made bed checks well into the evening.  My sister Nightingale has had one of the longest relationships in our family, but hers is a platonic one with a male patient that she has been the night duty nurse for, for a couple of decades.  A little know historical fact about Florence, is that she collected refrigerator magnets, and coincidentally, so does my sister Nightingale.  So in a nutshell, this sister is fiercely independent, a caregiver, a night owl, an avid reader, a mother and now grandmother, and a great friend to those around her.  Meet my sister, Nightingale. 

    My sister, Peppermint, I first introduced in a blog about my Bucket List, see the link here....(http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2011/04/my-bucket-list.html)   She, like Nightingale, is unmarried, and has been migratory in her life at times too.
I recall a stint in the Army, a few years living in San Fransisco, and Philadelphia, but eventually came home to roost near Canandaigua.  She is the favorite Aunt of all the kids in the family and the kind of babysitter that makes you feel guilty about not doing more creative things with your kids (Now she doesn't have to live with the little urchins all month, she just gets to see them for a night or two, so any comparison is patently unfair, but that's what all of us slacker parents say...) She has had an interesting variety of jobs in her life, including everything from insurance sales to food taster.  She is, without question, the most frugal person I have ever met.  She has gone through periods of unemployment, and underemployment in her life, like recently when she chose a part time position to help care-take my Mom, but always managed to not only survive, but thrive.  One year, she shared her yearly budget with me, and I had spent more on alcoholic beverages that year than she had spent in total (Allright, knock off the laughing, it was still impressive).  So, she is kind, caring, thrifty, and a great babysitter.  Meet my sister, Peppermint.

    Another brother of mine, I'll name Socrates.   If you look hard enough you can find similarities between my brother and this historical Greek figure.  The very first one, is that Socrates was defined less by himself and his writings, but more by his contemporaries. That seems to fit my brother.   Our relationship while growing up was rocky. There was no doubting his intelligence, but it was his actions
that defined him more for me.   If I was a bad older brother to my younger sisters, I know I learned this from my brother Socrates. After my bedtime, if I read in bed, I would always have to fear my brother Socrates bursting into my room, and taking my reading material.  What was up with that?  I'd check the chore list that was posted on the side of our fridge, and I never did find the chore "Make Bill's Life Miserable" or "Bedtime Monitor" assigned to him, yet he seemed to relish the chore just the same.  Like my brother, the Sergent Major, my early impressions of him were based on his activities while we lived under the same roof.  I remembered that we worked with my Dad for a while, but it didn't last (So did Socrates), he had a very brief stint in the Navy, and then went to school in Rochester and studied theology.  He brought some interesting discussions back to the dinner table, and I shall never forget pondering, "Cogito Ergo Sum" (I think therefore I am ) over that evening's meal of mackerel loaf (My dearest Mother once substituted Mackerel for Salmon in a loaf recipe she found.  For future reference, Mackerel should not be substituted for Salmon in recipes).  This brother married a Greek woman with whom he had a considerable age difference and raised 3 children with her (just like Socrates).  After his marriage he immersed himself so well into the Greek community, that I once passed him at a Greek festival in Rochester, and found him indistinguishable among the Greek men at the table.  He has dabbled in a few professions in his life, and I honestly can't tell you what his business card would read today if he handed it to me.  He has traveled extensively (like Socrates), run afoul of local politics (like Socrates), and lived his life based on his code of logic and ethics (again like Socrates).  Our relationship has certainly improved from the Bedtime Monitor/Spoiled Younger Sibling days, but I still have less in common with this brother,than others, or so I think.  So he is well traveled, intelligent, an entrepreneur, a husband and father, Meet my brother, Socrates.

    Another sister I have and that has already been mentioned in the blog, is my sister Hummingbird.  I first mentioned her in my blog "Sometimes They Call Me Willie" http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2011/01/sometimes-they-call-me-willie.html
I described her there, as being always busy and smelling like Windex.  She still talks to me.  Hummingbird has a daughter and is married now for the second time.
 He's a fireman and a lot of fun to be around.  Like my brother Socrates, my sister Hummingbird immersed herself in another culture during her first marriage and it would be hard to tell her apart from a "true" Italian, especially when she cooks.  I like it when she cooks.  This sister shares a passion for good eats with me, and has been known to take the "medicinal" glass of wine with it.  It is rare that, when I call her to have a Happy Hour drink with me, she does not attend.  I like that in a sister.  She's kind of a Renaissance person as she works, knows parenting, cleaning, fashion and floral arranging, cooking, wine, and is an integral part of our family golf tournament.  Like I said, she likes to keep busy.  We were really close when we were lived at my parents, and she, in fact, invited me to live with her when we both decided to leave home. (OK, I really didn't "decide" to leave home, as much as was thrown out unceremoniously by my Dad for not obeying any of the house rules, Sheesh, parents can be so sensitive about those).  I still have some letters Hummingbird wrote to me when she was away working in a Jewish camp in Lake George.  I don't really know why I keep those, it's not my nature, but maybe they remind me of a time when we were closer. She's still in the top 6 of my favorite sisters though, so meet my sister, Hummingbird

     I introduced my sister Meter Maid in a blog about her annual pig roast entitled " A Swine Time".  The link is http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2010/10/swine-time.html   Now, I have to admit, I didn't put a lot of thought into this nickname, and it's kind of an inside joke, but not too hard to get either.
 She does not work in law enforcement, but she does work in local government.  She is a simple, hard working person that has always valued having her family around, yes even me.  To be fair on her marital status, I have to admit she has had more husbands than she owns shoes.  No, it's true, she only has 2 pairs of shoes.  Her current husband is a lot like her, a hard worker, that values family.  She'll probably kick my ass for saying some of this, and she's done it before.  You can read that story in "Of fisticuffs and loose teeth"  The link is
http://layersoftheongion.blogspot.com/2010/11/youthful-adventures-of-fisticuffs-and.html   My memories of her growing up were of her working at Burger King, and of upsetting my Dad with her choices of boyfriends.  She helped to teach me how to drive.  She lives in the Ithaca area, and like my Dad did, she never turns down family or friends if they need a place to stay or a meal.  I like to go to her place for Easter, but haven't done it for years now.  She raised 3 children of her own, and still frequently hosts them back at her place for Sunday dinners.  One of these days, I am going to crash that party, but it's tough to crash a party that you have an open invitation to.  Oh, she is a twin to my brother Ace.  She is hard working, compassionate, funny, and generous, so meet my sister, Meter Maid.

     If I counted right, I should be halfway done with introducing my family.  I think I'll save the rest for next week, and then the lynch mob will be split into two factions.  It's natural for family members, even ones that love each other as much as we do, to disagree or quarrel occasionally, because after all, you don't pick your siblings, like you do your friends.  I can say, for me, I got awfully lucky having the ones I do.


Hummingbird said...

Heh Willie,
Hummingbird here... you are too funny!!! What a great blog today, you sincerely have such a wonderful humorous way of writing... and I am not just saying that as I am your 6th favorite sista!! Just so you know... we may not be so close any longer... but I am always here for you and your family... love ya bro!

Daphne Mays said...

:) This post was a lot of fun! Hope you live to do the rest! Funny how many of the patterns of interaction set in childhood follow us throughout our lives with our siblings yet not so much with friends.

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