Sticky, Deej, Jarhead and the Sauceman


I've often thought my tales of childhood would benefit from manufacturing a sibling. It seems like there's an automatic lack of balance when you're dealing with just one kid:

Baseball stories are lackluster as you hit and pitch to yourself...

Playing walkie-talkie takes twice as long, and you always already know the Secret Code...

And puppet shows are one step away from The Three Faces of Eve.

The closest thing I had to siblings were my cousins, 300 miles away. And after a long weekend of tackling and torment, I'd seriously begin to rethink the benefits of being an only child.

My cousins were boys-- all boys-- VERY boys and there were four of them, all at least five-years-younger than I was, and descending in age from there.

Sticky, the eldest, spent much of his growing up years looking like a bobble-head, with an disproportionate amount of cranium per capita of torso and leg. He's turned out just fine, in cause you were wondering. But there were about 10 years there where I would have told you he was encephalitic.

I was fairly sure it was the size of his head that make him fall off his bike so much. That and the fact that he knew if he fell off dramatically, ran inside crying and told my aunt we cousins pushed him, why he could grin at us from behind her back. Plus, his brother and the rest of us would be in deep camel dung for the rest of the day.

Sticky was a talented frame artist.

Sticky's brother Deej was sarcastic from birth. It probably came from having a brother prepared to sacrifice you to the Parental Gods for want of a better hobby. I never have seen another toddler with such world-weary disillusionment...

"Do you want a peanut butter sandwich, Deej?"

"Nah, what's the point? It'll only be gone and I'll be hungry again someday."

I think he was three when he discovered the sort of existential crisis that most people only discover after 30 years at a dead-end job.

The Sauceman got his name because he'd given it to himself at an early age. It might have had something to do with a love of applesauce, or we might have just misheard. None of us are precisely sure anymore.

Sauceman was blue-eyed and white-blond and allergic to absolutely everything. You could tell, because he'd go from white to puffy pink in no time, like some histamine-riddled mood ring.

Jarhead was Sauce's younger brother, and the last of the clan. If you shaved Jarhead's noggin, you would find 666 tattooed on it. Just as dark as Sauce was blond, he was the prototype for the Turbo Tot, able to go from 0 to 60, out the door and down the street in five seconds.

He could be in Peoria in the blink of an eye, robbing folks of their Monopoly money and picking up speeding tickets on his Big Wheel, shooting his SuperSoaker over his shoulder and laughing at the coppers as he'd leave them in his dust.

Favorite games during these visits included:
  • "Let's See How Pink We Can Make Sauceman Get," (this usually involved beating him with dusty pillows)
  • Try to win at UNO in spite of Stick's marked UNO cards...
  • Tickle Sticky until he wet himself (retaliatory for UNO incident)
  • The Dukes of Hazzard (mostly involving yelling "yeee-haw!" and pretending to drive. By far our least violent activity.)
  • Telling stories about bloody monsters, gross enough to make at least two kids cry
  • Chasing each other around the grape arbor throwing sour grapes at each other, and
  • Knocking me over to tie me up with my own long hair.
Sometimes we played Frisbee.

Because I was the eldest in this rabble, there was some Adultworld rule that all of this chaos was my responsibility to control. As a teenager, I once tried pointing out that obviously, the Cousins went on throwing grapes, scaring the Yoo-hoo out of each other, fake-crying and riling up Sauceman's allergies when I wasn't there the other 360 days of the year, too.

But this particular flaw in the logic of Adultworld was never properly addressed.

I do, however, think the imposed authority on me to control these young forces of nature might very well have been what led me to be a client project manager.

Interestingly, the only thing that we seemed to have a cheerful, smooth time playing was sitting down to my aunt's 60s "Mystery Date" game.

Yep, we'd play frisbee until yet another disk would get eaten by the garage roof....(There must have been half the Wham-o factory inventory up there.) Or somebody'd get a knee full of gravel and tar. And then we'd come in and play one of the girliest games on the planet.

I don't know if you've heard of "Mystery Date" before, but its whole purpose was to build outfits to wear on different dates-- the beach, the prom, etc., etc. And if you matched your outfit to the right date behind the mystery door, then you won. If you opened the door and found The Dud, a filthy bum that made Oscar Madison look like Cary Grant, well, you were out of the game.

In retrospect, only The Dud seemed really realistic in terms of blind dating.

But Sticky, Deej, Jarhead and the Sauceman and I, we would sit there and play Mystery Date for hours. And so as not to slander their masculinity, it was NOT so much the outfit assemblage that intrigued, as the fact that the boardgame came with this cool little plastic door you could open. My cousins would work hard to assemble prom gowns and swim suits, bowling gear and skiwear, just to be able to take their turn at that door.

But come to think of it, that's childhood, isn't it? You take what you get and work with it. Whether it's siblings or cousins, or marked UNO cards, or no cards at all, or a super-girly board game to while away the hours. Looking back, it seems the best parts of Kiddom were the ones you never expected.

Sometimes, maybe, a little plastic door is all you need.

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10 comments:

JD said...

The boardgame is always cooler at the other person's house.

I had siblings that just drove me batty and would have preferred the relative anonymity of single child status ....

ThriftShopRomantic said...

JD- There may be something to your theory on Other People's Board Games.

I think I just could have used a one-sibling buffer, to take some of the pressure off. :)

Barry said...

We used to have a roud robin sort of board game thing in the summer - from one neighbor's house to the other - the game changed from house to house too, at one house it was Monopoly, at another clue, and so forth...

Jenn Thorson said...

Barry- oh, that sounds like that would have been fun. One of my friends had a board game called Dungeon, and it was always such a treat to go over there and play that.

Da Old Man said...

I remember the Mystery Date Commercials. When I was thrust into a situation with girl cousins, and they suggested Mystery Date, I came just short of faking my own death.
Karma, though, did rear its head and give me a daughter, and eventually I was forced to play "Barbies."

Jenn Thorson said...

DaOldMan- I tried not to inflict things like Barbies on my boy cousins. And the Mystery Date game itself was some toy residue at Grammy's that had been my aunts.

But I'm sure your daughter appreciated you biting the bullet and playing Barbie. My dad fled from Barbie like the wind.

~*~Shadow.Crystal~*~ said...

I, too, was (raised as) an only child. I later found out I have two half-brothers and two half-sisters, so I guess I ended up with the best of both worlds.
I, too, only had relatives who were much younger living far away... but I don't recall having any experiences similar to yours - those sound like great times to be cherished forever (as I'm sure you're already aware) :-)

Jenn Thorson said...

ShadowCrystal- Ah, a fellow only-child-- welcome! :) It sounds like things worked out for you very luckily. Yes, my childhood visits with the cousins are that childhood balance of happy memories and total utter mayhem!

Alice said...

That was a great story! I only wish you had had a picture of the boys.

And I do remember Mystery Date.

My brother and sister and I used to play our version of the Holly Hobbie Wishing Well game that would unfailingly end with me being the richest and my sister being the poorest. Even the wishing well would end the game with more money than my sister. Good times back before the Atari!

Jenn Thorson said...

Alice- I probably do somewhere, actually, but I try not to post pics of friends and family so as not to subject them to any pain, teasing, etc, because of my blog. My cousins are all respectable adults now. What would happen if the were now renowned for playing MYSTERY DATE?! :)

Your Holly Hobby story is hilarious... I don't know if I played that game, but your poor dear sister... that girl has to have developed a serious complex. :) I bet she shudders whenever she passes a wishing well!