Consideration for Others
I just cleaned in here, kill each other outside-
Mumsie's 3 N's Rule
No Booze, No Sex, No Drugs-
Don’t make me pull this car over!
Just you wait until your father gets home-
When you get to be my age, you’ll understand-
I’m going to count to three!
It’s colder than a well-digger’s ass out there!
You are just like your father!
Close the door you weren’t raised in a barn!
Inside or Out!
You better pray this thing still works!
Why? Because I said so. That’s why.
Wipe that smirk off your face, or I’ll do it for you!
Sense of Self
And just who do you think you are? The Queen of Sheba?
Keep crying and I’ll find something for you to cry about.
Be quiet and answer me!
Sit there until I tell you to move-
If I told you once, I told you a thousand times-
Money doesn’t grow on trees-
Take a jacket, you’ll get cold later-
Mark my words. One day you’ll have kids that’ll behave worse than you-
content & photos property of L. Campbell
The day my sister decamped to the basement she was an annoyed 15-year-old with a Bay City Roller’s fetish. Once down there it didn’t take long before she morphed into… Other. I couldn’t pinpoint the actual moment she transformed, but I’m reasonably certain it started with her sixteenth birthday party, a set of keys and the basement door.
I recall feeling quite honored the day she summoned me into her lair to snap a few party pics. However, it didn't take long before a feeling of dread washed over me as I gripped the door knob. I didn’t bother turning on the lights, I knew there were only twelve steps between me and another world.
As I took the last stair, I was met by the ominous opening riff of AC/DC’s Hells Bells. Next, peals of laughter assailed my ears as thick plumes of cigarette smoke assaulted my sinuses. Bobbing and weaving my way around the sea of salami hanging from the ceiling (Nort’ side Italians will understand the reason), I neared my sister’s room. I paused in the shadows, recollecting the look of terror on my brother’s face when he caught her smoking Marlboro’s for the first time and leafing through Glamour magazine. The little twerp had been spying on her and it was a forgone conclusion he’d get caught. Still, the threat she gave him before he scurried back upstairs, “If you tell mom, or dad what you saw (dramatic pause) … You’re f**king dead…” cemented the truth that tangling with our older sister would reap massive amounts of misery.
A few weeks later, her menacing threat did bear fruit in the form of Mumsie, who demanded to know how my six-year-old brother knew the ‘eff’ word. Obviously, our brother had the good sense to keep his trap shut. Still, I gotta say, I was a little miffed Mumsie’s first thought was bee-lining it to me first with her accusations. I should have expected it though. Such is the life of a middle child. Nevertheless, I managed to come up with a plausible explanation, (not a lie, I would never lie to my mum) cuz there was NO WAY in hell I’d rat out my sister!
Honestly, I could have, quite a few times. It’s not like I was clueless when she snuck out the basement since the door was right beneath my bedroom. Her destination was a no brainer as well. Most teens living in the twin city area could be found at our favorite hangout Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, which happened to be less than a half mile from our house on foot. What was so special about the place? Shakey’s boasted the latest arcade video games! On Friday nights teens paid a one dollar cover charge and stood shoulder to shoulder for hours just for a chance to play one of the those games.
Not that my sister would ever lower herself to stand five deep quarter in hand waiting to play Donkey Kong. The older crowd of Nort’ side teens had designated Shakey’s as the rally point where they’d discuss plans, divvy up bodies and then pile into an assortment of Muscle cars. Cigarettes lit, booze at the ready, they’d peal out in a cloud of burned rubber—no doubt for another evening of poor judgment and questionable activities.
all content & family photos property of L. Campbell
My sister is three years older, a fact I never fail to drive home when her birthday hits—like those few years matter—especially since I’m right there behind her riding that same banana peel. Growing up, we had an up and down relationship like siblings do. That’s not to say we never had fun. Between the bouts of bitch-slapping, hair-pulling, name-calling, crying and threats to, ‘tell dad’ there were many instances when we were co-conspirators in some scheme to outwit our parents—rarely worked. Little did we know it wasn’t so much their intuition, as it was memories of their own childhood schemes. Every generation tries to re-invent the wheel.
Like most siblings back then, we shared a bedroom and after a time moved past our younger days of shared nighttime secrets when our long hair was rolled in sponge curlers usually on the eve of a special occasion, or holiday. As we became teenagers the warm fuzzies of sisterly consolation was replaced by varying stages of teen angst. The year I didn’t care if I was maimed by an avalanche of dirty laundry was the same year my sister flew into a tizzy at the sight of a lone tee-shirt hanging off the bed post. When I finally appreciated the usefulness of hangars, she decided littering the floor with clothes had its merits. Although our sisterly affections could be considered crotchety at best, it wasn’t entirely acrimonious. Well, not until the day my sister tacked up a poster of the Scottish band, The Bay City Rollers.
For months the eyes of those five hobgoblins in their high-water, plaid bell-bottoms tracked my every movement around the room. Their beady eyes were the last thing I saw before I turned off the lights at night, and the first thing I saw when I woke in the morning. I tried to move the centerfold album cover (look it up people if you’re clueless) to a less prominent place—after all, her highness had relegated my poster of Bruce Springsteen to the inside of my closet door. Yet, I was expected to live with her miserable choice of manhood day in and day out. And then, one day, I decided her dictate was totally unreasonable and I refused to put up with the injustice of the situation anymore.
Had I known the consequences of my actions, I sure as hell would have done something sooner!
Determined to rid our room of The Bay City Rollers once and for all, I dug out my pink JUMBO eraser and applied it to lead singer Les McKeown’s flat, button-like eyes. And then I sat back and waited for the eruption.
Between the four-letter words, threats on my life and (gasp) beloved Springsteen poster, my sister decided she couldn’t live with me one more second and dismantled her side of the room post-haste! Uncertain where she planned to set up her new digs, I trailed behind as she dragged her belongings downstairs to the cold, creepy unfinished basement. With the determination of an otter cracking open a clam, she assembled her possessions in the shadow of aluminum shelves overflowing with ice-skates, snow-mobile boots, fishing gear, cross-country skis, holiday paraphernalia and toys. When she finished the scene was eerily illuminated by one lone light bulb swinging overhead. Her new accommodations had all the coziness of a Black Ops interrogation facility, but without the charm. Despite the dismal atmosphere, she was totally happy.
When Mum arrived home later in the day, she cajoled, pleaded, and then threatened my sister with bodily harm, as well as dire consequences of ill health. All to no avail—my sister remained unmoved. Apparently, she preferred the possibility of catching pneumonia to sharing a toasty, carpeted, well insulated bedroom with me.
Eventually, Dad took pity on my sister and built a bedroom for her. And that's where the transformation took place. Sequestered in her lair, she could smoke cigarettes, crank records and scheme with impunity.
Did I mention it was also a walk out basement?
Stay tuned for Part 2—The Transformation
all content & images property of L. Campbell
Until I made friends beyond my Italian neighborhood, I had no idea Crème de Cocoa liqueur wasn’t actually a topping for ice cream—Gnocchi never made it on the menu at the first Thanksgiving dinner—or that the end of a loaf of bread is only known as the 'Culo' in an Italian household. Intrigued? Then kick back with a glass of vino and take a glimpse into my life growing up Nort’ side.