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.