Thursday, August 25, 2011

17 Years

I've never been a big anniversary person. I remember (with the help of facebook) birthdays and wedding anniversaries, but that's about it. Also because of facebook, I've seen many of my friends remember their parents, siblings or other loved ones on days that they died, or were born. Honestly, I've never really understood why you'd dig up old pain.

This year on Marvin's birthday, I thought about him and where he'd be today. I thought it would be a good thing, to reflect about him on the day he was born rather than the day he died. But for some reason, it was way sadder than I anticipated. It was too "what if"-ish I guess. I felt frustration rather than acceptance or peace.

August 25 is the day Marvin died, and for the past few days I've been thinking about that and how maybe I should start remembering this day every year. I have never done anything or thought any differently on the anniversary of his death prior years. Perhaps it's the never-stopping movement of time that steers one to use a particular day as a day of remembrance. It seems that setting aside a day is a way to keep the memories strong and consistent rather than succumbing to memory-eroding time.

August 25, 1994. It's been 17 years! That's a long time. I am so different now than we were then. But everything about how Marvin impacted my life remains the same, a constant and forever. It seems extremely silly, on one hand, to remember such a sad and tragic day. But I also think it makes sense to reflect on the day that his life ended, and mine went on. So, conflicting though it may be to me, I remember the 25th, as the day Marvin died, which also was the beginning of future years remembering how wonderful life was with him.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Yesterday I was digging in a flower bed, moving the very clay-filled soil to the back of the yard where a tree fell over leaving a big hole. The soil was wet and heavy from all of the recent rain, and, of course, filled with worms. I was reminded of digging around in flower beds or on the edge of the field, finding worms with Marvin. He called them "juicies". It was never our sole purpose, but when we found them, we spent a little bit of time with them and moved them to a different area, out of our way. Worms, after all, are good for the soil.

I never was afraid of worms or thought they were gross. They were pretty fascinating to me. I think because of the way we would discover them...digging, revealing a new layer of dirt, and then suddenly there would be a worm, thrashing around, appearing grumpy and disturbed. We would pick them up to move them. If the worm was in tact, it would wriggle like crazy in our palms. If we had cut it in half, we'd toss it aside, believing that it would turn into the soil in which it lived. I think we also had debate as to what they ate...soil or bugs.

I can only assume Marvin called them juicies because they look juicy. Yesterday I noticed that the ones I picked up and held left a sticky, shiny slime in my palm. I picked one up in particular because it was super long and then shrunk to about half its length once it realized it was exposed. It was so small in my hand. I put a lump of dirt in my palm with it, wondering if that would comfort it and make it feel like expanding again. It didn't. I looked at it a while, thinking about how something like a worm was so entertaining and fascinating to us. We were so intrigued by the creatures, we felt the need to define their lives: what they ate, how they made their homes underground, who they hung out with, etc. Soon I put the shrunken worm back in a different bed. I was now attached to this worm (as much as one can be attached to a worm) and didn't want to chop it in half.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Whiffle Ball

Recently the weather has shot up to surprisingly warm temps. It's going back down again, but it has been enough to put thoughts of spring in everyone's heads. With spring comes baseball, and I've heard a lot of people mentioning it recently as we approach March and the weather teases us. I never played baseball or softball, but Marvin did. He played T-ball and even had a trader card with his player photo on the front and "stats" on the back. However, in the back yard, we played a lot of whiffle ball.

I'm pitching and Marvin is at bat, important to point out in this pic with the short hair.

It was easy to play whiffle ball with two people thanks to the ingenious invention of ghost men. We used various Frisbees, trees (second base shown above), ball gloves, jart hoops and whatever else from the garage that would work as bases. The game was usually set up just behind the separate garage, hitting towards the back field. You didn't need much space for whiffle ball. There were a few different bats. I had a long skinny yellowish colored one. Marvin had a gigantic fat red one. There may have been at least one more.

Every time there was a hit, we'd run to the base(s). Once safely there, "Ghost man on first!" or whatever base we made it to was shouted. Then we could proceed back to the home plate. It was imperative you made this clear. Otherwise, the pitcher could bombard you and get you out. If you didn't say ghost man on whatever, then clearly you were just off the base and free game. This probably started a few arguments.

It was so hard to throw that light, holey ball with any kind of meaning. And even though you felt like you put enough force behind the ball to get it to the moon, it just never went far. There were balls zinged to the face, bats to the head (when we had Shannon or Heather to play catcher), and I'm sure a fair amount of slides ending in scraped knees and grass stains.

I wish I could play it again, just one more game, today. See who would win.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Sample of Togetherness

Today as I was driving to work, I noticed two kids walking to school: a boy and a girl. They were both smiling ear to ear and talking as they walk-skipped along the snowy sidewalk. Dressed in winter attire, it was hard for me to see their features, but they didn't look like brother and sister necessarily. They were the same height and were clearly having an enjoyable conversation.

I remember a couple select memories of going places with Marvin in tow. There were a few times when my parents would have to do errands and Marvin would just come along. I'm not sure if this was because his parents weren't home at the time and my parents were essentially watching us while we played all day, or if it was just convenient to throw us in the car and go. One time we drove to Englewood to pick up Cassano's pizza...which was over by K-mart and some kind of auto supply store that smelled horrifically of new tires. I remember going to both of these stores, but can't remember if the trips were combined or separate.

It was a special treat for me when Marvin came along on errands. It was a new moment. It was like I was experiencing everything from an entirely fresh perspective. Suddenly, it wasn't just an interruptive trip I had to go on with my parents, but an extended time of play in a new environment. I had someone to ride in the back seat with, and someone to goof off with. In the stores, I remember watching him, observing a lot about him while in the store: who looked at him, what he looked at, where he'd wander. I would usually pretend that we were siblings...if not outwardly, definitely inside my own mind. I wanted us to be siblings. And I wanted so badly for someone to suddenly notice my brand new sibling, as if all it took was a wave of the magic wand and poof! we were bonded forever as family. I felt so cool, so important. Here's my brother...yeah, we're family forever.

I was simply mesmerized by the addition of another person along side me and how much it changed the moment outwardly. It was wonderful to revel in each moment I had with the person I loved to be with so much.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Separate Garage - part 1

One summer my parents decided to build a separate garage, not attached to the house, to hold all of the fun things you need out in the country. I suppose it was also to hold a workshop for Dad. I vaguely remember stages of the construction. OK, I only have one memory of the construction. It was when Marvin and I were running around on the foundation that had been poured and set. Surefooted creature I am not, and this wasn't all that wide of a surface. Though I probably tried to summon my gymnastics days on the on the balance beam (which I wouldn't ever call successful), I lost my balance when picking up the pace a bit and took a nasty fall on the corner. My knee had a huge gash in it and blood poured down my leg into my sock. I was taken inside and plopped in the bathtub to be cleaned up by Unsympathetic Mom, who had most likely told me way too many times to not run on the foundation. I had to do it anyway. Marvin was doing it. I still have the scar on my knee today. It's the only scar I have, and I can't say I mind it too much because it reminds me of getting caught up in the moment of a challenge.

Fast forward... the garage is built, painted a cream color and trimmed in dark brown to match our 70s colored house. The garage became the center of the days outside. Everything started there and began there. The summer days would start with me or one of my parents going outside and opening the garage door. It was made of a thick plastic that turned yellow over time. I still see those types of garage doors today and think did those people know it was going to turn such an awful color of yellow? The door screeeeched all the way up as you lifted it. It really did have its own song. I could even hear it in the house sometimes. Simply defined, the garage was symbol of the day starting. Having the garage door up was friendly and welcoming. Today at my own house with my own separate garage, I hate when the door is down while we're outside. It feels cold and unsettled. It's funny how these things get mapped in one's mind.

The garage held all of the yard equipment, my bike and toys, and every other outside tool or game that we had. Marvin called it our barn. I didn't agree that it was a barn. It had a concrete floor and there weren't animals in it. I think he said it was a barn because it wasn't attached to the house. My argument was that it needed hay and to smell of horses for it to be a barn. We debated it and eventually both called it what we wanted.

There was a toy box by the man-door where all of my yard/outside toys were kept. I believe it was just a sturdy cardboard box. It held the basketball, wiffle balls, plastic trucks and cars and other things for the sandbox, jump ropes, the boomerang, the nerf football, blocks of wood, small hand saws from time to time (but I think this is only when I forgot to put them back in their proper location), and probably a few other things I'm forgetting. By the trashcan near the garage door hung the badminton rackets and hoops for Jarts. That all hung on the stair ladder that went up to the loft in the top overhang of the garage. I didn't like to touch the ladder area, nor was I a huge fan of retrieving certain toys from the toy box that we really had to dig for, all because of my extreme fear of spiders. I was much more brave with Marvin around for some reason.

We didn't usually stay in the garage for long. Retrieving a undershot basketball, getting toys out, drawing roads with chalk for our Hotwheels: these are a few of the in-garage times I can think of. I do remember a particular game of Madd that we played on the garage floor one afternoon. We argued and argued about the rules. I don't think that the Madd game was really designed to play for enjoyment, but more to make people mad. It worked on us. We were probably too young to understand...we just really liked reading the Madd magazines.

On the left side of the outside of the garage, Mom had a flowerbed. We played in the corner of the flower bed with our Hotwheels in the dirt...the best place to play with Hotwheels. The trucks we had would weave in and out of the flowers, over clumps of the clay-packed dirt, down towards the yard where the dirt edge met the grass, which was usually deemed the highway. There was also the part where the asphalt outside of the man-door met the dirt of the flowerbed. I distinctly remember the hump transition and how we would change our vehicles' speeds when getting on the pavement after having been bogged down in dirt. For long chunks of time, we squatted around each other, changing spots back and forth, moving the little cars and trucks. It was so satisfying.

The garage was the hub. I had no idea how important it was until I started to think about how we used to play football. We would go to the toy box to get the green and white Nerf football out... ah the toybox, in the garage...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Riding Bikes

My driveway was longish, about a tenth of a mile. When I was in the third grade (I think) we had it paved. We called it black top. I remember feeling like we were rich, because now our entire driveway was like a street.

This made for some excellent bike riding!

Marvin's driveway was gravel. More accurately, it should have been called rock. It consisted of huge rocks. Even when ours was gravel, it was gravelly gravel. I'm not sure why his driveway – excuse me, lane (as he liked to call it) – was base layer sized rocks. The few times that I rode down the lane in a car felt rough. And it also felt so weird to be moving parallel to my own driveway and see the view from Marvin's side. I liked it – it was as if I stepped into his head for a moment to see something he saw. The lane was white and the approaching house was very dark in the woods.

Back to my driveway. One of the activities that filled our days was riding our bikes. We went up and down the driveway, and through the yard sometimes, but mostly up and down the driveway. Marvin raced BMX and had one of those bikes first. I had a pink Huffy that used to be my older cousins'.

June 1983.
That's a Pinto in the corner. And the green electrical boxin the
background is where the path through the field connecting our houses began.

We liked to make skid marks with our tires. It was so easy – remember coaster breaks? I would go over the handlebars if I got on a bike with coaster breaks now.

A select few other things that happened thanks to the bikes:
Pretending we were cars. The driveway sealer line a few feet up from the big turnaround area by the house was where "town" began. The tree by the driveway a little further up was a McDonald's drive-thru.
Pulling each other on skateboards and/or roller skates. Get a jump rope, tie it to the back of the Huffy (see convenient silver bar off back of seat in above photo), hang on. I remember a crash landing in the yard between the house and garage. Roller skates stop in grass.
Wheelies! Marvin could always do this better. And when he got a...uh...trick bike? then the wheelies and indo's and other fun things were way beyond what I could do on the Huffy. After the BMX bike shown above, he he stepped it up to a lime green bike that had mag wheels and pegs on the front and back.

Riding our bikes was a staple to our days together. It was the good old standby when we were out of other options or just wanted to move. So simple.

In the Beginning...

In the beginning, there was Marvin.
We grew up together, and we played together all the time. Outside. All day.

As long as I can remember, Marvin was a part of my life. We were born 3 months apart; I was a baby in the blizzard of '78, and he was yet to enter the world. We grew. And we knew each other well. And it was good.

Marvin's older sister, Heather, held us both. There are pictures that prove it. I don't remember when I became aware of Marvin. He was always just there. When we were old enough to start playing by ourselves, we did. My memories playing together probably start with when I was old enough to use the phone.

A typical summer day began with one of us getting up and calling the other house. 884-7667, or 884 POOP as Marvin liked to brag.
"Is Marvin there?" A pause as he is called for.
"Hi can you come over and play?"
"Let me ask." Muffled voices. "Yes."
"OK bye."

The Ground Rules. Simple, really.
1. I didn't go over to Marvin's house much, if at all. I was told the reason was because of my allergies; their house was in the woods. I didn't know all of the real reasons when I was little.
2. We weren't allowed to play inside. Mom was a neat freak. Plus we were kids and should have been playing outside anyway. It never bothered us.

Marvin would ride his bike over, either up his lane and down my driveway (he called it a lane and I called it a driveway) or through the field. When the plants were still small, we'd pick a bunch of them out to make a path. As years went on the paths became more complicated with curves and row shifts. I think I even remember two paths one year: a simple straight one and one that curved; I suppose this allowed for choosing what kind of path he felt like that day.

Those are the basics. Our days outside revolved around playing with each other most days, for most of the day. Breaks for meals or errands were taken, and then we resumed. There are many, many memories and I don't want to forget. This is my childhood.