Boys Will Be Boys
Chapter 1– By: Mick Westerman
There are few things people remember in the early years of their lives. My earliest memories are seemingly vague and disconnected. There’s my second birthday where I received an orange and white mini basketball hoop and a yellow and blue basketball I got from my late father. I also remember knowingly pooping in my pants while standing in the garage of my childhood home because I didn’t want to go inside and let my Mom see that I had stolen an ice cream push-pop from our outside freezer. Tiny athletic equipment and contraband frozen treats aside, there is one early memory that stands out very clearly.
On that day I was celebrating three years, six months, one week and one day of being alive. Of course, to me, this was a grand accomplishment and I was quite pleased with myself. No one else seemed to care. A-holes. That day all the people I knew (a quite extensive list, let me tell you) were wildly excited for another reason. My Mom was in the hospital.
Something strange had been happening for quite some time now. That nice lady who made me food, put on my clothes and wiped my butt had been getting fat. I wasn’t sure why, but she seemed to eat all the time, lay around a lot and spend an inordinate amount of her day on the potty. Lots of people would rub her tummy and I was getting ignored. This was not cool. And to top it all off I got the chicken pox. Crap. Things were not going my way.
After many afternoons of baking soda baths with my older brother, Jeremy (also a victim of the dreaded pox), there came one sunny, windy day that would change our family forever. And I wasn’t there to see it.
While Mom was up in her hospital room with thousands of visitors (a slight exaggeration, but it sure seemed like that many) bustling in and out, I was stuck in the lobby pouting. I was unable to go see her because not all my chicken pox had healed and the mean adults said I could make other people sick. Good riddance to those turds, I said. Jerks. Thankfully, Val Melmer (Mom’s best friend and a woman I viewed as my second mom) realized that I was on the verge of total meltdown and came to my rescue. She bought me a Snickers Ice Cream Bar and took me to the taxidermist to look at the big stuffed animals. (Sounds a little strange, but to a three and a half year old kid this was awesome with a capital A.)
Eventually, those itchy little red spots closed up and I was allowed to be rejoined with my Mommy, but something was different now. She wasn’t quite as fat anymore, she ate less, quit peeing so much, but I was still getting ignored. Again, this was not ok.
As life goes, there have been many more memories. Summer afternoons of riding bikes into town and playing baseball in the front yard. Winter days of sledding and playing trampoline basketball. Some happy, some sad. A few I’d like to relive and many I’d like to forget. Some a little more clear than others. But I’ll never forget March 13, 1990. The day my little brother was born. And I wasn’t there to see it. Thank God.
Yes I was born on March 13, 1990. I used to tell people Mick was such a jerk to me that even upon my arrival into the world, he tried his damnedest to give me chicken pox. That was a lie, but he used to tell me I was born in a dumpster… and that I was found by him and my older brother, Jeremy, eating fish bones– I guess that probably makes us even, we’ve always been good at calling it a wash… except when we’re trying to kill each other at whatever game we’ve invented.
See for me, the youngest, Mick had always existed. I didn’t have to get used to him like he had to with me. He was just always around. I’ve never been within forty pounds of his body weight. Mick’s just been a bigger-than-me fact in my life. He stands there; broad-shoulders slouched– Big. Gifted. Laid Back. At times, grumpy as shit. I can still hear him chewing his crackers like a starved racehorse at midnight as he read with the light on while I was trying to sleep.
With seven people in a four bedroom house, everyone but Jeremy had to take up a roommate. Mine was Mick. And I hated that big bastard as much as I loved him. We’ve always been either best friends or mortal enemies– sometimes both at the same time. The biggest thing we’ve always had in common is the love for imagination. We were almost never bored as kids. If I could charm or annoy Mick enough to play with me (which I was very successful at), or if he could persuade or intimidate me enough to play with him (which he was very successful at), then entertainment was just around the corner.
Another thing we have in common is that we are both chronically bad at falling asleep. As an adult, this has sometimes been a problem for each of us and how we function in our daily lives– yet as kids, instead of doing everything we could to try and calm our minds down at night, we would let our imaginations run free… and boy did they ever. Once my mom said prayers with us and tucked us in at night, and told us she loved us as she closed the door, anything could happen… and I mean anything.
I’ll try and give you a frame of reference for when I use the phrase “anything could happen” — One night we were up talking in the dark as usual, and for some reason, one of us hocked a huge loogie across the room onto other persons bed spread. The conversation went something like this– “Oh my gosh Char, that’s disgusting,” Mick said near belly laughing. Then he proceeded to launch a saliva-rocket of his own back at me. This resulted in an all out game of loogie-pong. Back-and-forth we volleyed balls of germs at each others bedspread– the winner of the match was whoever got more slobber on the others blanket. After five minutes, we were both out of ammo, so we grabbed our giant igloo thermoses, went to the bathroom, and loaded our aquatic-weapons. We went back in the room and the game went to a whole new level of wetness now that we were using our thermoses to become human super soakers.
I don’t think either of us could tell you what we were thinking as we played one of the most disgusting games humanity has ever seen, but I can tell you that for some reason we found this game hilarious. Since our room contained a total of three beds– Mick’s full-sized bed and a bunk-bed which, depending on my mood, I would sleep in either the top or bottom of– the game was especially fun for me who happened to be sleeping on the top bunk that night. Needless to say I had a tactical advantage. Anyone who walked in the room at the conclusion of the battle and saw Mick’s MLB bedspread would have thought he had just pulled it out of a whales stomach.
If my mother’s reads this, I’m almost sure it will be the first time she’s heard about the Great Loogie Battle of ‘99, and I’m definitely sure she’s glad she is just hearing about it now. Maybe I just ruined my chances of ever getting a date again by publishing this for the whole world to see, but I’ll take my chances for what I believe to be a very worthwhile reason. It’s the same reason Mick and I decided to start writing these cockamamie adventures of ours down. That reason is this: most any success we go on to have in adulthood, we will owe to our childhood.
As I’ve started to embrace my identity as a writer, I’ve realized that while I may have been born with a way with words, any God-given gifts I’ve been blessed with were infinitely supplemented and developed in my childhood. I was not one of those kids who was always writing short stories and plays for my siblings to perform– sitting down and writing down my ideas is actually something I’m very poor at, to be honest.
But I was a kid who was always imagining. I didn’t write plays. I just played. And as I played, I wrote stories in my mind. Whether it was a wild-west showdown with my Playmobiles, me as the king of Sparta rescuing a damsel in distress, or dominating the National League of Trampoline Basketball– I always plugged myself in as a character in a story who interacted with other characters. And most of the time my brothers were right there with me– and especially Mick, if not only because we were closer in age.
We were always day-dreaming… imagining hypothetical situations… allowing our minds to go to where they pleased– to places both strange and exhilarating. With a little extra imagination, my brothers and I could turn any ordinary situation into an extraordinary one. One time on a family mission trip to Mexico we made up a variation of a football game with a 2 liter soda bottle.
The great thing about imagination is that you can take it with you anywhere. And if you develop a good imagination, it can take you anywhere. Some of my imagination’s most powerful moments came late at night staying up with Mick. There was always a certain sense of magic in that room at night after we were “put to bed.” It was in this setting I built one of the closest relationships with another human being I have in my life.
Mick and I know each other like Shakespeare knew poetry, we were playmates like Calvin and Hobbes were playmates, we were adventurous like Lewis and Clark. I remember those nights we’d stay up late talking about everything you could imagine, and I’d stare up at the ceiling as we’d talk– we had some of those glow in the dark stars up on it– and I swear as I’d gaze up at the constellation that no one but us had ever seen, I could make out the face of a bearded man… He looked very wise and kind and strong. To be honest, he looked like God.
And right before I’d drift off to sleep, I’d gaze at that starlit face, and thought it was almost possible to float through that ceiling.