Tag Archives: siblings

The curious case of an orthodontist, Kid-Ginger, and fungus

20 Feb

Puberty is rough.  Orthodontists are scam artists.  My mother is a sadist.

In 1996 these three truths collided to create the perfect storm.

At 14, I looked like this:

Simultaneously, my 10 year old bro looked like this:

The cool kids on the block, we were not.

What we lacked in trend-setting however, we made up for in mediocrity.

Naturally, neither of us ever wore our headgear.

And yes Mom, I know you are reading this and already getting irritated that you lost that battle, but I ask you to look at those two faces and feel pride.

Can’t do it, can you?

Anyway, let’s get back to the story.

As a result of never wearing our headgear, neither of our overbites were improving.  I was in the onset of my teenage rebellious hayday so this did not bother me.

Kid-Ginger however, had other problems.

At only 10, he was still anxious to please my parents and all figures of authority.  Every month on the night before our visit to the orthodontist, he’d strap the shiny apparatus into place and hope against all odds that one night of donning the robotic creation would fix his face.

Deep down however, he knew this wouldn’t work and so he’d get nervous.  Pacing around his room, he was always trying to think of ways to alleviate the oncoming argument between himself, the orthodontist, and our parents.

Nothing ever worked.  Every month, the morning would arrive, and we’d troop into the appointment like lambs to the slaughter.

Not one for privacy, this particular orthodontist had one giant room with several dental chairs in a row.  It was a Fordistic haven for the humiliation of  American youth and their teeth.

Kid-Ginger and I were usually seated next to one another.

It was during one such morning while I waited for the assistant to come and hook my head up to the Matrix and disassemble my mouth; that I chose to glance over at what was happening on my little bro’s end.

The orthodontist was just leaning over to take a look in Kid-Ginger’s open mouth.  Sweat gathering on the little guys forehead, he looked up in fear as Dr. Iago’s face twisted into pure disgust and he backed several steps away from my brother’s chair.

His eyes scanning his assistants in fear, he loudly announced:

“Someone get me the manual, we’ve got a situation here.”

Then, cautiously re-approaching the redhead’s chair he took another repulsed glance and said:

“Son, is that hurting you?  How long has THAT been growing in your mouth?”

Kid-Ginger’s cheeks now the color of beets, he shook his head nervously and asked:

“how long has what, is this about the headgear, I don’t know, I wear it, well I try to wear it, what is happening in my mouth?!”

My dental chair at this point had gone from seat of doom to the best seat in the house as I watched this melodrama unfold.

“Kid, your tongue is black.  Did you eat licorice for breakfast?  Do you brush your teeth? Where is that darn manual Peggy!!!”

(Peggy was the assistant I had been awaiting, so her scramble to locate the manual containing all mouth diseases did not bother me in the slightest)

Kid-Ginger, rapidly approaching black-out mode shook his feet and insisted he had not eaten anything for breakfast because he had been too nervous.

By this point all of the assistants were peering into my brother’s mouth in order to identify the problem.

Each of them looked horrified.

Booming over the intercom I suddenly heard the words:

“Would the father of Kid-Ginger please come into the workroom immediately please.  The father of Kid-Ginger.”

Enter in one sarcastic lawyer of a father.  My father.

“Sir, we need to show you the situation that is your son’s mouth.  I’m afraid we can’t work on him today.  Until we identify the fungus, we can’t associate our tools with it.  As of right now, it appears to be something called Black Hairy Tongue.”

I watched unblinkingly as my father glanced into his youngest offspring’s mouth.  His own jaw fell open, he stopped breathing, and he demanded of my brother:

“What in Gods name have you been eating?  Good lord do you ever brush your teeth?  Son, your tongue is absolutely black.  How long has it been like that?!?! What do you mean you haven’t noticed?  How on Earth can you possibly not have noticed?!?!? How many times do I have to tell you to USE YOUR HEAD?!?!”

The room went silent.

All eyes fixed on Kid-Ginger as he stared at my father like a deer in headlights.

Silence.

Slight ruffle of pages as the various assistants found new diseases in the manual and peered nervously into the gaping hole in my brother’s face. Shaking their heads no, the shuffling of pages continued.

More silence.

Finally, my father ordered the two of us to the car.  On the ride home, he continued to question my silently shaking brother.  Staring out the window in sheer terror, it appeared Kid-Ginger had gone mute.

Ten minutes passed.  Tension in the vehicle was high.

Then finally, the trembling voice of one 10 year old redhead announced:

“Well, I did drink a lot of Pepto Bismol last night, I was so nervous about today”

My father turned his head and stared at his son in disbelief.

“You were so nervous about the appointment you drank that stuff?  You hate that stuff.”

“I know Dad, but I didn’t know what else to do”

Later that evening it was discovered via prehistoric internet searching that Pepto Bismol can turn your tongue black if drunk in excess.

Turns out Kid-Ginger never had a fungus after all.  By dinnertime, he was fine.

My stomach was not so great though.

Having laughed so hard through the entire ordeal, my tummy ached for days.

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Thailand, Kid-Ginger, and my hairdressing aspiration

2 Dec

My brother thinks we should move to Thailand and open up a backpacking hostel.

I’m not so sure I’d be able to handle that much hippy.

Not that I wouldn’t be willing to give it a try.  I’m sure the opportunity for adventure and writing material would be vast.

He’ll report back on the situation, I’m sure.  He just left this morning, so I’m expecting an email within the next two weeks casually mentioning his intentions of marrying a local.

With Kid-Ginger, anything is possible.

Plus I recommended he read The Alchemist on the trip.  What better advice to give a brother than-hit the road, don’t look back, and go make your own journey?

I can feel my father’s expression as he reads that last sentence.  It’s bothered my parents for some time that I’ve been able to -ahem-casually suggest ideas for Kid-Ginger since he was quite small.

I can’t count the amount of times my mother has stared at him, exasperated, and muttered:

“Why, why on Earth do you keep listening to your sister?  Stop it.  Just stop listening to what she tells you to do-honestly.”

She may have been on to something the day I blindfolded him and fed him anchovy paste.  But I don’t think he really understood until nearly ten years later, when I decided to give him a ‘cool’ haircut.

I’ve somehow managed to convince three people in my life that I am capable of cutting hair.

He was my first victim.

Things were going well when I shaved off the sides of his head, and let longer red locks fall over the buzz underneath.  This was the nineties and we were in Seattle, so the grungy, mohawk potential was cool at the time.

For the record, he enjoyed the modern art on his scalp for the first week.  Like a little bad-ass, he ran across the soccer field, scoring goals while donning a look my father would later refer to as ‘white-trash chic’.

bad.ass.

If my mother  hated the artwork on his head at that point, she despised it a week later when I again came at him with scissors.  We were eating sandwiches on the porch, when I glanced at my 11 year old sibling and said:

“You know kiddo, I’m pretty sure it’s uneven.  I just need to fix it-a little, won’t take long, I promise.”

The problem with making hair even when you have no idea what you’re doing-is that somehow you convince yourself to just keep going shorter, and shorter….

and shorter….

Suddenly I realized I had turned my brother into a turnip.

uhhhh..whoops?

When my mom came home from work that afternoon, she found me outside the bathroom door, trying to console her only son on what would go down in history as Kid-Ginger’s worst haircut.

When he finally opened the door and she saw what I had done to his head, I knew I was grounded.

Hours later, after he had returned from the proper hairdressers and finally stopped glaring at me, I convinced him that it was just a misunderstanding.

By bedtime, we were friends again.

Here’s hoping he comes home from Thailand.

Sex, aliens, and courage

29 Nov

When I was ten, my parents rented a sex-ed tape from the library and made me watch it with them on the couch.

With candy.

It’s no wonder I only eat popcorn at the movies these days.

By the end of the film, my eyes had turned to the size of dinner plates.  Convinced they were from another planet, I stared at my parents in sheer horror.  Exactly 63 minutes prior to sitting on that couch, they were the loving providers of shelter, food, and buckets of presents.  By the time my father turned off the television, they had morphed into creatures from another planet who were concerned with topics I wanted absolutely nothing to do with.

Ever.

The two of them stared at me after it ended, curiously watching my response as if I were a case study.  Nervously tapping her fingers, my mother asked if I had any questions.  My father tilted his head.

By this point I was convinced that these so-called humans in front of me were alien sleeper pods.  I had questions-but you can hardly ask aliens what they’ve done with your real parents.  My knees shaking, I walked to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

The voice of the narrator branded in my head as I tried desperately to forget the phrase: ‘the sperm now travels through the penis shaft’.

Taking a sip of water, I feigned calm in front of the aliens.  My hands trembled as I mumbled the sudden need for a bike ride, and meandered towards the garage in what I desperately hoped would be a convincing act of cool and collected.

Once my feet hit the pedals, my imagination exploded.

A combination of scenes from the video and all alien movie plots I had ever seen infiltrated my brain as I pushed my bike further from the house o-extra-terrestrial parents.

Vowing to erase the images from my mind, I pedaled out to the treehouse to re-evaluate my family situation.  One thing was clear, my parents had lost their minds.  Whether or not that had something to do with spacecraft was unclear.  Further investigation was necessary.

I vowed to shelter my brother from a similar fate.  Whispering to him after dinner that night, I told him never to watch anything Mom and Dad brought home from the video store.  Staring at me from behind the red curls framing his chubby face, kid-Ginger obediently nodded.

Figuring that he was safe for the time being, I then lined up my stuffed animals to hold an open forum.  Not one of them provided much insight except Snoopy.  Being the oldest of the bunch, he just stared at me with those innocent eyes, willing me to take charge of the situation.

I had to save the human race from the aliens who were forcing children to watch this video.  Purpose of said video was unclear to me, but I was sure it could lead to nothing but tears, destruction, and the complete annihilation of mankind.

Tucking Snoopy under my arm, I fell asleep determined to warn the students of my class in the morning.  This situation was serious.

The next day, my teacher showed the video to my classmates.

As they watched in frozen horror, our loving teacher turned it off at the end and asked if any of us had already seen the tape.

Bravely, facing alien destruction, I defiantly raised my hand.  This creature was not going to shock me, no sir.   I had already seen the horror, now was the time for confrontation.

All my classmates turned in my direction.  It was clear, my hand indicated authority.  I was now the leader of these innocent sheep being sent to slaughter.

“I already saw it.  I already know what you’re going to say”.

That ladies and gentlemen, is how I became the playground expert on sex education and alien invasion.  The rest of the day, I was a celebrity on the swings, hollering out instructions on how we must unite against the adults.  My classmates eagerly hopped on board with this plan.  I was the shephard, and by God-I would not let harm come to my flock.

This lasted one day.

The next morning Joey Hunter brought in a copy of his father’s Playboy.

Turns out, the aliens knew how to get the boys attention.

performance art

23 Nov

I’m considering starting a rhythmic performance art show with kid-Ginger.

True, I have limited musical talent (save for interpretive dance and on a good day-finger symbols).  There’s also the minor detail that my brother doesn’t play any instruments.  But what American dream hasn’t started on the bitter cement of nothing?

None dear reader, absolutely none.

I suppose this logic could be applied to potential careers in other industries, but I’m sticking to music.  Besides, if we slap the genre post-modern on our vision, I don’t see how we can go wrong.

Let me set the stage (or street corner-as I’m thinking this is the most likely first venue) for you.

Brother leaning against a building (preferably condemned-capturing the essence of our time), a broken guitar sadly leans against his ripped denim-clad kneecap.   Myself front and center, one hand in pocket, other casually dangling finger symbols, suspenders hug my Mr. T t-shirt.    Kid-Ginger taps his feet to music the audience can only imagine as there is none actually playing.  I stand still, creepily eyeing anyone stopping to watch-holding eye contact like a ninja goldfish, ready to launch.

Brother steadies himself from building, hangs the tattered fret board off one shoulder, saunters down sidewalk, and utters the words:

“Art. Is. Unemployed.”

Enter in the finger symbol.

Tapping the broken guitar against his thigh, he then proceeds to recite select passages from A Christmas Carol, haunting chime of the symbol periodically echoing his phrases.

Finishing with the passages regarding Tiny Tim-(lets say ten minutes later), he again repeats the phrase:

“Art. Is. Unemployed.”

At which point, the symbol releases me from my frozen stance as I start quickly repeating that gem from the 80’s:

“I pity the fool.  I pity the fool.  I pity the fool.  I pity the fool.”

Which of course, is Kid-Ginger’s cue to slam out air guitar, full with leg kicks and the occasional head-bang.  This goes on for about five minutes, with my intonation ranging from childlike to scary-beast voice (have practiced in mirror-fear not readers, fear not).

Final symbol chimes.

We both freeze.

Kid-Ginger looks over at me, sighs and utters:

“Fool.”

I return my hands to my pockets, glare at the audience and state:

“Pity.”

With any luck, we’d end up with enough cash for two orders of waffles at IHOP.

If ordering those at that establishment isn’t enough indication of our nonconformist nature, then I’d better start revamping my resume.

After this at least I can add ‘ability to make fool of self for cash’ under skills.

kid-ginger goes rogue

18 Mar

When he was four, my brother tried to dress up as an old woman to escape the nursery section of a bowling alley.

If you’ve been following my shenanigans, you’ll recall that I had a babysitter growing up who believed herself to be the reincarnate of Michelangelo.  Well, she also loved bowling.  A lot.  An avid bowler, if you will.

She routinely convened with fellow senior citizens at the local establishment near our house.  Since kid-ginger wasn’t in school yet, he had to pass the time in the day-care center of this particular ball-heaving, pin-knocking venue.  She bowled twice a week, which is a lot of sock-odor and cigarette stained walls for a child (same child twenty years later has no problem frequenting dive bars-but this was different-this was involuntary).

So it was one day after a fifteen minute car ride in which he was forced to listen to Sammy Davis Jr sing Candy Man on repeat (her favorite-and by repeat I mean press-on nails rewinding the cassette tape each time the song ended); that my brother plotted a revolution.

I’m not quite sure how he managed it, but somehow the little creature rounded a gang of comrades (fellow four year-olds, willing to take action).  As he explained later that afternoon (from behind his bedroom door where he had been banished like most felons of his era), a group of them distracted the ‘warden’ by engaging in a massive peanut-butter and saltine cracker battle.  This diversion allowed one small red-headed brother of mine to escape out the door of the nursery, and don himself in various pieces of grandmother attire.

When they found him in the parking lot, he was wearing a flower-print jacket and some sort of hat he has forever been unable to identify.  He was upset at the lack of available eye-wear, as this clearly would have perfected the disguise.  Never mind the height problem, nor the cherub-faced child gazing up from underneath the moth-ball soaked garments.  No, for him the glasses would have ensured safe-passage through the parking lot to freedom.

Freedom by the way, was a pancake house across the street.

I never told him this but the day his attempted escape failed, he gained the respect of one very proud, very impressed older sister.

wine-tasting zilla-fam style

6 Mar

The greatest defense for any crime ever committed was uttered by my brother as he stood in the driveway, holding the broken antennae of my father’s truck in his trembling fist:

‘Dad, my mind made me do it’.

Yes, we Christen’s are known for our slick, stealth, and graceful behavior in all situations.  We’ve been bred for greatness, thats for damn sure, and absolutely no one is going to take that away from us.  Or at least thats what we tell each other.

For his part, my father has done much to further the public humiliations that tend to scatter our family outings.  In particular-family outings in Paris.

Enter dear reader, into the small cafe down the cobblestone street where one blonde anglophone sits with his two offspring during the summer of 1999.  The children, new to Paris, have been promised a local meal by their father-who is determined to show them how to properly dine in French culture.

Starting of course, with the wine.

Before the waiter arrives at the table with the bottle, the proud father turns to his children and mutters:

‘listen kids, I am going to show you how to properly taste wine.  It’s a big deal in this country, and something you should learn.   There’s a whole process, it’s pretty neat’

The children watch in anticipation as the waiter approaches holding a bottle of what is undoubtedly very expensive, very fine wine.  Both sets of wide eyes gaze upon the label as it is presented to their father.  They hold their breath in anticipation as the cork is popped open, and the thick red fluid splashes into the glass of the most intelligent man they know.  Their eyes sparkle as the ritual unfolds before them, their father holds the glass up to the light, swirls the liquid, takes a deep sniff of the scent, lowers it to his lips, and………

sneezes.

Causing the red wine to cover himself, his children, and the elderly couple sitting next to the American family.

Elderly couple not amused.  Children in a fit of hysterical laughter.  Father frozen like a deer in headlights.

He would later blame allergies.  But kid-ginger and I-we’re pretty sure his mind made him do it.