Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Younger Siblings ISO Your Attention/Companionship

I took an early education class at Ball State University back in 1980, and the instructor made the statement that preschoolers generally aren't aware of gender differences.

This was news to me--especially, in the light of the girls' club of my own preschool years.

Looking back on my life, I think I had the best of both worlds.  And still do!  Biologically, I'm an only child.

However, over the years, I have "adopted" various friends as siblings--and I also had a kind of sibling relationship with my cousins as we were growing up.

When Uncle Dick was stationed in Austria, Aunt Jenny and their kids, Carolyn and Jimmy, spent some time over there with him.  However, the three of them returned to the United States in time for the beginning of the school year.  They had a small camper trailer where they went to bed at night but spent the rest of the day in our house.  Their time with us began a few months before I turned two years old (on December 12, 1954) and lasted a few months more.

In the summer of 1955, Uncle Roy passed away very suddenly of a heart-attack at the age of 39, so Aunt Ruby and their son, Phil, came to live with us.  As they had furniture, they lived with us fulltime until sometime in 1956 when we turned part of our barn into living quarters for them,  This is where I live now--but that's another story entirely.
When I was in fourth grade and my dad was about to have serious open-heart surgery, my paternal grandparents (along with Uncle Jim and his five kids:  Barbara, Susie, David, Cathy, and Tommy) came up from Kentucky to live with us at least temporarily. 

I didn't know this at the time, but Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim had separated and would, eventually, divorce.  Since Tommy was just a baby, Aunt Mary ended up getting primary custody of him while my grandparents and Uncle Jim had primary custody of the other four.

They made up a day room down in our basement (a lot like the summer kitchen they had in Kentucky) but had full run of the house 24/7.

Once they decided to move up here permanently, they lived in the barn, as Aunt Ruby and Phil had long since been living in the house they had bought on the outskirts of Markleville.

Even when we were living in separate houses, my cousins and I were more like siblings than cousins.

Over the years, my folks and I have taken in several friends who were in need of a place to stay for various reasons.

But--getting back to whether or not preschool children had gender awareness--I don't know about the kids with whom Dr. Williams came in contact, but I do know about my cousins (Aunt Mary & Uncle Jim's kids) and me.  When this took place, Cathy and Tommy hadn't been born yet, so it was Barbara (6), Susie (4), me (3), and David (2).  

We usually all played together, but I got the idea into my head that I wanted to organize a girls' club.  There was one problem, and that was that David wanted to be in the girls' club, too.  

We girls couldn't persuade him to leave us alone and let us have our girls' club, so I came up with this idea that I thought would do the trick really well when it came to discouraging him.

I went to the shiftrobe and got a dress out, telling David that, if he wanted to be a member of our club, he would have to dress like us.

Surprisingly, he was okay with that, so we turned up the fire a little more by telling him that he would have to go into the living room and let everybody see what he looked like.
We paraded him past all of the grown-ups who were sitting around watching TV.  When they asked us what David was doing wearing a dress, we told them that he wanted to be in our girls' club.

They said that it wasn't necessary for David to wear a dress, to which I said that he couldn't be in the club without wearing the dress.  This, of course, was supposed to keep him out of our private club.

However, it didn't work quite that way.  David had turned out to be such a good sport that we were actually starting to have second thoughts about excluding him.  When one of the grown-ups suggested that David could be our manager, we decided that this would be okay, so we all went back in the bedroom and played together with David wearing his little boy clothes again.

Shortly after my cousins arrived at our house back in 1962, they took me aside to show me a discovery that they'd made that could be put to good use if I wanted to play along.  The full bath was right next to my bedroom, and there was a little closet that contained the plumbing for the bathtub.  These pipes, according to my cousins, would make the perfect boogie man--a solution for keeping Cathy (then four) in line when she got to be a pest.

After we had our story straight, my cousins marched Cathy up to the closet, and I confirmed my cousins' story that the boogie man did, indeed, live in that tiny closet and pointed out his arms, legs, and face to Cathy.  We told her that, if she bugged us, we were going to tell boogie man to come out and get her.

For some reason or another, there are times when everybody in a family plays together and gets along famously and other times when you want to play with some people and not others, and one or more people are seen as being in the way.

The story I wrote called Monopoly Memories starts out when I played the role of the pest and would, later, be a welcome player in plenty of those long, drawn-out games of Monopoly.

I'll never forget that weekend when I was in eighth grade and my folks, Aunt Kate, Uncle Don, Denise (then four), and I drove to Lexington, KY to visit Uncle Kermit who was teaching at University of Kentucky at the time.

She had brought along three or four of her favorite Little Golden Books so that I could read to her during the ride.  I can't tell you exactly how many pages long those books were, I've slept since then, but it's my guess that there weren't more than 20 pages in each one, if that, with a paragraph or two on each page.

Once I had read through all of them, Denise wanted me to read them again. . .and again. . .and again. . .and again. . .and so on and so-forth for the entire 200+ mile trip.

This was fine for the trip going down, but, on the return trip, I wanted to have my nose out of Denise's Little Golden Books at least part of the time so that I could enjoy some adult conversation and scenery.

However, Denise had other ideas and soon had those books in my lap again.  When I explained to her that I hadn't had the chance to look at any scenery on the way down and wanted to on the way back, she got a stern look on her face and told me:  "Ainsley Jo, I'm not looking for scenery!  I want you to WEED to me!!!"

I tried to get her to see the fun of looking out the window while we were riding along and pointed out an interesting looking arch to her.

My mom tried to help me, too, by encouraging Denise to take a good look at the arch--to which she told her: "Aunt Lee, I'm not looking for arches!  I want Ainsley Jo to WEED to me!!!"

I can't remember how it all turned out, but I think I ended up getting to enjoy some scenery and adult conversation on the way back home--but I'm pretty certain that I did "weed" to Denise at least part of the time on the return trip just because I have this little soft spot in me--the same kind of soft spot that made Barbara, Susie, and me decide that David could be part of our girls' club without wearing a dress; the same kind of soft spot that inspired us to tell Cathy the truth about what that thing in the little closet really was; and the same kind of soft spot that led my older cousins to reassure me that they would teach me how to play Monopoly and kept their word about doing so.

Recently, a story I read several years ago came to mind. It was one of those nostalgic, slice-of-life stories like I'm both fond of reading and writing.

This story was told through the words of a man (by then in his late thirties or early forties) writing about something special his big brother did for him that he didn't have to do which made him feel all warm, fuzzy, and included.

It was something on the order of when my dad took my cousins and me to watch A Hard Days Night at the South Drive-In back in the late summer of 1964.  Cathy--who was six at the time and would be starting first grade shortly--wanted to go, too.

Even though we were pretty sure that she would fall asleep within the first fifteen to thirty minutes of when the movie started playing and wouldn't wake up until sometime after we had carried her into the house as dead weight and placed her in bed for the night, we decided to include her.

As it turned out, Cathy and I were the only ones in the car who stayed awake 100% of the time, and she arrived home all excited about her big night out with The Beatles.

You can read more about that Beatle-filled summer here.

Cathy was very disappointed to find out that she couldn't go see The Beatles when they came to The Indiana State Fairgrounds a few weeks later (only three seats for Susie, my dad, and me), but she found comfort in getting the important job of helping to make the cake for David's birthday party while we were gone.

This brings me back to the story about the two brothers.

The older brother had just turned twelve or thirteen, which meant that he was now old enough to go to the movie theater (at least, for the Saturday matinee) without having to take a grown-up along with him.

He and some of his friends had made plans to go watch a Western together one Saturday afternoon when he noticed his little brother looking at him with a wistful expression on his face.

He turned to his friends and told them that he'd like to include his little brother in their afternoon out, and his friends were okay with that, too.

From then on, the little brother was always included in Saturday afternoon at the matinee with the big boys.

I have a lot of love and admiration for defense attorney, Stuart V. Goldberg.  He has defended many people over the past three decades.

Some of his clients aren't even guilty but have been in the wrong place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time.

There are others who are, likely, guilty of at least some of what they've been charged with but there isn't enough evidence to convict them.

There are others who are too guilty not to be found guilty, and, in this case, Stuart will work with the prosecution, the judge, and his client to try to come up with the best solution for all involved.

Lots of lives have been turned around, thanks to Stuart, because he not only defends his clients but, also, does all that he can to try to help them turn their lives around.

I'm going to share a passage from Stuart's website to give you an even better understanding of his thinking...

The Talmudic Scholar, Maimonides, wrote that a person "should see the entire world as half good and half evil, so that with a single good deed, he will tip the scales for himself, and for the entire world, to the side of merit."

Attorney Stuart V. Goldberg believes that there is a secret garden in the heart of every accused criminal--a garden, which no matter how dark, may be nourished.  To appreciate each person no matter what or where he or she is in life, and to give that person the best chance possible--and to convince the court that the sins should be erased but not the sinners.

There have been times in Stuart's career when not only has a client been so obviously guilty but, also, is somebody who is very difficult to like and/or has committed a very heinous crime to the point that it becomes a challenge even for the likes of Stuart to give this person what he/she is entitled to by our Constitution: a strong, fair, and effective defense.

How does Stuart deal with a situation like this?

He puts himself into the skin of somebody such as a parent, sibling, spouse/sweetheart, close friend, etc. of the defendant, imagines what they must be feeling, and gives his best to the case for their sake.

Have you seen the movie called Stand By Me, which is a sensitive coming-of-age movie about four boys during their last summer before entering junior high?

When the movie opens, it shows a man sitting in his car parked at the side of a quiet backroad and staring at a newspaper article about an attorney stabbed to death at a fast-food restaurant.

Some boys ride by on bicycles, and his mind goes back to his childhood and a camping trip he took with his three best buddies (Vern, Teddy, and Chris).

If you've seen this movie, you know the purpose of the camping trip and how everything turned out, but I'm not going to write about that here in case you haven't seen it--and, if you haven't seen it, I'd highly recommend this classic from the 1980s.

Although most of it is played out via the conversation and action of the characters, there is narration from time to time throughout the movie. 

This is the voice of the grown-up Gordie who, at the time the drama took place, had lost his big brother, Denny, in an automobile accident not long before.

Denny had been the only person in his immediate family who thought that Gordie's dream of becoming a writer was worthwhile.

Gordie also had the feeling, right or wrong, that his mom and dad would have been happier had he been the one who had died because, unlike him,  Denny was such a popular young man and so successful in school and sports.

Chris had been the only one of his three friends to whom he'd opened up about his dreams of becoming a writer, even though. due to his brother no longer being there to encourage him, he had come to think that his dreams might be foolish ones.

It was Chris who picked up where Denny had left off when it came to encouraging Gordie.

Chris had a dream of his own that he could barely dare to dream, and that was to leave their little town to go off and do something special with his life.

In the end, Chris became a lawyer and Gordie realized his dream of becoming a writer.

The ultimate something special that Chris did with his life was in saving the life of another and getting a fatal stab wound to his throat while doing so.

Right before the end of the movie where he goes outside to play with his kids, the adult Gordie is shown at his word processor writing about that special summer.

One of the things he writes is about his late friend...

Although I hadn't seen him in more than ten years, I know I'll miss him forever.

Recently, President Obama made the announcement that the long-elusive Osama Bin Laden had been found and shot to death by some of our brave troops.

Even though he was our enemy, those who had captured and killed him respected his religious beliefs which called for a person to be laid to rest within 24 hours of his/her death.

He ended up being buried at sea--a man without a country wanting to provide a final resting place for his earthly remains.

Will this mean that it won't be long now before our troops can finally come home for good?  I hope so.  They have been away risking--and, too often, giving--their lives for far too long in this, seemingly, neverending war on terror.

Osama Bin Laden seemed to be the mastermind behind several acts of terror with the most atrocious ones taking place on September 11, 2001.  It will have been ten years this coming September.

What has he left behind?  Are his cells of trained terrorists still together enough to do more and extensive damage?

Will our troops come home to peace?  or  Will they have a new job of fighting terrorists on our own soil instead of fighting in other lands?

The "wars" in which we've been involved during the past two decades are, in the scheme of things, actually small battles happening within a generations-old war.

It's both a religious war and a war about who lives where and who is being forced to leave.

Acts of terror are tossed back and forth like a ball, because each act calls for revenge, and each act of revenge becomes an act of terror that calls for a return of revenge.  This is, seemingly, a neverending nightmare.

How can we make it stop!?!

Perhaps, we need to look at some of the players.

There's the case of the teenage girl from the Gaza Strip who watches as a bomb from Israel kills a neighbor child.  She responds by going to Israel and becoming a human bomb in a crowded marketplace.  Among those who are killed is a young Israeli lady right around her age.

In the account of this tragedy that I read, it talked about how alike those two young ladies really were and how, given other circumstances, they might have even become best friends.

They liked to listen to the latest hits; had dreams of going to college; had boyfriends; and loved to shop and experiment with make-up.  They had pictures of their pop idols on the walls of their rooms in homes they shared with loving families.

This won't be an easy task, but it just might be time to change our methods of fighting the war on terrorism.

The Internet is one of our most powerful weapons for pulling this off.

Pulling what off?

Bringing people of different countries, religions, and cultures together so that we can learn about each other and get to like and love each other so much that there will be no room for hating each other!

I read about one summer camp that brought together young campers where some were from Israel and others were from The Gaza Strip.  At first, the kids from each country kept to themselves, but, in time, they began to eat, talk, and play games together.  By the time that camp was over, they had forged friendships that wouldn't be easily broken by the hatred going on around them!

For now, I'm going to close, but I'll be talking more about this in the near future.  Some of what I have to say will be going in the book that I'm currently writing.

Even the worst of terrorists aren't some kind of demonic monsters that have risen out of cesspools.  They start out just like most of us have but, somehow, get their minds poisoned by hate.

Most have legitimate reasons to be angry, and their biggest mistake is not addressing that anger in positive and constructive ways and, instead, becoming bigoted against people whom they don't even know due to differences in religion, customs, skin color, and even physical appearance.

I've heard that Osama Bin Laden actually was a gentle and nonviolent person back when he was a young adult.  When did he become too consumed by anger to continue dealing with life in more positive ways?

It's a gross understatement to say that, within the general public, there is quite a lack of mourning re: the death of Osama Bin Laden.

People have actually been dancing in the street and celebrating!

If the killing of this one man brings about the dissolving of Al-Queda and returns our young men and women to our homeland where they belong, there will be a true reason to celebrate!

But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't mourn for the likes of Osama Bin Laden--not so much mourn his death as to mourn what he developed into many years before his death and even many years before 9-11.

He was killed many years ago by the hatred smouldering within him, and we should mourn the person he could have become.

Once upon a time, a little boy's day was made when his big brother talked his friends into letting him tag along with them when they went to the Saturday matinee.

This is how that little boy, now all grown up, chose to remember his big brother, Osama Bin Laden.

Those poignant words that Gordie wrote about Chris might also be the ones that this all-grown-up little brother is thinking now when he remembers how things were and how they could have been...

Although I hadn't seen him in more than ten years, I know I'll miss him forever.