Yesterday was my brother’s birthday. I (the collective “I” meaning my wife, my youngest brother and his wife) did get him a present, but since creating a blog post as a pseudo-birthday present for Susie worked so well (aka I didn’t get yelled at, hit, kicked out of the house or made fun of) that I have made the executive to extend this “idea” to other members of my family. (Sure I set the bar low, but hey a little mediocrity never hurt anyone.) Technically, I skipped a member of the family (sorry Abby!) but I felt like I need a little bit more time to gather up some good stories and secret memories about my sister-in-laws before they get the full Mamihlapinatapei treatment. Who knows, if I keep this up, maybe I will let my brothers guest blog on their wives’ birthdays.
However the focus of today is the middle brother. So without further ado, here are a few childhood thoughts and memories about Matt.
1) Matt is the ‘cool’ brother
I can’t pin down an exact reason why, but I have always felt he was the coolest of the three brothers (sorry Brian!) Maybe it’s because he always had lots of friends or was always going to cool parties, but to me, he always has had that ‘it’ factor, which seemed pretty awesome to me. This even includes playing the lead bad guy in the school play (and everybody knows that playing a bad guy is cool!)
2) Matt is a very good speller
Matt was in the school Spelling Bee finals two times that I remember and I think there was a third time after I graduated. Picture a brave little kindergartener going up against the big bad 1st and 2nd graders. He held his own for awhile, but then went out on a very tricky word. It was “wave”. I can close my eyes and still see him up on the stage… “Wave…. W… A… V…. (a long pause that felt like forever while I mentally tried to get Matt to add the ‘e’) Wave”. He just got unlucky and was one of the first contestants to have to spell a word with a trailing silent ‘e’. Oh well. Of course that didn’t stop him, and a few years later, I once again found myself secretly rooting for him versus someone from my own class. I believe Matt got all the way to the end, but this is where my memory fades a little bit. I distinctly remember him having an opportunity to win, but I think he either misspelled ‘vegetable’ or ‘Apostle’ and then it was downhill from there. Next time you see him, buy him a beer and you can probably convince him to tell you all about it. I am sure he’ll thank me later. Much, much later.
3) Cut down in his prime
Matt suffered one of the first significant injuries that I can remember among the three of us. Now compared to some of the things that come up in the children’s hospital, a cut on the knee that required a few stitches doesn’t sound that bad. but it is the first memory I have of any of the three of us having to go to the emergency room and get fixed up. He cut himself on a piece of glass on the playground at school. The most devastating part was that there was an important Little League baseball game that he had to sit out. There were also some conspiracy theories being thrown about that one of the main players from the other team was somehow involved in the injury, although no one could get the details straight of whether that kid pushed my brother in to the area that had the glass or if that kid planted the glass. Mythbusters hasn’t gotten on the case yet, but I am sure it is just a matter of time.
4) The only time I laid a hand on one of my brothers
Despite being 3 larger and athletic boys who also happened to be close in age, we never got into any fights. Sure there were times when we got on each others nerves, annoyed each other and were mad, but there were never any intentional physical altercations (The “Snow Shovel Incident” is still under review). However, there was one time that left a big impression. Matt was walking out of the bathroom on the second floor of our old house (the bathroom that all 5 of us usually used, although there was a shower in the basement bathroom where people sometimes got ready). He happened to not have a towel on as he walked past me to his room. I am still not sure of the source of inspiration for what happened next. There was no malice or intent to harm, I just remember thinking “I wonder what would happen if…” and without thinking it through any further I reared back and blasted him on the bare bottom with my hand as hard as I possibly could. To this day, I have never seen human skin so red. There with a clear impression of my hand left so indelibly that it may have taken years for it to go away. I am still not sure why he never hit me back either that day or in some kind of sneak attack later. I think we were both so stunned that this had actually happened. Then again, maybe he is just waiting for the right time to strike…
5) Seriously, we sleep with our eyes open
When we first moved into the house on Marquette in Cal City, Matt and I shared a room and Brian had his own room. I remember a decent amount of chatting back and forth, but nothing substantial. Although, at some point our chattering led to the development of a theory that we must sleep with our eyes open because neither of us remember closing our eyes and as soon as it was morning time and we woke up our eyes were open. Had to be true. Lock it down. (We were logic geniuses at 6-8 years old!) This led to adamant protestations to our parents of the infallibility of our theory. So we kept on falling sleeping with our eyes open, comforted with the thought that we were so wise. Until one morning our parents showed us a picture of the two of us, curled up in the same bed, both of our eyes closed. (This would be a perfect place to insert that picture and then slowly have this post drift off into the sunset.)(Too bad this isn’t a Hollywood movie. Although I think my parents might still have this picture somewhere.)(So instead, I’ll will post this recreation of that night…)
Happy birthday to my middle brother! A man who still loves barbecue sauce, burnt toast (sometimes these two items together!) and has done a complete 180 on gravy. “Big” Matt McKenna.