Monday, March 29, 2010

Pootsie: The Early Years

(Not Pootsie)

Unlike most Irish-American Catholic families, I do not have six sisters with names like Mary, Margaret, Mary Margaret, Margaret Mary, or Kathleen. Boy, would that have been a mess. With six sisters and a mom in the house, I would never have known we had a bathroom.

“Where are you going, honey?”

“Out in the yard, Mom.”

“My goodness, it’s fifty below zero out there!”

“Can’t help it, gotta take a dump.”

“Don’t be silly. There’s a perfectly good bathroom right upstairs.”

“You’re kidding! WHERE? You better tell Dad ’cause he’s out in the bushes trying to shave.”

My parents blessed me with just one little sister. Pootsie. That was her name, Pootsie. Not her official name, of course, the one she had to use on important documents like spelling tests and love letters to movie stars.

Actually, Dad was the only one who called Pootsie Pootsie. Mom and I called her Cathy, which was sort of her real name, but not the real real name that’s on her birth certificate. I cannot use her real real name because, even though she lives two million miles away in New York, she would poke me in the eye if I did. It is a moot point anyway, since Cathy had her real real name changed officially to Cathy ages ago, so now her real real name is Cathy.

I don’t see anything confusing about that, do you? I mean, it’s not like I had five other sisters calling themselves something different every fifteen minutes.

* * * * *

Even though I’m two years older than she is, my sibling got all the good stuff—brains, looks, and personality. She even got the boobs, which really pissed me off because I wanted them. There I was, waiting and waiting, while Cathy popped ’em out just as easy as microwave popcorn.

Everything, you see, was as easy as microwave popcorn for my sister. She never had to study because she just seemed to know shit automatically. Memorizing The Baltimore Catechism? No problem. By the third grade she had all five hundred answers memorized, while I was still working on number six during my senior year in college. It was the same thing with the multiplication tables.

MOM: “Cathy, what is 1,642 times 2,928?”

CATHY: “4,807,776. Gee, Mom, that was an easy one.”

MOM: “Chuckie, what is 4 times 3?”

CHUCKIE: “Let me see now, 4 times 1 is 4, 4 times 2 is 8, 4 times 3 is 27, no, no, that’s not right, wait a minute, I’ll get it, don’t keep pestering me, I need time to think, a lot of it, and boy, is it hot in here, I really have to go to the bathroom, and don’t stare at me like I’m stupid, this stuff is hard, I’ll get it sooner or later, let me see, 4 times 1 is 4, 4 times 2 is . . .”

Cathy got all the talent, too. She can’t play the bassoon worth a shit, only because she never took bassoon lessons, but she was a child singing-and-tap-dancing sensation. Well, I don’t know if she was a sensation, but she was pretty good. She sang and tap danced in local shows, many of them at nursing homes, and I remember that she made those lonely old folks feel young again, at least for a little while.

* * * * *

Lest I make it sound like my sister was some kind of perfect child, she wasn’t. Far from it. When she was three, she had chronic tonsillitis. Either yank them, the doctor said, or else she could kiss show biz goodbye by the time she turned four. Problem is, it was her rotten tonsils that got my perfectly good ones snipped too.

DOCTOR: “Looks like Pootsie has a problem with her pipes and I’ll have to pull ’em.”

MOM: “Oh dear Lord. What about Chuckie’s?”

DOCTOR: “His are perfectly good, but I might as well rip ’em out at the same time. I’m having a big two-for-one sale down at the hospital this week, plus I give S&H Green Stamps.”

So Cathy got her singing voice back, Mom got a new toaster with the shitload of Green Stamps from the hospital, and all I got was a sore throat that has been acting up ever since.

* * * * *

Other stories about my only sibling:

Clean Underwear

Singing for Salvation

23 comments:

mapstew said...

A proud big brother! :¬)

Jimmy Bastard said...

Now this made me laugh sir!

TechnoBabe said...

Same in my growing up years. One brother two years older. Sounds like your sister has talent though, unlike my brother's sister!

Pat said...

When I was a kid the norm was to remove tonsils that got inflamed but when war broke out the ops stopped and they found the tonsils righted themselves after a coupe of years so after the war they stopped removing them as a matter of course.
You should be getting the boobs any time now.

Ponita in Real Life said...

Seriously? You wanted boobs? If you still do, just get yourself a pair bigger than your sister's... That should make you feel better.

Wandering Coyote said...

OK, what are S&H Green stamps?

I was quite shocked to read that you wanted breasts...Interesting...

I was blessed with abnormally large tonsils. Whenever I saw a different doctor as a kid, the doc would always remark about how big my tonsils were. I still have them, too.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Back in those days I thought a Tonsillectomy was a right of passage like circumcision. The hospital giving out S&H Green Stamps??

My job was to past them into the book and make sure all the pages were complete. We never accumulated enough to get anything really cool from the catalog, though.

When I was away at college there was a store in town that had a green neon "S&H Green Stamps" sign outside. A mile down the road was a church with a red neon "Jesus Saves" sign. You can guess were I am going with this, and... yes, we did!

flying eagle woman said...

oh this made me smile from the inside out!
:-)
Shawna

savannah said...

i'm an only child, so i got the best of everything! ;~D xoxoxox

Charlie said...

MAP: You're right. I loved that kid.

JIMMY: I hope you didn't spill any of that dark nectar when you laughed.

BABE: I'm sure that your brother's sister has some talent, like writing.

PAT: My sister's tonsils were seriously infected, so they had to come out.

And I will never grow man-boobs--I'm too lean and svelte.

PON: Boob jobs are big around here, so maybe I'll find me a plastic surgeon for a pair of those plastic-filled things.

Or maybe there's a stick-on kind.

Charlie said...

WC: Grocery stores and gas stations used to give green stamps--one stamp for every ten-cent purchase--which you pasted in books and traded for goods in a catalog. It was an incentive to shop there.

The boob thing was just some of my nonsense.

And I'm glad for you tonsils. Do they help when you play your elk caller?

ROBERT: Green stamps at the hospital--more nonsense.

Quite admirable, what you did with your books during college. Did you give the mission your textbooks too?

SHAWNA: What a nice thing to say! Smiling from the inside out . . .

SAVANNAH: Were you spoiled? Did you have your tonsils out? Did you get to trade in the green stamps for yourself? Inquiring minds want to know.

Meg said...

Too bad you never got the boobs, but it's not too late. Hubby's taking some medication now and one of the possible side effects is enlarged breasts.

Fay's Too said...

Oh, my Grimm! We can talk about siblings? Alllllright! It's on!
You made me laugh Charlie. Pootsie is a lucky little sister.

Tiffin said...

I was a Pootsie to my kid brother...the poor guy. What a dear post this was, Charlie.

kara said...

sisters are awesome.

on an unrelated note - i had to have my tonsils out at age 3. my earliest memory is coughing up blood. but i got a mickey mouse balloon so it all evened out.

Kim Ayres said...

Believe me, when you're a middle aged man, your own boobs are not half as much fun as you think

Stinkypaw said...

The way you describe having sibblings almost makes me wish I had some as well... :-)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Does Pootsie know that you are besmirching her good name? And talking about her boobs?

Charlie said...

MEG: Do I have to explain everything to you? Guy boobs are no fun--it's all about gurls.

FAY: Sure you can talk about siblings--especially if they're odd, in the sense of eccentricity or running off their rails now and then.

TUI: So you loved him, I take it, except when he put chewed chewing gum in your hair.

KARA: Yeah, you have a couplea sisters, I think. The Brontë sisters, perhaps?

And once your throat healed, you could eat your stupid balloon with no pain.

Charlie said...

KIM: You don't have yours anymore, remember?

STINKY: In my case, I think siblings are more interesting as kids. Once we reached our teens, we went to different schools and had different friends.

BARB: Dearest Zombie, I do not besmirch. And I was not "talking" about her bosom--one half of one sentence is hardly "talking."

Now, if I was doing a review the way you do reviews, that would be a whole different thing.

Murr Brewster said...

By the time I slid out, my parents were good and tired. They ran out of money and impetus, so I didn't get the braces, still have my tonsils, and got shoved into college and away from home at age 16. I don't blame them a bit; I planned on being nothing but trouble.

Charlie said...

MURR: And in the short time I've "known" you, you stuck to your plan.

Mary Witzl said...

This made me laugh, Charlie -- and so did Pat's comment. (Half our household stuff was purchased with S & H greenstamps. We had bluestamp stuff too...)

My older sister had her tonsils out too and the doctor was all set to remove ours. Then he 'accidentally' killed his wife with a shotgun and was tried, and convicted, for murder. So my little sister and I got to keep our tonsils. But with three girls in the family, nobody ever had enough time in the bathroom.