Sorry about missing yesterday’s writing, but it was another long day in Grafton, sorting out things to get the townhome ready to hand back to the landlords. It looks like a typical Fall day today –it started with 44 degrees, and will end up at about 75 degrees. Later this week, we are expected to have a couple of days with 85 degrees… you know, that typical Fall weather…
Anyway, for some reason, today I’ve been thinking about my brothers. I was the youngest of the three boys in the family – all of us older than the four sisters – and we were suitably staged at each of us 2 years apart. Ray was the oldest, and then came Tim – and then the most precious child, and Mom’s favorite…
The three of us spent our entire childhood and into our teenage years living in the same bedroom. We had triple decker bunk beds, which made it easy to irritate the person sleeping above you, by pushing on the springs with both legs. Fun times. We mostly had the same toys to play with -- blocks, and little white plastic building blocks, and Creepy Crawlers hot plate where we would take different colored goop and pour it into the molds, and let it cook, pulling it out and dumping it in the water to cool, with a giant hissing sound, and then carefully taking a straight pin and pull out the worm, or cockroach or other kind of bug we “created.” This was of course during that golden era of children’s toys, where the hot plate was REALLY hot we often had burns on our arms or our fingers – just part of the game.
We also would go through different phases of building plastic models. We built little cars, military planes, houses, and especially monster models. We of course had Dracula (Ray got first choice) and the Creature the Black Lagoon (Tim was second) and I got Phantom of the Opera. We later filled in the set with a variety of other gruesome creatures from the monster movie era. To build them meant we first had to paint them, and so while we bought the models, we also bought tons of little model paint bottles, and a few tubes of “airplane glue,” a great glue that had a very powerful aroma, that meant we sometimes had to open the window so we didn’t pass out.
The painting rarely looked like the box, in part because we were in hurry, and would take semi-dry parts, put the glue on and stick them together, leaving fingerprints on the capes, and glue squirting out from the edges. Still, in our eyes they were beautifully horrible.
Remember, this was the mid-60s, and there was a bit of a mania for monster movies – not the terror, guts and gore movies like they produce today – if Dracula went in for the neck bite, it was bloodless, but we all knew what was happening. Imagination is often better then just showing everything. Anyway, somehow we found a magazine that showed you how to apply monster makeup to create yourself (or your little brother) into a life-sized, walking gruesome monster. We were hooked, and talked Mom into helping us get the monster paint and makeup so we could look just like the movie characters. We learned that you could boil up some unflavored gelatin, let it semi-harden, and then smear it on one part of your face to look like the monster had been recently burned. Of course, once again, we were tempted to apply the gelatin a bit early, while it was still flaming hot, which left our cheeks with first degree burns anyway.
One day, in the magazine, Ray read how to create a realistic mummy look. Since I was the youngest, I was the perfect model (read sucker) to get “mummied.” The process required a bit of time, as I sat there, and both Ray and Tim took cotton balls, stretched them out, and then dipped one side in Karo Syrup (who thought of that?) and stuck them on my face. I have to tell you, it’s an interesting sensation to be covered with syrup and cotton balls. Everything but my eyes. The next step was to mix green tempera paint until it was the right undead color, and they painted the cotton balls. Never mind the fact that tempera paint is pretty drippy, and so I had as much paint down my neck and chest as I did on my face. Yet, in the quest for true monster makeup, I imagined Boris Karloff also had a bit of tempera paint in his ears, right?
The next step was to take old sheets – with Mom’s permission, tear them into strips, and wrap me up to fully look like a 10,000 year old mummy. It’s not easy to do, actually, because there is nowhere to tie it off, and with any motion, they tend to droop and separate. Still, it was a good try. The final work was to take a ping pong ball, cut it in two, poke holes in the center of each, and draw a black circle around the hole, and red veins across the ball. Yep, they put them on my eyes, and now I could only see a fraction of the world.
But I truly was gruesome. The next idea came pretty quickly. They walked me outside, and laid me down in the wagon we had, and proceeded to drag me around the neighborhood. As little kids would approach to see what we were doing, my brothers would give me the signal, and I would moan with my best 10,000 year old moan, and slowly raise my arm. I wonder how many of those little kids are in therapy today. We set the record for most screams in the neighborhood in a single hour.
Finally, they dragged me home, I shed the mummy rags, and peeled off the now semi-hardened karo cotton balls. It was a total mess – but a raging success. “We” had made a true monster, and showed him to the world…
I’ll have to tell you another time about being tied up in a locker and having my brothers beat on the outside, until I could act like Houdini. And escapades of sleeping out in the summer, and playing with a chemistry set in the bedroom with the door shut. I’m happy to report we all made it to adulthood, fairly unscathed.
So it was sad and sudden in 2006 that Ray died. The memories of childhood were locked and preserved, as only memories were available to be in contact with Ray. Tim and I have actually grown pretty close since then, as the two remaining “boys” of the family. We don’t see each other very often, but now and then, out of the blue, one or the other of us will fire off an email or a text, and the connection is strong and we both carry the memories of times past, and what that all meant.
I don’t have a great insight to pull from my thoughts today – just the privilege and the opportunity to share memories of my brothers when I was young. It is a part of my family that I miss as I remember – not to go through it all again, but just being able to look through that glass to the past, and see a wagon with rags dragging behind, and the best mummy created that day.
Blessings to you.
Word for the day: perfidious. Pronounced per-FID-ee-us. It’s a great Latin word with a great Latin history. The word itself means “tending to betray, or faithless.” It’s far deeper than that, however. Perfidiosus in Latin means, “treacherous,” from the Latin word, perfidia, meaning “faithlessness.” However, the word really is a squished up modification of an entire phrase that explained the action. The phrase was per fidem decipere, which is strictly translated as “through faith to deceive,” or “to deceive through trustingness.” There is perhaps no worse breech of any relationship than when one member becomes “perfidious.”
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.