Friday, June 6, 2008

Big Brother - Perspective VI: The Little Things II

It was just a tiny thing, a very little thing. A small motion in a world of confusion, chaos and random danger. As I was preparing to cross yet another of Vietnam's notoriously treacherous streets I looked down to see a small boy of maybe seven orBig brother, Cross the street, Drafted, Kid, Traffic, Moline, Corvair, Chevrolet,  USA, eight, standing by my side. As I began to take a step into the oncoming Yamaha onslaught, he – without looking up, grabbed my hand and crossed the street with me as his guide. As we hit the curb on the other side he released and ran joyfully to a group of maybe aunts, moms or both selling iced coffee and soft drinks. I smiled, thinking how random and sort of cool it was. Drafted, finally, in Vietnam – to be a big brother, again, for just a minute.

Excerpt from Wild Wild East":

"Baby We're In This Together – Parked before the clunky Buicks and Fords on a gravel suburban Illinois street, the shiny black 61 Corvair Monza was like a little spoon of caviar atop an Elvis sandwich of peanut butter and banana. – quite the garnish for this Mid-western party. The Chevy Corvair, made famous firstly by Ralph Nader’s exposition of its safety issues, and secondly by its “sub sandwich, couldn't tell which way it was going” design, had made its way from New Jersey at the hands of Chelsi Moretti, Doris’ former boss and mentor at the Lenox China factory. Chelsi was also her son’s Godfather and had made his way cross-country for this special family event.

Deposited by the Buicks and Fords, a stream of fashionable young housewives in June Cleaver dresses paraded into the Carlson’s new ranch home, each carrying a ribbon bound box of congratulatory content as David watched in anticipation. Dressed in his Sunday best of navy blue shorts, jacket and tie with Catholic-black shoes and ankle socks, he stared at the pebbles of the front doorstep, head in hands. Each patting him on the head and saying “Hi David!”, one by one the ladies let the aluminum screen door slam behind them as they entered the house. Inside a near carnival was underway. Curly coloured streamers loping from ceiling corners to the center of the room, Ferrante & Teicher on the stereo, cakes, tea and swishy dresses spiraled around the event of the day – David’s new baby sister, Bonnie.

He didn’t get it. Five years as the number-one son and all of a sudden this monkey-looking crying bundle was stealing all the attention. The world was going to be a very different place from now on.

Chelsi came out to the porch and sat down next to David. “Hey buddy, you’re a big brother now”, he said, “cheer up”. But “cheery” wasn’t exactly in David’s lexicon yet. He still didn’t get.

One day, a few weeks before, he had gone to the kitchen with a very important question for his mother. “Mom”, he asked, “Mrs. Adams is getting very fat. Why is she getting so fat?"

Mom, understood the question immediately. She turned around, wiped her hands and took David out to the living room. As they sat on the sofa she explained that Mrs. Adams, the neighbor next door, was going to have a baby, and that’s why she was getting so big. “It’s not fat”, she explained, “Mrs. Adams has a little baby inside her and that takes up a lot of space – she just looks fat”.

“But we’re going to have a baby, and you’re not getting fat”, he retorted.

The concept of adoption is a hard one to grasp for a five year old and as much as Doris had explained the idea of where David’s new baby sister was coming from, this was her realization that it was going to be even more of a challenge.

David had remembered the trip to Catholic Social Services in Peoria, a classic old sandstone hospital with high ceilings, marble floors and heavy wooden benches in the lobby. He was asked to sit on one of the benches while his mother and father went into the office to sign the papers with Mrs. Davies, the social worker who paid regular visits to their home to check on their first adoption.

Feet dangling above the floor he watched doctors and nurses in white as they carried out their business. But what was their business? This was where people came to get babies? Actually, he thought all people got their babies here until Mrs. Adams got fat.

The Carlsons came out of the office to await the arrival of their new daughter. As a nurse came down the marble stairs carrying a little bundle, she slipped and sent the baby flying. In slow motion David watched as the baby traveled to the hard marble floor – and then a second – and then “waaaaaaaahhhhhh!” She was okay. Interesting, he thought. You can drop a baby on it’s head and it’s still okay. Interesting indeed.

The idea that nobody gave the baby a shower during the baby shower didn’t make a great deal of sense but it was quite the party. Gifts were opened while the guest of honor seemed to sleep through most of the festivities.

Chelsi and David went back to the porch with their cake and punch. From this point on he realized that things were going to be very different – but different in a different way. Now he had responsibility. Now he was a big brother. The hand tinted black and white photograph, made at the local portrait studio, with his new baby sister on his lap wouldn’t tell the whole story but it was a good start."

For more on the "Perspective" or "Little Things" series, click below:

My Morning Wake-Up Call - Perspective XX: The Little Things XII
We'll Have A Gay Old Time - Perspective XIX: The Little Things XII
"Rolled Foggy Disposed Ricepaper" - Perspective XVIII: The Little Things XI

Joyeux Noel - Perspective XVII: The Little Things X

Lunch With Obama - Perspective XVI: The Little Things IX

One Motley Crue On The Bus Today - Perspective XV: The Little Things VIII

Attraction vs. Conversion: How To Power Your Blog - Perspective XIV: The Little Things VII

A glass box full of deep fried chicken heads - Perspective XIII: The Little Things VI

Seoul Searching - Perspective XII

He Would Have Shot Me 40 Years Ago - Perspective XI: The Little Things V

Chomsky on Colour & Sleep - Perspective X: The Little Things IV.2

Running With Scizzors - Perspective IX: The Little Things IV

Henry Miler II - Perspective VIII : The Little Things III.1

Henry Miller - Perspective VII: The Little Things III

Big Brother - Perspective VI: The Little Things II

This Carnival of Life! - Perspective V

The Art Walk - Perspective IV: The Little Things

Bentley #5 - Perspective III.2

Bentley vs. Vespa - Perspective III.1

Bentleys Invade Vietnam - Perspective III

Death Of A Colleague - Perspective II


1 comment:

  1. Your post reminded me of late 68 and early 69 when I lived in Hiep Duc village, thirty=five miles southwest of Danang, as the liaison for the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. There were 1,500 locals resettled in the village and me. I lived on a small hill next to the village. Each morning a few kids from the village would wake me. One I called "Mao" because he was the spitting image of a tiny Mao. I ate breakfast with him and his buddies, before walking down the hill to feed the village with hundreds of boxes of stolen C-rations. Later each day an ARVN surgeon came to the village for a medcap. Sometimes Capt Goldberg, the 4th/31st Infantry Battalion surgeon came to treat the people. I recall Mao holding my hand when a little girl, about four-years of age wandered into the village one morning. She walked and stared at us, but I looked at her brain. Her skull had been blown off the night before. The ARVN surgeon told me he would bring her home that day. "I don't know what my wife will say about this." He had brought home about a dozen kids I had begged him to help. I wonder what happened to her. I wonder what happened to him. I wonder more when you write about the little boy who held your hand. Some things never end. Some thoughts are never silent.

    Thanks, David.


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