… before fear, [when] love was the only song you knew.” – Danny Dummitt
I’m Christy Caine. I’m Scott’s cousin. I’m the one in the pigtails and the patent leather shoes. He’s the one with those eyes.
As I thought about what I wanted to say today, I realized that Scott is one of the few people who understood some of the best parts of my childhood because we experienced them together.
If you know our family, you know that the grandchildren didn’t come all at once; they came in pairs. Each one has a matching cousin (except for Clark, who was on his own as the youngest). Scott is my match. And as the oldest grandchildren we grew up without other siblings or cousins for nearly ten years, experiencing every holiday, wedding, funeral, family reunion, and summers at our grandparent’s house together.
That’s what I wanted to talk about today: our childhood. Because I realized he is the only one who knew the grandparents that I knew at the age they were when we knew them, who let us do the things they let us do. He’s the one who taught me to build and climb and create and adventure. (And if you’ve never been in our grandparent’s house when the dining room was filled with string and popsicle sticks and glue and tape and construction paper–in true feats of engineering–it’s quite something.) He’s the one who lay on the floor with me on that plastic runner in their living room, watching Mr. Rogers, eating snowman-shaped ice cream on a stick. Who knew about all the times we played darts in the basement and got them stuck in the ceiling – and each other … who knew about Grandpa’s refrigerator in the garage full of beer and Fla-vo-ice pops, how it had a short and would shock you just a little when you opened it.
He’s the one I built forts with in the apple tree (and was with me the time I stepped on a nail and had to get a tetanus shot).
He’s the one I caught honeybees with in empty prescription pill bottles.
Who made tents out of sheets on the clothesline.
We swam. We fought. We swam some more.
On porch swings.
In closets full of mysterious stuff.
And among the tombstones of those who had gone on before.
We knew which aunts gave the best hugs (and who gave the sloppy kisses to avoid).
He’s the one who also knew the names of all of our grandparent’s dearest friends: The aunts and uncles who did not share our DNA.
He’s the one who remembered the cavalcade of automobiles my grandparents had based on the comfort and slickness of the back seat and how well you could slide across it from one door to the other. Who washed and polished the chrome on them with me–inside and out–to earn money for ice cream at the Igloo while listening to the Pointer Sisters on the radio sing “We are Family” as the hot August sun beat down on the same shiny vinyl seats, where little legs of 1970’s fashion-clad children would quickly jump up because of the intensity of the heat and eventually melt into and stick to them, slick with sweat… the electric windows that we weren’t supposed to play with…
He’s the one who knew of our trips to feed the ducks at the pond, and to Pizza Hut, and the library… the smell of books. And the only one who knows about the day we nearly died laughing at the laundromat at the sight of our grandmother’s foundation garment caught hanging in the window of the dryer.
He’s the one I cried with in the movie theater when Bambi’s mother died.
The one I dressed up with in old-timey clothes for pictures in Old Towne.
He was with me when we were the first customers at a newly opened Taco Bell somewhere in this city.
And the one who introduced me to
He knows what it was like laying in bed with Grandma as she read to us at night…
to order Sprite on the rocks at family weddings…
and to get to fall asleep dirty and exhausted, sun-kissed in our swim clothes to the hum of a box fan in the hallway as the sheers from the window rose and fell over our small but growing bodies all night long in Aunt Effie’s bed.
He knows the sound and rhythm of Grandpa’s snoring … in his recliner… with the Rockford Files on in the background.
He knows what it was like to be a kid… in summer… at Grandma’s house.
But mostly we loved. So much more like a brother… to me.
So, this is how I will remember…
Summer. The smell of dinner and the sound of Grandma singing in the kitchen. Grandpa–sweaty–wearing a white undershirt, carrying a work rag, wiping something clean, while he is covered in engine grease. Scott and I are running around the house on Westwood Avenue, sandwiched between the lumber yard and Norbert’s house–as if in slow motion–jumping off the end of the porch to see how far past the flower bed we can clear…
RIP “Little Chipper” 1970 – 2014
Copyright 2014 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.