‘Your family is who you think your family is’
My favorite second brother Roger is many things: filmmaker, banjo player, wind miller, and maker of the best chili on the planet. Who knew he was also a trailblazer? Yes, Roger was a member of a ‘blended family’ way before ‘blended’ was a term stuck on the front of ‘family’.
See, back when Roger was just a tyke, my dad was transferred to Memphis for his job and our young family landed (somehow, I’m not sure how or why, I was only seven at the time) in a very large house near a university. To help pay the rent, my parents took in boarders — a couple of college guys, one named Bill Something-or-Other and another named Bob Sipowich. They lived upstairs, kept to themselves. Everything worked out fine. Except for the time we kids (there were three of us at this point) all came down with the measles over Christmas at my Gramma Peterson’s so we had to stay there till we got well and the boarders didn’t feed or water our parakeet Petey while we were away and he (gasp) died.
Anyway. That was traumatic. Just had to get it out.
Back to the story. My parents eventually found a smaller house they liked better. So they told the guys that, hey it’s been swell, but we’re moving. Bill Something-or-Other was fine with that; he found another place to live. But Bob Sipowich wanted to move with us.
My parents explained that he wouldn’t have a room to himself in the new house. Bob was like ‘no problem; I’ll just bunk with RD.’ (He was the only one who called Roger ‘RD’.) You have to remember that these were simpler times. I guess no one thought it was weird that a college student would want a two-year-old for a roommate. At least my parents didn’t. And the money didn’t hurt.
So we moved, and ‘Sip’ (we all called him ‘Sip’, except for Roger, who called him ‘Bob’) moved with us. It was a good arrangement for everyone: Sip got a place to live, my parents got some extra $$, and RD got a good buddy who even babysat once in a while.
‘Sip/Bob’ lived with us for quite a while. Right up until he got married (though people got married younger then). He kept in touch over the years, till it got to that Christmas-Cards-only stage. Then he sort of disappeared. (Are you out there, Bob Sipowich?)
But before that happened, RD got big enough to go to kindergarten. Where, as we all know, the teachers eventually get around to asking the kids to draw pictures of their families.
Roger draws his: three short people plus three tall people. The teacher, puzzled, goes: ‘Nice drawing, Roger. Could you tell me a little about who these people are?’
So Roger answers: ‘Sure. That’s my mommy, my daddy, and my Bob.’
That’s my trailblazing brother Roger. Friday’s his birthday, and while he is no longer in kindergarten, he still appreciates a little Birthday Attention. So if you know him, fire away with your congratulations and whatnot.
For another cute Roger anecdote, check out Proof that Swedes are geniuses. And if you’re craving more color about Life BNY (Before New York), check out my ode to corn or my riff on summers past. This story about my freshman roommate has some good stuff too.
Oh, and don’t forget to stay tuned for Monday’s post: ‘The Cat is the Hat’. I think you’ll get a kick out of it, even though it is about New York.
New York City. September 2014