Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Playing Jacks with My Younger, Older Brother

I learned some of my best vocabulary from my mother. She was using talking to my brothers, telling them to “stop that scuffling,” “no more of that nonsensical nonsense,” or to take their noisy problems “down in the hole,” which was our basement. Her turn of a phrase gave me an appreciation for the color and music of our language.

My mom also taught me big words in the same way. How many times she told my younger, older brother, “Stop aggravating her,” when he would tease me until he made cry.

Then he would say, “Kid, you turn the tears on like a water faucet.” I’d sure get pictures in my mind whenever he said. But, he’d stop teasing me and often he’d ask me to play a game with him, as some form of peace offering.

I was eight years younger. My younger, older brother was bigger, better at every game I knew. I never stood a chance at any game we played. It was hardly fair. After all, he taught them to me. On the way to set the game up sometimes he would already be telling me what I had to do when I lost. Of course, I’d do it. I was the baby of the family. I didn’t know any better.

Then I learned to play Jacks. Somewhere around 8 years old, we replaced the little, red rubber ball and five jacks with a golf ball and ten. That change afforded more control and a bigger challenge. At school we played Jacks at every recess, that was almost 2 hours a day, if we ate lunch fast. There wasn’t one of us who couldn’t get all of the way to the tensies of downcast double quickies, and even past that to the . . . I can’t remember what they’re called, but we would throw the ball up in the air, move the jacks, and catch the ball before it hit touched the ground.

One day when my brother offered a peace game, I suggested a game of Jacks. He met me in our concrete driveway. Needless to say that was the game I finally won. I won in two ways. I beat him at the game and I learned another great turn of a phrase.

“Kid, I swear you play with a square ball and loaded jacks.”

It’s a compliment that I still savor.
−me strauss Letting me be


Mama Mouse said...

Those of us that are the only child have missed much. I knew that as a child and I found that out as an adult. Those who grew up with siblings are extremely fortunate. Its your kind of memories that I miss having.

Oh ... and I used to play jacks too, but was never very good. You could have beaten me when you first started playing! ;-)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Mama,
It might have been the ONLY thing of that sort that I got any good at. Small motor skills were my thing. I was a klutz at everything else. That's why my mom sent me to dance.

michaelm said...

Ah, that adulthood could be filled with the comfort and safety of a simple game...
Tough to get old.


ME Strauss said...

Hi Michael,
i'm still trying to find some grownups who want to give a game of Jacks a try. Then, of course, I'd have to find some Jacks and a good golf ball -- oh yeah and my memory. But it would be worth it.