I have two younger sisters, one is 22, about to get married, works on brains in hospitals, and has her life together (or at least more together than mine). The other one is about to turn 21.
My youngest sister is a great student, but she is a menace on society. She is the kind of person to take her sister’s glasses and flush them down the toilet, or the kind to punch you in the face when you have to wake her up for Mass. She broke my nose with her skull via a head butt when she was young and gave me a lump which I should appreciate as it holds up my glasses, but this break would be the catalyst for two more breaks throughout my life.
She is also insatiably curious. She hikes, rock climbs, goes to places rarely seen by other human beings as we are lazy lumps. Curiosity is not always a good thing, because she also got me into trouble as her older sister who was her babysitter.
My first time babysitting was the most scarring. I was probably 11 or 12 at the time making my sisters 6 or 7. My parents were only going to be gone for a few hours, and I was confident I could handle them. I would sit with them in the crying room at church for an hour, so what was a couple more hours?
About 30 minutes after my parents left my sisters asked if I thought they could fit popcorn in their ears. I told them not to put popcorn in their ears because that was gross. They walked away and about twenty minutes later they came back up to me on the couch looking scared.
“The popcorn fit in my ear,” A said.
“Gross! Why would you put food in your ear?”
“We can’t get it out now,” M added.
“What do you mean you can’t get it out? You put it in there, just pull it out.”
“It was the seed, and it is stuck,” A continued.
I then looked into my sister’s ear to see a piece of a kernel all the way down inside. I instinctively put my own finger in there to scrape it out.
“Ouch! You pushed it in more!”
Shit. I looked at her, and I think she could see how scared I was because she started crying. I tried to comfort her and told her to lay down while I went to call mom and dad. My mother was concerned after I told her what was happening through hyperventilating gasps, but I still remember hearing my dad laugh in the background saying, “Smack her head on the table, that should do it!”
“No, Courtney, don’t do that, just have her lay down and gently tap her head on the couch, it should wiggle out on its own like water from the pool.”
“But what if it gets in her brain?!”
“It won’t get in her brain. It is okay. We will be home in a couple of hours. If it is not out by then we can talk about going to the doctor.”
You would think this conversation would have calmed me down, but no. Even at a young age I did not handle surprises well, so my anxiety was through to roof. I instructed my youngest sister to do as my mother had said while we watched a movie together, but by the end of the movie this kernel was not out of her ear.
She cried about not wanting to go to the doctor’s office, and as I sat with her I remembered what my dad had said. Slam her head against the table. Yes – I could do that – I would get the popcorn out of my sister’s ear, and I would do it before my parents got home.
With this new-found determination I had my other sister call my parents to figure out how hard we needed to slam her head. My dad answered the phone, and started laughing at us. This was not a laughing matter to me. I demanded that he tell us right now. He said to have my sister hit her head as hard as she wanted to on the table with the ear facing down.
I watched. Once – nothing. Twice – still not out. She was crying again scared that the popcorn could pop in her brain and kill her. Looking back at this now, I realize this was completely delusional, but in that moment I knew I would not let this popcorn blow up in my sister’s brain. She was leaning over the table staring at me about to try again when I reached out with both hands and slammed her head into the table.
She started bawling. I had really hurt her. I could already see red marks on her face, and knew I was going to get in trouble. My dad was on the phone with my other sister still and asked if the popcorn came out. Suddenly, my sister stopped crying. She reached in her ear, and the kernel was gone. She started laughing and gave me a hug.
I wanted to throw up. Babysitting was the worst. My sisters were idiots. I never wanted to do this again.
When my parents came home my mom inspected my youngest sister whose face was bruised, and my dad gave me a hug and then told me I should have hit her harder because who knew when I would have a free chance to do it again without getting in trouble.
I told them I was quitting being a babysitter, but then they took me to the local gas station and let me pick out whatever candy I wanted. My guess is that it was the Hubba Bubba Bubba Jug or the Bugs in a Jar candies. I agreed to watch them again if they made my sisters stop being stupid. They lied to my face and told me my sisters were not allowed to be stupid when I watched them anymore.
Satisfied, I would go on to babysit them basically through the end of high school, even when they surpassed the age I was when I watched them the first time. Looking back now, there is no way I was qualified to be the tribe leader for my sisters, and I question my parents’ judgment about putting me in charge of them ever. My sisters cut each other’s hair (terribly), blew up things in the microwave (okay – I may have helped with this), and would wreak havoc on my mental stress points.
My youngest sister went so far as to try swimming in the deep end when I was the only one around. I noticed the pool got eerily quiet and I looked around so see my sister sinking below the water. I swam down to get her and pulled her out of the deep end smacking her back repeatedly as I carried her and had never been so happy to have someone throw up all over me in my life. My youngest sister is the sole reason why I started plucking white hairs off head at the age of thirteen. Both sisters are still alive with all appendages, and their brains never blew up, so I guess I could count that as a win.
So for A’s 21st birthday I hope that she has a wonderful night out with her friends, and that nothing gets stuck in her ears or has any other reason to have me slam her head into a table.
Happy birthday, baby sister. Love you always, like you sometimes. ❤