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By Ethan Mordden
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Extra resources for Buddies
My two younger brothers have driven up from Los Angeles to visit my folks in Sacramento; I call in from the metropolis, New York. Brother Andrew is on the phone, and in the background the dogs and Mother are barking. ” she cries. “Get out of the refrigerator! Where did you find that revolting shirt? Your socks don’t match! Wash your hair! Who left these dishes in the sink? Don’t you dare touch that cheese—I said you cannot make pizza! The kitchen is closed! ” says Andrew. Actually, she has. My dad, as a character in my childhood, was as peaceful as a Rodin, ensconced in his chair, dreaming deep in a book (whereupon we kids would hit him for advances on our allowance—by my fourteenth birthday I was overdrawn through 1997).
But Jim and I were born to battle. He was only a year older than I, counting in years, but had a good decade on me in smarts. ” He was a cool number, distantly polite when my folks were around, by turns contemptuous or confidential with his siblings, slow to move but fast as the devil when he pounced: an enigma that looked you in the eye. I suppose that, given our respective natures, Jim and I could not have avoided confrontation. He liked a peaceful house, running smoothly on the theory that you verbally gave in to your parents in anything they they wanted; then unobtrusively, off the record, did as you liked.
Two less alike parents there never were. Yet they agreed on the basics: love them, give them culture, and treat them for life as if they were permanently stuck at the age of eight. Parents are tyrants, even the nice ones. I recommend taking the offensive as surely and early as possible, never letting up—and my system works, for I had a reasonably cute childhood, an amusing adolescence, and a profitable teenage career. My oldest brother Ned, a vaguely Fitzgeraldian figure, made a stab at defining a code for us kids, but it wasn’t a conquering code.