And Got Kicked Out Of The Boy Scouts. TWICE!
I don’t know what the fashionable opinion is on the significance of Birth Order these days, I suppose it’s linked to the tenor of the “Nature or Nurture” debate, but I know that any parent with more than one child understands that the older/middle/youngest child dynamic is real.
Growing up there was no middle child in my family; it was just me and my younger brother Steve. He was born a year behind me.
We fell into our roles naturally, spurred by an adenoidal problem that blocked Steve’s ears, rendering his speech unintelligible for the first seven years of his life. No one could understand him but me. So I became his translator. I was the boss. Wither I went he did follow.
They removed his adenoids when he was seven and his hearing returned to normal. His speech impediment improved quickly, but by that time we were locked into our roles. The status quo ruled for another three years until he turned ten and made his first major bid for self-determination.
He announced he was joining the Boy Scouts.
It was 1972 and the BSA had fallen on hard times, at least in our small NH town. The hippie ethos still ruled supreme among young people and paramilitary youth organizations didn’t fit well within it. Uniforms and rules and structure, quaint codes of behavior weren’t fashionable at that time. Enrollment withered, the scouts were desperate for kids and my brother Steve had decided it would be fun to give them a shot, partly because a couple of his friends from school were doing it too.
After I got over my shock at the news he was doing something on his own, I snorted derisively and left him to his folly. He marched off to meetings once a week in his uniform and I stayed home to enjoy the new fall TV series: “M*A*S*H” and “EMERGENCY!” with my parents. I was WAY too cool to join the sissy scouts, after all.
They had two camping trips that fall. My brother went to both and came back gloriously filthy, reeking of wood smoke and full of wild tales of running amok in the woods. I stayed home and played in the yard, pretending not to be jealous.
Winter settled over us in all its white,smothering beauty. I languished in my room, reading the same tom swift books over and over, while Steve got to go to his meetings down the street in the Congregationalist church. The tiny pimple of envy that had sprouted within me began to grow.
In the spring he brought home a brochure. His troop had arranged to spend two weeks at a nearby Boy Scout Camp in July! There would be fishing and canoeing, hiking, camping, all kinds of cool activities! And it cost practically nothing – as long as you were a scout. You could go if you weren’t one, but at a significant markup.
I lobbied my parents to be allowed to go too. I insisted that it wasn’t fair. Mom and Dad countered with the perfectly reasonable argument that this was a Boy Scout camp and I had chosen NOT to join. I was too cool and too lazy to drag my butt to meetings all damn year and so now I didn’t get the reward.
We drove two hours to the camp on a hot, glorious summer day. even from the parking lot I could see that Hidden Valley Scout Reserve was a boy’s dream: it a had its own mountain for climbing, a private lake, a mess hall, canoes, and TENTS to sleep in! My brother leaped into its leafy green arms and my parent and I drove another two hours home in sweltering silence.
I spent the next fortnight kicking around my dusty yard, catching flies.
Two weeks later he came home with wild tales of adventure. The cyst of envy that festered in my heart burst. I announced that come fall I would join the troop too. For the first time in my life I came in second, and it did not feel good.
Somebody was going to pay.
More to come…