FEATURE — In my hometown, there was this notorious family of boys. Seven of them. They were tough. They were wild. Each with their own reputation. And they belonged to one of my mom’s best friends.
The friend in question was a tough-as-nails single mom who owned and operated a gas station/convenience store. She would go into work at 4 a.m., pop home three hours later to make her boys breakfast and send them off to school, and then head back to work another nine hours.
She was devoted to those boys. But she was under no illusions about who they were. Though she often joked I was the daughter she had meant to have, I wasn’t allowed to date any of her boys because SHE wouldn’t allow it.
They fought too much. They partied too hard. And they were altogether too charming.
When I’d visit their home, I’d revel in the chaos and count the number of holes in the walls. There were always at least four in various stages of repair.
But my mom’s friend took it all in stride. She would laugh when most anyone else would’ve cried. And she lent her neverending tales of misadventures to ease the burdens of others.
This included the night my older sister got into her first car accident and was inconsolably embarrassed. My mom’s friend sat on my sister’s floral bedspread for what felt like hours, regaling the laundry-list of creative car accidents her boys had been involved with. One involved a telephone pole that her boy claimed rammed itself into his car while it was in park.
In fact, her boys had so many of these types of accidents, their mom had taken to carrying hundreds of dollars in cold hard cash in her purse to be used to settle claims on site – and without involving insurance companies.
The Thanksgiving after my family’s house burned down in a wildfire, this same friend hosted all seven of my family with all seven of her boys. Only, two of the boys never showed up for the feast. Which was spectacular.
Apparently, hours earlier, their seemingly tranquil breakfast had erupted into a milk-spilling, table-crashing event after one brother took exception to the behavior of another. The offense? He was breathing too loudly.
We all laughed around the table later over candied yams and stuffing with baked apples as my mom’s friend recounted the brawl. It seemed ridiculous to be mad about someone’s breathing.
And now, that breakfast scene from years ago keeps playing out in my mind. I find myself wondering about the turn from tranquility to fist fight. And how fast it probably happened.
Because I’m seeing the charged tinder sparks flying these days over trivial things in my own house.
Pandemic. School. Earthquakes. A flailing economy. Isolation. All of it is really hard.
And my family isn’t even among the hardest hit. We aren’t sick. We have a roof over our heads. We don’t work on the front lines in hospitals or grocery stores. My husband has a job he can work from home. And no one we love has died from this.
There is worry. There is anxiety. There is frustration. And there are way more “idiots” and “jerks” being thrown around between my boys than I’d like.
Most hours, I think we are doing a great job navigating this new normal. Then, someone inexplicably loses it.
That’s when I think of that brotherly brawl over breathing.
If I were Brené Brown, I’d tell my boys to imagine the other person is doing the very best they can.
But, for now, I’m thinking I’ll call my mom’s friend with the seven boys – and tell her all about the never-ending misadventures of my boys. It may just ease her burdens. And my own.
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