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Nancy, There’s Bugs Outside
Caught in a rabbit hole of home videos transferred onto a flash drive from my Dad, I lay in bed all night remembering and reliving memories of what feels like a long time ago. One of the sweeter moments is when my sister is holding Mitch for the first time (Lisa would be 4 and I was 2). My Mom is right next to her, making sure she supports Mitchell’s head and my Dad is filming.
“That’s your baby brother,” Dad says, “do you love him?”
I seem to hesitate to get a good look at Mitch before I answer. I examine him and then with a big smile say, “he’s got a face!” Mom giggles, “yes, he has a face.” Then, with glee in my cartoon voice, I go, “and I have a face too!”
Usually it’s my Dad who’s filming, using a giant video camera that fit a VHS in it. Dad’s commentary is funny even when it falls flat because he’s just making himself laugh. A true audience of one. No more sarcastic than his kids, however. He’ll try to have a full blown conversation with the camera on and a child Lori will straight up ignore him until he goes, “are you ignoring me?” Then I look up and smile and we both laugh. Because yes. Yes, I was ignoring him.
Mom and Dad both come from a family of six kids, so I have a total of 19 first cousins. No family holiday or birthday party is without kids running around after each other. Having a big family and semi-chaotic BBQ’s was so commonplace, I can’t imagine life otherwise.
No further evidence is needed when it comes to the “why” we turned out to be little daredevils. My Mom and her siblings (all in their 30’s at the time) do back-flips into the pool while we’re 4, 5, 6 and swimming around without floaties with skill. It’s no wonder I still hold summertime in such high esteem. That’s where all my fondest memories live forever.
We were no perfect family, but we did know how to have fun.
While we were close with a lot of our cousins, no family we spent more time with than the Butchers, which consisted of Nancy, Keith, Jamie, Brian and Melissa. The Butcher’s lived in the same town as us, and furthermore, Nancy is my Dad’s twin sister. To this day, I refer to the Butcher’s house as “my beach house” on Long Island, one of the few remaining houses I have a sensation of ‘home’ when I walk through the door.
Nancy is so sweet, she still falls for all of my Dad’s complete nonsense statements– upon realizing he’s kidding she’ll laugh and go, “oh John.” Growing up, the whole family would gather around when Nancy left us a voice message, because often she’d digress into something else entirely and mumble to herself in indecision until she would yell at someone (usually Brian) in the background to stop doing something. We would laugh ourselves into tears at these voice messages.
Keith and Nancy are high school sweethearts and I always regarded Uncle Keith as being super cool because he has a sophisticated side and logical intelligence but capable of being completely silly— Jamie, his oldest daughter, would turn out the same way.
Walking into the Butchers house was like walking into a sitcom, and my family showed up all the time, often unannounced. Nancy had little control over the kids (especially Brian) and was always nervous they were going to get hurt in her goodness. There was constant bickering. But, here, I associated bickering and banter with laughter. A skill that would do me favors later in life. Keith could be a world class chef so we usually showed up to their house hungry in hopes that our company would turn into a dinner party (it often did). Despite being a petite people, we had big appetites and Keith properly nicknamed us, “The Palmin-eaters.”
Jamie was the eldest so I don’t much recall her getting into shenanigans as much as we did. Also, Jamie is extremely intelligent. She was always reading and loved to read (long before I did) but aspired to be like that. Though I do have an older sister (Lisa), I saw Jamie as more of an older sister and looked up to her (I somehow usurped Lisa as ‘boss’ in our house and called the shots among the siblings).
Brian is just a year older than me (also the middle kid) and was basically like a torturous older brother to my brother Mitch. Yes, those two got in trouble a lot. Brian was exceptionally athletic and could do things like a standing backflip on command. We all frequently climbed trees but no one more fearless than Brian.
Once, Brian and Mitch went into the woods with Brian’s Red Ryder BB gun. Even before they went out there they were getting yelled at. When they returned, Mitch had a perfectly round bloody scar just underneath his eye. They claimed he “fell and landed on a stick.” A stick that created a perfectly symmetrical hole on Mitch’s face? Likely story.
Melissa is the baby of the cousins and was a mere toddler during my earlier memories. She was a cute kid, and just like us, “she had a face.”
Nancy worried far more than my parents did. For some reason, her anxieties were hilarious to us sometimes. It may sound mean to say we mocked her but she was just too adorable in her fears we couldn’t help but laugh. And she laughed too, always. Her worry is probably a symptom of her selflessness.
One summer night we were over their house getting ready to run around outside (as you do) and Nancy goes, “you have to be careful out there! There are bugs outside!”
In song, Brian sang, “Nannnccccyyyy…. there’s bugs outsiiiiddeeee.” All the kids laughed at this and mimicked his tune like birds, “Nannnccyyy… there’s bugs outsiiddeee.” In a chorus of torment, we sang to Nancy, because, yes, of course there were bugs outside. Being my Dad’s twin, she could only laugh.
Outside we sung to Nancy about the bugs as we caught fire flies in cups, skipping around in the summer night, like a fucked up little fairy tale.