It’s a well-known fact that the sole job of any child born within a large family is to annoy the ever-loving fuck out of each of their siblings. And children go out of their way to provide their absolute best and most creative efforts to lob hatred, vitriol, angst, and ire, often paired with an amuse bouche of humor and reluctant respect to draw in the bloodthirsty crowd.
I think that children in multi-children households often form their own secret mini-societies. Full on Fight Club style. Lord of the Flies. Children of the Corn… Point being, kids get raw and ugly and wait until adults aren’t around to assert order in their disordered world, gangster style.
My household was decidedly a sister-archy when my parents weren’t involved, and frankly, sometimes when they were. The three of them banned together and basically excluded me from anything and everything they could for the most part, which my parents supported by pointing me towards “boy things.” How’d that work out for ya? Anyways, I, in turn, worked incessantly to destroy their peace of mind and sense of cohesion every minute chance I had.
It was a delicately scaled battle, and I’m not sure to this date if there were any victors. We are all just war-torn casualties with personality defects and childhood PTSD. Things that to this day will cause flashbacks of misery and despair.
And there is one song that will haunt the dreams of my sisters forever. And one character who … performed… to that song that will live in infamy, at least in the hearts and minds of my nuclear family. But especially Marla.
As discussed on the “Characters” page in the navigation above (if you haven’t already, I’d recommend selecting it from the menu and perusing before continuing), Marla is my older sister, and I think in my head she was a de facto parent. I mean, I was smaller than she was, she used to hold me when I was little, there were probably times when I was like her very own doll. It was just the two of us for my first few years.
And truly, I definitely idolized her growing up. She was always relatively cool and popular- having a sense of how to behave and what trends to follow that seems pretty innate, even to this day. Now, I learned early on that I was not cool or popular, and that I should probably keep my fat unattractive mouth shut when she was dealing with better people, but that was just accepted as truth. I was a lower being who needed to be in a state of constant silence to avoid embarrassment.
But even lower beings crave attention. And when one can’t get positive attention, one seeks the negative. This was a concept that Marla didn’t readily grasp.
One family tradition that was established for a number of years was a fall trip to the mountains. We’d stay in the same towns, renting out a home. Clouds would fly in the windows in the mornings. There were caverns and trails, and a zoo. We even visited utterly inane amusement parks a few times—seriously, look up “Tweetsie Railroad” or go to “Dollywood”. And don’t get me started on the grocery options: Piggly Wiggly. Hoggly Woggly. People in that area of the country are a HOOT.
In order to get to this deluxe destination, we would drive roughly 12 hours. In a minivan. With like, no bathroom stops to be had (my father had no time for such nonsense). Which made for a gaggle of bored and often pee-filled children on the brink of urinary tract infections.
What was a boy to do while sitting in the seat behind or in front of his sisters? These were the days before we could really bring anything but a book in the car. There were no TABLETS. There were no IN-CAR VCR OPTIONS. We just sat back there as quiet and urine-filled as possible and hoped not to get yelled at.
So it began, with a sock and dream of entertaining myself a little. A hand puppet was born. And from there, a star.
Hi, I’m… Mr. Hand. What’s your name?
Mom! He’s bothering me again!
(Barely looking up from her novel) Calm down, we’re stopping for gas and to get lunch out of the cooler in an hour.
I just want to be your friend! Won’t you play with me?
I’ll play with you.
Mr. Hand doesn’t like annoying 4-year-olds, go back to your Barbie’s.
(Scratching Mr. Sister across face with sharp, sharp hand of Barbie) Hahaha!
MOM! Varla scratched me!
(not looking up from her novel) Let’s see who can be the quietest for longest!
Mr. Hand, where do you come from?
(Rolls her eyes and huffs loudly.)
(in background) Panties! Panties! Panties! I can’t let you go! Or someone will see my butt, you know!
Ha! The question was asked! I am from Hand Land, but I wear the clothing of a foot. It’s… all very complicated. I come to your car for one thing and one thing only! To find my one true love! (Mr. Hand turns his sock-face to Marla).
At this point, Marla didn’t have may options. I mean, what DOES one say to a hand suitor dressed in a sock? How does one discourage one’s brother, who is in control of said hand-suitor dressed in a sock, from bothering one?
All I can say for certain is that her next move did not bode well for her immediate future.
Because did I fail to mention that we were at the beginning of a two-week trip? A two-week trip bookended by 24 hours of driving in enclosed quarters, with dinners, lunches, breakfasts, and day trips spent together. In a rural area with little to do other than drive for 30 minutes to an hour from one activity to another?
Letting me know that a simple sock puppet was bothering her to such an extent this early on in the game was a mistake. A big one. Huge. The gravest of tactical errors.
(snatching the sock off Mr. Sister’s hand) Ha! Now turn around and shut up and STOP BREATHING SO LOUD!
Oh no! You’ve seen me naked! Now you HAVE to marry me! Kiss me, Kiss me! (reaching towards Marla’s face with fingers puckered for a kiss
(Laughing in her seat) Mr. Sister! Leave Marla alone. Come on guys, not that far from stopping for lunch! Let’s see who can be quietest the longest!
We’re not stopping until we need to get gas. (Turns up oldies station, upon which “New York, New York” starts playing, and continues driving through traffic like he’s in his own personal Indianapolis 500).
Uh-oh! That’s his song! I can’t… stop…. Him… from…. DANCING! Dut dut duh-da-dah, dut dut duh-da-dah. (Mr. Hand begins doing chorus line kicks on the back of the seat, dancing for his one true love).
Turns out, that song was also able to summon Mr. Hand. That’s right, start humming the opening bars, and Mr. Hand couldn’t help but appear to do a sequence of chorus line kicks. And once he was awakened, he was bound and determined to be with his true love.
And the family was delighted! Need Mr. Sister occupied? “New York, New York.” Marla being a little too bitchy with one of the other siblings? Dut dut duh-da-dah! Even the four-year-old caught on to the power of the song and dance! Of course, she would just repeat “doot doo dooo” over and over and giggle maniacally while chasing around Marla or Mr. Sister or woodland creatures, but what can you expect from a four-year old?
It was then that Mr. Sister, like Spiderman, learned that with great power came great responsibility. He obviously had a gift for hilarity, but the demands of his fans grew more rapidly than his dwindling mental energies.
And for his part, Mr. Sister wasn’t all talk. He brought Marla flowers. He bought her interesting stones. He even pried some gum off the bottom of a table for her! But Marla proved a reluctant woo. When attempting to whisper sweet nothings in her ear and pulling back a hand marred by several gauged out grooves, it was determined by Mom that perhaps Mr. Hand needed to go back to Hand Land and call it a day.
One day, Mr. Hand reluctantly put back on his sock-clothes, and sorrowfully bid his beloved a sad adieu. Sure, his speech was simple, but I like to think that somewhere deep in Marla’s psyche she still wonders about “the one that got away.”
Somewhere, they’re playing our song, Marla. And maybe, just maybe, if they play it just right, Mr. Hand will come visit with that pottery wheel he’s been eyeing for thirty years…
Rest in peace, Mr. Hand. wherever you are!
Meanwhile, somewhere in the backyard of Marla’s new house…