Community Greens

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My Brother, King Of The Monkey Bars

Monkey Bars 10

My Brother is a term of endearment, not the “N” word that folks toss around and claim is exclusive and meant to be culturally and personally embracing. I have never called my brothers the “N” word. My Brother, out of respect, is different from my brother, the guys I grew up with, real and those close enough to be family. I have two brothers. One older and one younger and I can appreciate the blessing of being a middle child between two fine fellows born on the same day six years apart. They are like marbles, intricate personalities wrapped in impenetrable shells, for the world to see and roughly use. After all these years, Ron and Rob, completely independent of each other, are church deacons 3,000 miles apart. As a kid, I saw that coming, as they often agreed with each other from very opposite and unfathomable perspectives. I have always thought of them as leaves on the same tree but on very different branches bearing the brunt of the sun and rain in very different ways.

My older brother is a qualified perfect: exactly 6’ tall, 185 lbs, and the definition of chocolate with dimples in his cheeks on the often occasions when he smiles and allows his pearly teeth to share his face. He wears a 40 regular suit and size 10 shoes. When we were kids I often chaffed and occasionally wondered about the burden of being the oldest boy. He wasn’t the oldest child, my sister was, and she had the most mysterious streak of rebellion I have ever known, but the oldest boy in a single parent household has the weight of being the man of the house. Wanted or not, it was there to carry. So much is expected of the man of the house even when they are not men.

My older brother worked every moment I can remember. He picked up deposit bottles as an early entrepreneur. He had a paper route in a neighborhood near the Grand Concourse because we didn’t have home delivery in Morrisania. He was a box boy at the A&P. He became a cashier and took his skills to the cleaners which offered higher salary and responsibility. He was a Boy Scout and forced me to learn how to tie my shoes before he would take me to Cub Scouts.

He was first trumpet in a Marching band and played football with his best friend Butch.  Butch was head of the Savage Skulls in our neighborhood. My older brother was never in a gang. They respected one another though. My brother once held Butch’s zip gun a week. He put it in his top drawer after he showed my younger brother and I how it worked and then said, “Don’t touch it.” We didn’t. My brother built my first milk box scooter with a skate nailed to a 2’x4’. He built my first go cart with a seat and advanced steering at the expense of the shopping cart and the clothes line. I didn’t have to fight anyone in my neighborhood because my brother had my back and he was tough.

What I most remember is Easter one year when times must have been particularly good for us as we all had new coats, suits and shoes. The boys were always washed and dressed first and admonished to stay clean and out of trouble while we waited for the women. My older brother, splendid in his camel colored stadium coat with real horn toggle buttons and his British racing cap, upon hitting the pavement said we were going to  Crotona Park. My younger brother and I instinctively knew that was to dangerous a place to keep clean but my 5 year older brother had said we were going and as always his directions were not democratic nor subject to discussion.

So, on a cold and crisp day, we chattered together as we were headed to the playground 2 blocks away. Play was distinctly limited, realizing any rip, tear, smear or smudge on the new duds would result in the wraith of MOM, but Ron had already decided he was going to climb to the top of the monkey bars to show the world how fine he was. Climbing the monkey bars was still an incredible challenge for Rob and I, so we spent our time playing tag, running through the floor level maze, and scampering over the first level bars. When Ron got to the  third level, we stopped to watch as, like a gymnast, Ron swung and climbed from bar to rung. And finally he climbed into the central cube and did the unimaginable. He didn’t stand inside but climbed up and balanced himself precipitously on the top rail before he stood up, breathed deeply, stuck out his chest and raised his fists into the air. At that moment my brother Ron became King of The Monkey Bars.

We don’t talk as much as we could these days, but that’s what most people say about siblings. There are lots of things we shared and lots more that we didn’t but that day, that moment, that Easter Sunday will forever be how I remember my older brother: King of the Monkey Bars.

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Filed under: Blacks, Community Green, It Takes A Village, , , , , ,

2 Responses

  1. friendsofbrookpark says:

    My Brother, milk cart scooter with skate my mother had one back in the day

    Like

  2. czvasser says:

    I am tempted to make one just to prove I remember how but it would be hard to find a pair of steel skates and a wooden milk box. Sure, on Ebay, but they are “collector” items and it would be a shame to destroy them.

    Like

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