I have a brother named Michael, or Mike for short. His birthday was yesterday and I thought about him all day. Even though we live many miles apart, I can always count on him to be here if I need him. We have a close relationship now, but that was not always the case. I was the annoying little sister. I was the onus he had to bear. Still, we did manage to survive our childhood and become fully functioning members of society, despite our rough and tumble youth.
Our parents moved from Davison to Lapeer when I was young. Our previous home was on a quiet city street loaded with kids to play with and sidewalks to ride our bikes on. My best friend lived a few doors down and my brother’s friends lived next door. That all changed when we moved to Lapeer. Gone were our friends. Gone were our sidewalks. The kids that now lived near us were older than we were. They were not interested in playing with us. Mike and I were on our own for a while, until new friends could be made. I am not saying that living in Lapeer was terrible. Quite the contrary, in fact. We lived in the country with many open acres to romp around in, complete with climbing trees and a pond. The pond was loaded with bullheads and we fished a lot. We found a HUGE snapping turtle and learned to leave it alone. Who knew a turtle could stretch his neck out that far or break a LARGE stick with a snap of its jaws. We made bike trails through the woods, up the hill and around the pond in the summer. We rode our snowmobiles on those same paths during the winter. Eventually we made new friends, but we still did a lot together. To Mike and I, it was just as close to heaven as we could get.
In the winter, the pond would freeze over and when the ice was thick enough, pond hockey games would ensue. My parents always told us to check with them to make sure that the ice was thick enough to walk on. That rule was just crazy, or so we thought. To my parent’s horror, I came home from the pond proudly stating that the ice was safe and very pretty with the stars forming around each footfall I made. It was by the grace of God that I did not fall in that day. Oh well, I survived to play hockey again that season. Before the pond was plowed and game ready, we would skate on friends above ground pool. The pool was not a good substitute for the pond, but it would do. Little sisters are not very good playing offense, as Mike would say, so I have to play goaltender. With no pads. With no helmet. With a regular hockey stick. I was playing on a wing and a prayer. During a game, my brother fired a blistering wrist shot that I blocked with my leg. Whether it was from the shot or the fall to the ice, I went down for the count. I told Mike my leg hurt like hell and he said I was just being a baby. If I did not want to play anymore, then I could walk home. I did just that. My leg turned a horrible shade of purple and then yellow. I was not able to bear weight on it at all after my hobble home. My parents took me to the hospital where it was determined I had a broken tibia and went home with a full leg cast from foot to mid-thigh. Who says little sisters are not tough! I broke my tibia and still walked home! Now, do not feel too sorry for me or anger toward Mike. The broken leg was a payback, of sorts, for the broken arm he had after I threw a clod of clay and knocked him out of a tree. That is how we rolled at our house, much to the chagrin of our parents. Mike and I played for keeps!
In 1980, my parents bought a summer home on Indian River. If the woods and pond in Lapeer were good, just imagine a lake and river. Mike and I were in our glory. We fished every night until the dark chased us home. Mike always drove the boat from the back and I sat in the front holding the navigational lights. We explored every inch of the river in an aluminum fishing boat, including the inlets and canals. Mike is a master when it comes to casting a fishing line. He could expertly cast his lure in a boathouse, under a dock line and along the side of the boat inside without hitting anything. Nothing but water! He is gifted, to say the least. He is teaching my sons the craft now. Both of my boys love to fish, having learned from the master. During one of our many fishing adventures, we stumbled across two very large muskies. We tried everything to get them to take a lure, but nothing worked. They were so close we could have hit them with our oar. That is the only time a fish has evaded my bother. We knew every inch of that river, including the bottom. We would grab our mask and fins and retrieve any bait lost on a stump or log on the bottom. Once we discovered the veritable treasure trove of lures down there, diving became our new obsession. Mike and I explored every inch of the town too. We rode a hundred miles on our bikes, playing cat and mouse. Great memories, indeed!
Mike and I played baseball and softball, respectively. We would play for hours in the front lawn. Mike taught me how to hit, how to catch and how to throw. We even played the same position on our teams, the shortstop. Mike dabbled in pitching a little, but he was the shortstop most of the time. He was teaching me how to hit when a friend of the family came over to visit in his pristine 50’s Chevy. I finally connected with the ball and nailed it foul. It smashed the tail light out of that beautiful car and my dad was horrified. The friend laughed it off, but Mike and I were done practicing for the day. On game days, I would warm him up or vice versa. We would practice fielding and hitting before the game…every game. We made a good team.
Do not get me wrong. Mike and I did fight. One time we were out riding our snowmobile and my
constant badgering finally drove him over the edge. He clocked me; hit me square in the jaw. He felt bad
about it later…much later. I learned to keep my pestering to myself and he learned not to hit a girl. I
learned how to read an animal track, follow a sign, clean a gun and trap fur animals. I learned to drive a car
with a manual transmission in my brothers Chevette in the front yard, while dodging the trees. Mike made
me a tomboy and I am so much better for it!