Rough Housing

Football used to be a 4 season sport.

In my childhood, we played football year ’round. My 4 brothers and I would play Full contact, aggressive tackle football.‎….in pads on teams, AND on the playgrounds and back yards, without pads, without supervision.
I once traveled through the air holding onto the waist of a much larger boy who was running for a touchdown‎…..i whipped around him like a cartoon, and crashed straight into the telephone pole that we had determined would be one end zone marker. My thigh hit that pole square on….and I crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain. My brothers and the other village idiots rushed over to me…..are you okay? can I wear your cleats?

Our pants were covered with mud and grass stains. Our faces had shiners and our our bodies covered with cuts and bruises. All the time.

And when we weren’t playing outside? We were playing in our bedrooms. We had this game where one of us would run full speed towards a bed and another brother would spring up from a crouched position, propelling us through the air and onto the surgically repaired bed, like an NFL player jumping over the pile to score a touchdown as time ran out.

Another brother would play the role of Howard Cossell or Frank Gifford, announcers from Monday Night Football…..(a show we were permitted to watch if we took a nap after school)


We broke so many bed boards and lamps and tables my mother just gave up on ever replacing our bedroom furniture….. none of our beds had the original boards…in fact, we were constantly looking for wood scraps we could fashion into bed slats.‎.

I remember the time Warren went flying towards me, holding a pillow case stuffed with socks to resemble a football. I lurched upwards as always, he bounced off me and flew through the air as always, and landed far across the bed, crashing into the wall, as sometimes.

His head smacked the cast iron radiator and blood started to gush out. We ran down to tell Mom and as she was instructing my sister Lia to stop the bleeding (Mom didn’t like the sight of blood) she was yelling: “What happened?!?!”

This was always a multiple choice question.

A. He was doing homework and slipped.
B. He was doing homework and the assignment was to fall down and demonstrate the effects of weightlessness.
C. He was helping me with my homework and, well, you get the point.
…lying was the common theme….what was our choice?

My mother would look at our sweaty, flushed faces, ripped shirts (new rips) and say: “Or? You were rough housing? How many times have I told you No Balls In the HO– USE! ?”

I hated a true or false followed by a multiple choice.
A. No we weren’t. And Lots of Times.
B. No we weren’t. And I thought that meant no balls on the main floor, near your table.
C. No we weren’t. And I thought you said No Whiffle Balls!.

Mom’s table. What am I referring to?

There was this one particular table that my mother was especially attached to. It was very dainty; if a flamingo was a table this is what it would look like.

What was so special about it? It had not ever been repaired‎….it had survived uncrushed for 10 years!

She was attached to it because it resembled something new, something presentable for the times that neighbors might come over to return a cat or a frisbee, or perhaps ask for money to replace a window.

‎7, 450 “balls-in-the-house” ….650 “throw me the salts”. 65 errant nerfs and 120 main event wrestling matches that spilled down the stairs into that one room where Dad read the paper, kicked the dog and barked at assorted pro athletes who didn’t do what he thought they should do:
“He was wide open! Get him out of the game!”

“Watch out for Mom’s table!!”

And then it happened.

I’ll never forget the day. Someone fell directly on the table. As 4 brothers gasped, staring down at the to-this-day-unnamed 5th brother, laying on top of Mom’s Table….those skinny wooden legs poking out; shards of beautiful mahogany falling from the air in slow motion….

Silence. ‎We floated up off the floor we were so quiet.

Nobody moved as we looked at each other.
Luckily Mom was out of ear shot. (Silence always made her come ‎running)

What do we do? Glue! -we all mouthed….we could talk to each other merely by shaping our lips and pointing. Charades without the laughter. Get the glue! (duct tape had not yet been invented)

So it got glued and propped up.

We used to stare at that cockeyed table and make sure our mother never touched it. “NO! Don’t move it mom, we’ll get it. That table is heavier than you think. Where do you want it? ”

It was a sad day when she finally noticed it was just a bit off and she noticed the fractures and the glue.

No true or false questions.
No multiple choice questions.
Just silence as she gently sat down….we all took a step back; the way you do when a strange dog had spotted you and was slowly approaching in that I’m-going-to-bite-you-so-don’t-bother-running kind of way.

As I felt the cold wall paper on the palms of my hands and realized I had not been blessed by the fortune of a quick escape path . Sweat started to form. Where’s Dad? Who is closest to him? (Warren was gone. He had perfected the ability to vanish, quietly, noisily, didn’t matter. He always had his back to a door, or window; it was uncanny)

Mom didn’t scold. She was too broken to yell. We had finally pushed our mother over the edge.

‎She softly said to nobody, but everybody: “the last piece of nice furniture. I have nothing left; they have broken everything.”
My brothers will remember the tears. (well, except for Warren…he had escaped to his happy place; at the top of our giant Maple in the back yard).

So I broke the silence; it was the right thing to do. Face adversity… stand up and be counted…

“Mom….I’m sorry he broke it”, and then I ran.

‎Oh, and by the way Mom…in case you’re reading this: “Nicky did it”