When people find out I don’t have any brothers or sisters, the response is usually the same.
“Oh, you must have been spoiled and gotten everything.”
That’s half right.
I definitely got everything. When you’re the only kid, you get it all. You get to mow the lawn, you get to shovel the snow, you get to take out the trash, you get to do the dishes. No sibling to share the duties. You don’t really understand the concept of “sharing” since there’s no one to share with. You get “only child” presents, things that a kid can do on his own. Books, puzzles, a pool table, a baseball pitchback net when Dad wasn’t around to play catch. You learn to be self-sufficient and find ways to occupy your time when friends aren’t around.
As for being spoiled, well, that might be true of some only children. But I was raised by a single mom, the “man” of the house at the age of five. Mom was also an only child, so she knew the deal.
But the absolute worst part of being an only child: there are no siblings to blame when you do stupid stuff. Which became apparent during two of my ill-advised escapades:
-The great birthday cake mangling of 1962.
Mom had made a cake for her friend which she planned bring to a party the next day. Of course every time I went through the kitchen, there it sat, taunting me, making my mouth water for one of my mother’s wonderful creations.
Then I remembered what I’d seen on television. It was either the kid on Dennis the Menace or Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver who came up with this ingenious plan. Slice the middle of the cake, pull out the center, and then push the sides together. No one would notice.
Yeah, good luck with that.
So I got a long knife, carefully made two thin slices down the middle, pulled out a decent slab of cake, and then ever so carefully shoved the sides together. I took a bite of the cake and then realized I hadn’t considered this plan very carefully.
The cake was now shaped like a football. And since I’d cut out some letters from the middle, Happy Birthday now read Hay Biray.
This was not going to end well.
Mom got home and quickly noticed her cake looked very different. “What the heck happened to my cake? What did you do?”
This is what I mean about not having siblings to blame.
She set about fixing the thing, cutting off the pointed ends, shaping it into a round cake, re-icing it. Then she doled out the worst punishment any kid of that era could get. “You’d better go to confession.”
Nothing terrified me more. There was only one method of confession in those days. One-on-one with the parish priest in a confessional, none of this wimpy “group confession” that doesn’t take any guts. As usual, I trembled as the little wooden door slid open, revealing the outline of the priest behind the opaque window with the little holes.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been one month since my last confession. These are my sins. I cut the middle out of my mother’s cake.”
“I’m sorry… you did what?”
I told the priest the whole story, how I got the idea from a TV show. He snorted as he was no doubt trying not to laugh. “I’m not sure that’s actually a sin, but that wasn’t a nice thing to do. Are you sorry you did it?”
“Yes, Father.” (I was sorry I got caught. The cake was worth it.)
The priest handed out the usual penance of a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys, and off I went, my soul cleansed of the cake theft.
But I should have stopped getting ideas from TV shows.
Which led to…
-The great sawed door incident of 1963.
I noticed that on The Donna Reed Show the family had a “Dutch door” in the kitchen, one of those doors cut in half so you can just open the top part. I decided that would be really cool for my bedroom. So I got a saw and set about slicing my bedroom door. Problem was, Mom was home and heard it.
“What the heck are you doing?”
“I wanted a door like Donna Reed.”
She grabbed the saw. “Don’t cut your door in half! Go to confession.”
Again, no siblings to blame.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I tried to cut my bedroom door in half.”
Same deal. Not really a sin but not a good idea.
(I imagine these confessions were a nice break for a priest, who probably got tired of listening to tales of marital infidelity and other actual sins.)
That was it as far as copying TV shows.
The “not sharing” thing bit me right after I got married. I arrived home from work, thinking about that slice of cheesecake in the fridge. I opened the fridge and couldn’t find it. I started moving things around on each shelf. Finally, I said to my new bride, “I can’t seem to find that slice of cheesecake.”
She smiled. “It’s gone.”
So I’ve learned to share.
But some things never change. I still love books, I still love puzzles, and I have a pool table. And maybe it’s appropriate that I became a writer, since that’s a solitary activity.
As for those of you with brothers and sisters, I envy you. At least you have someone to blame.
Randy Tatano lives in Brewton and is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.
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