It was at this time that I thought to myself…I’m going to help my sister.
If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still feel the stinging pain of having my leg hairs yanked out of my skin by my pestering four sisters.
Being the only boy, and second youngest of five children, my sisters knew there were several things they could do to get under my skin. Pinning me down and pulling the hair on my legs topped the list of unpleasantries, which also included, touching my food (gross!), calling me “Stephanie,” dressing me up in girls’ clothes, curling my hair with a curling iron, and blaming me for things I didn’t do.
Yes, they loved to tease their younger brother and making my life miserable, but growing up with four sisters in the end, was truly a magnificent blessing; one I cherish still to this day. But in the moment, as my leg lie stinging and rashy red, I couldn’t help but dream about being an only child.
Having older sisters fairly close in age, also posed another interesting dilemma for a pre-pubescent boy. You see, there is a reason why my Dad referred to me as “Bullfrog,” during my 11 to 14 years of age. My young, childish and even feminine boy voice, would often times crack and break down into low, croaking sounds that hardly sounded like actual words. And more times than not, when answering the phone, I was often mistaken as one of my sisters. Answering the phone and having the other person on the line express, “Hello Chrissy!” didn’t exactly instill great confidence in my young fragile male psyche.
With three older sisters and one younger, and no brothers in the house, one doesn’t need to think too hard to figure out what the Savage family conversation topics compiled. There was cheerleading, dancing, boys, and drama, and…well…more drama. Did I mention there was a little drama in the house?
One such dramatic subject for one of my sisters, was the irritating pursuit of a boy, trying to win her affection. The repetitive conversation went something like this:
Sister: “He won’t stop calling me…”
Mom: “Just be nice and he’ll eventually figure it out.”
Sister: “He is driving me crazy!”
Mom: “I know, but it’s okay.”
Now, as a boy and a brother, the solution was quite simple to me. Just tell they guy to take a hike! Why is that so hard? Why all the drama The heartache? The time and discussion? After all, isn’t the nice thing, and telling the truth, the same thing?…rather than dragging it out for weeks or months.
So one early evening, we were all home, all doing our normal stuff—preparing dinner, doing homework, engaging in meaningless idle chit chat, and watching television. Just a normal night for the Savage family.
All of a sudden, the phone rang.
This was back when there was no such thing as caller ID. To find out who was calling, you actually had to pick up the phone and ask. But with a family of four girls, most of them teenagers, there was a good chance that the caller was a boy admirer.
Ring…ring…ring…ring… “Hello,” I answered.
Caller: “Hello Chrissy, how are you?”
PAUSE…and I was a little perturbed to be thought of as a girl.
Me: “This isn’t Chrissy!”
Caller: “Yes it is! What are you up to?”
Me (with a little terseness): “Who is this!?”
Caller: “It’s Fred.”
I figured I don’t need to mention his real name here. So we will call him Fred.
It was at this time that I thought to myself…I’m going to help my sister. I love her. I’ve seen the struggle she’s gone through. I was always taught to help my siblings. Besides, this guy just referred to me as a girl, and I wasn’t in the most pleasant state of mind.
Me: “This is Fred?! Well I’m glad you called.”
Caller: “You are?” with a tone of excitement, feeling he might finally have the opening he had worked so hard for.
Me: “Yes, I’m glad you called.”
And then, I let him have it.
Me: “I really wish you’d stop calling me. I don’t like you. You’re doing nothing but bugging me by calling. Do you understand?”
Me: “Yeah, I really don’t like you. You’re nice and all, but I wish you’d just leave me alone.”
There was dead silence.
I stood there with the phone cord wrapped around my leg, looking through the refrigerator for something the eat, while having the phone resting on my shoulder, waiting for a response. I was actually quite proud of myself.
Caller: “Um, okay.”
Me: “Okay, goodbye then.”
As I hung up the phone I proudly strutted off from the kitchen, like a cocky rooster who just inherited 10 new hens to his brood.
“Guess what I just did?,” I asked my sister and Mom sitting at the kitchen table. Not wanting to spoil the mood by having them actually start guessing, I continued.
“That was Fred on the phone just now. He was sure that I was you and so I got rid of him for you.” I stood there waiting for the praises to be showered upon me. After all, I was the cool younger brother who had his sister’s back and who had just solved her problem.
“You did what?” my Mom replied. The look on her face conveyed more disgust, than a real question.
“Fred thought I was Chrissy on the phone, so I told him that he should stop calling and that I, you, didn’t like him,” I said with emphasis, surprised by the nonverbal accusation made by both my Mom and now my sister as they listened in disgust.
You could see the blood leave my sister’s face as she realized what I had just done and the embarrassment she immediately felt.
It seemed that the blood that left my sister’s face, filled up my Mom’s face as I could almost see the smoke slowly billow out her ears.
Within an instance, my proud and arrogant demeanor faded, as I stood there and realized the praises I was expecting would likely now come in the form of being grounded…or worse.
I quickly retraced through my mind what I had just done, trying to identify any part of the scenario in which I had done something wrong. My mind was blank. What did I do?
The tongue lashing began. At first it came just from my Mom. Then my sister. I stood there, not knowing what to say. Then, another sister joined in the conversation, wondering what we were arguing about.
I tried to explain myself, mustering all my skills of persuasion, to enlist my sister to my side of the argument.
“I just did Chrissy a huge favor,” I said as I started to explain my side of the story.
Within a few sentences of my explaining, my older sister took sides with Chrissy and my Mom and added to the verbal assault. They were coming at me from all sides. I felt my knees buckle, finally realizing that what I had done was wrong.
My sister picked up the phone and went into the other room to call Fred and apologize. I don’t remember him ever calling back. All these years later, I don’t remember what punishment I received, if any. It is possible that there was finally a moment of realization that I had truly done what I did, out of the goodness of my heart, not to be mean.
Today, Fred is a devoted body builder. He could easily squish my head like a grape! But, perhaps he wouldn’t recognize me today, now that my voice is finally more masculine and I no longer sound like a bullfrog.