The art of the squabble
Long ago, my conservative-leaning older brother flew helicopters in Vietnam. And while he was there being shot at, my liberal-leaning sister was at home participating in anti-war protest marches. This led to quite a family squabble, one which lasted for 40 years. Later on, this same sister passed away leaving a somewhat confusing will. Consequently, her husband and children became embroiled in long and heated discussions about who got to claim what of her
many possessions. Another serious squabble.
Family squabbles aren't always serious, but they are definitely a part and parcel of life. My aunts, for instance, raised squabbling to an art form. Ethel, Louella and Viola, were in possession of three old-fashioned names, three old-fashioned, and three old-fashioned tempers. When in the kitchen cooking at family gatherings, they would snip at each other mercilessly.
"Louella, for land's sakes, get out of the way! ....... How do you expect me to get out of the way when I'm rolling out this dough?....... Stop it you two, if you'd lose some weight, there'd be more room in here ....... Hmph! Who are you to talk? I don't see you going hungry! ....... Vi, don't give Junior so much ice cream, he doesn't need it ....... I reckon he can eat what he wants without you deciding for him! ....... Stop that, Ethel, you're getting flour all over the floor!" And so forth.
My aunts were feisty and sometimes fierce when a perceived wrong occurred. One Sunday, my aunt Louella, a newly minted and pious Catholic, brought my cousins to see our grandmother who lived across the drive from us. As my aunt and her children were getting ready to depart, a fight broke out between my brother and me. Now this was not unusual. A day seldom went by when we didn't fight. He had the physical advantage, being five years older and 30 pounds heavier. But I had a secret weapon. My father was a farmer, a man of the land, rough speaking and given to emoting when he was aggravated. I had worshipped and studied at his knee so I, too, was given to emoting when aggravated, and I was definitely aggravated on this fine and sunny Sunday. Therefore, my 7-year-old innocent-appearing self was able to call my brother some highly creative names and suggest several things he could do with himself. My aunt's response to this was to drive off in high dungeon, letting us know that she would not have her children exposed to such behavior. I was left to scratch my head and honestly wonder what was wrong. Haranguing my brother with colorful language and fighting him like a banshee was the norm. I do know that my aunt had a conversation with my father about this later, and you can be assured that it turned into quite the squabble.
Squabbling is a colorful, funny, sometimes not-so-funny, part of a family's history. In my case, I know it's what set my family apart from all the other families. Our personalities were painted during all that bickering. Shots were fired over the bow, but it was also a chance to be original funny, and sometimes even a little profound.
In fact, I often think that it was mostly the squabbling that stood out from all the other things that happened and helped make those lasting bittersweet memories of my youth.