There are moments in childhood, especially in a large family, that make sense at the time, but, are hard to explain, later…

      Eating can become competitive, when 7 kids are vying for the same morsels… Well, let’s be fair- They really weren’t morsels too often. Mom had a way with food. She could stretch a few pounds of ground beef in so many directions, it became filet mignon, somewhere along the way!!  As the oldest boy, I participated in my own way, helping dad and mom feed the growing family, by bringing home fresh vegetables from the farm where I worked since age 7… By age 10, I proudly started my own vegetable garden, and read voraciously from my subscription to ‘Organic Gardening’, plotting and planning, during the winter, the various strategies learned from the crumpled pages of my gardening ‘bible’… My 1st seedlings grew atop the aquarium stand that stood at the foot of my bed, and they were attended to, like my baby brother, with all the love that I possessed, and, with a grow light and ample fertilizer, of course… Every detail of my new experiment, was catalogued, and frequent reports were given to the house royalty, usually just before bed, on each Sunday night… It was serious business, my enterprise, and, looking back, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall, after one of those, detailed reports, while my parents sat in the living room alone, and I had gone off to bed…  But, I digress…

        The middle boy in our family was a… well, let’s be kind- a bit of a hog!! Yeah, that WAS kind!! We shall call him Gerry (not his real name, but, close). Gerry’s favorite food, if you could really differentiate, was eggs… either, runny fried eggs, or, hard boiled eggs.  His second favorite food, was bananas… Golden skinned, just starting to get freckles… bananas.
        Now, I guess that’s not unusual, but there was, of course, another reality at work. You see, neither food was particularly well suited to his type of digestive tract. This became evident, about 45 minutes after he consumed large quantities of either food, and, unless someone stopped him, he would literally wipe out the entire stockpile, in a single day… Mom didn’t shop for one, she shopped for 9, so, there were usually, fairly large amounts of both to be had,  if you didn’t care about sharing, or were sneaky, or a banana or egg addict!! The effect, besides the financial impact, came in the form of a toxic cloud, emitted quietly, that spread to the 4 corners of the house, leveling all within the immediate vicinity, and lingering for what seemed like hours… It got so bad, that threats of excommunication were thrown about!! There was no way that a smell like that could originate from the bowels of a Christian boy!
       In retrospect, I think that Gerry liked the smell, and the attention… That ‘dead horse’ was beaten so many times, I think I went to sleep, repeating it like a mantra- ‘He’s the middle child, it’s normal to seek attention…’  Thanks, a whole bunch, Dr. Spock!! I knew, even then, that I should have burnt that book- especially the chapter on circumcision!!
      Anyways, there also was a hierarchy in the lower ranks of our Catholic family. The children, out of necessity, had their place in this order, and responsibility to the whole… There were secret meetings- I was the Great Arbitrator, as I was the oldest boy… We didn’t call it that, but, it sounds cool, anyways, and that’s what I would have called it, if my 10 year old vocabulary permitted… After Gerry’s behavior became a pattern (it was actually escalating), I called a meeting, to put sanctions in place, in an attempt to save the eyesight and senses of smell, of the lower ranks, and to stem the outrageous behavior of one of our own… Outright betrayal!!
    We struggled with our problem, and the war plan emerged… If gentle persuasion didn’t work, the only thing left, was a banana embargo of sorts… We had figured out, at this point, that the eggs were the fuel, but the bananas were the propulsion, if that makes any sense. You see, Gerry didn’t like to ‘use’ the bathroom, until his eyes were crossed and his stomach was bulging… For the life of me, I never could understand why he didn’t have more ‘accidents’ !!  Of course, my sisters, would remind me (they helped with the laundry), that some of the ‘skid marks’ that were bleach resistant, and permanent in my brother’s underwear, belied the whole ‘accident’ theory… Ewwww!!
    So, I put the plan into action… A large, communal fruit bowl sat in the center of the kitchen table for my entire childhood. In it were the available fruits of the season- during the summer, bananas sat in the bottom, surrounded by plums (both purple and yellow-our own), grapes from the farm, peaches from the tree in my grandma’s yard, and granny smith apples that were replaced by Macs and Macoun apples, in the fall…  I worked my 6 AM to 6PM shift at the farm, that next day, and brought home, a green bunch of bananas… My brother HATED green bananas!! After dinner was complete, and the cleanup was done, my parents retired to the living room, to relax a bit, before the bedtime rituals begin, and, the kids went off in different directions- most, outside to play till curfew. At that point, I took the bunch of ripened bananas from the fruit basket, and handed them to my older sister to hide. I replaced them with the bunch of green bananas that I had brought home. I should mention here, that, one of my brother’s favorite feeding times, was late at night, after visiting the bathroom to pee…
    He was disappointed, that night, and came back to our room, muttering something about his empty stomach, but, crawled back into bed, and went off to sleep, anyways… I grinned, and crept back to the kitchen, after alerting my sister, and placed 4 ripened bananas in the bowl, and retrieved the bunch of green bananas…
    I was up at 5Am to eat breakfast ( corn flakes with a nice sliced banana), and prepare for the work day. As I left the darkened house, I took the green bunch of bananas with me, in a brown paper bag, and pedaled off on my bike to work… My sisters awakened next… Gerry was always last! Two of my sisters liked bananas and had them with the hot oatmeal that my dad made, before packing his lunch- 2 sandwiches, a slice of coffee cake, and you guessed it- the final ripened banana. Off to work went dad, replaced by mom and baby, and the now awakened, blurry- eyed Gerry.
    I understand, that when he saw the fruit bowl, devoid of bananas, his jaw dropped… Either in admiration ( who would eat green bananas?) or confusion ( how did they ripen so fast and become edible?). After much whining and 3 runny, fried eggs and bacon, my brother headed out to terrorize the local pet population…( Except, of course, for our own pet- a double sized tiger cat called ‘ Tricksee’. )I’m guessing at the spelling- I never spelled it before!!  You see ‘Tricksee’ only tolerated me. Everyone else that attempted to pick him up, was instantly reminded of his disdain for human companionship!!  My secret? Well, when he first bit me, he was half grown, and I caught him, and bit his ear !! He never looked at me cross-eyed again!!
      The banana war went on for 1 week. I brought a green bunch of bananas home every night that week, in case there were ripened bananas in the bowl, and my sister would hide the good bunch in her room … Gerry, however, was starting to smell something funny, and it wasn’t of his own creation, so, he started to forage, which ended up creating a cascade of events…
      One night about a week or so, into the embargo, even my parents were starting to sniff around the edges of our plan, and pumping the little kids, who were tight- lipped until now, for information… My sister kind of panicked, and, decided on a new hiding place for the bananas… She didn’t share this with me, she just made an executive decision, and hung the bunch out her bedroom window on a lamp cord, that went between the screen and the triple track aluminum frame of the storm window.
     It was about 2AM when all hell broke loose… There was a loud crash (the lamp) followed by the snarling and hissing of a cat and the terrified screams of 4 girls in the end bedroom… I have never heard this particular combination of sounds, before or since, and, I never want to, either!! I bolted from bed, and raced to my sisters’ defense, Louisville Slugger in hand, and was nearly run over by a  wave of female sprinters, that vacated the epicenter like a speeding train… As I recovered and turned on the bedroom light, the noise outside reached a crescendo and the now horizontal lamp, jerked around in spastic circles, jumping up and down towards the screen window like some demon thing!! There was nothing to hit with the hickory bat… The action was outside the window, in the back yard.
      About this time, dad showed up, behind me, and for the 1st time, in my recollection, swore in front of me!! I looked at him and he had the same, slack jawed look that Gerry sometimes had, only, this one wasn’t a fake one, designed to feign ignorance… The lamp jumped up and down, the snarling outside the window mixed with the strangest sound – kind of a high pitched chattering, and a clawing, scraping sound, all mixed together!! My 10 year old mind was in high gear… I had recently seen the favorite movie of my youth, ‘Old Yeller’, and now, was convinced that a rabid wolf or some exotic creature was at the other end of that lamp cord, trying to gain access to our home, all the while, deterred by my valiant cat ‘Tricksee’ that had fought and conquered every neighborhood pet to that point, and was, in my mind, completely fearless…
      Dad, finally, amid all the screaming and now, baby crying, and animal snarling, had located a flashlight. He divested me of my baseball bat, and went out the kitchen door, to put an end to the nightmare… I crept into my sisters’ bedroom, my mom tugging at my pajama top, and watched the glowing flicker of the flashlight, as it worked it’s way, down the sidewalk, with my bat wielding dad, close behind… There was shouting and bat thumping (on the ground, as it turned out), and then, there was silence… Mom looked at me, and the kids looked at each other, and then, from the back yard, I heard my dad say, “What the hell are these bananas for?”
      My brother looked at me, and his eyes narrowed…. I looked at my sister and she shrugged… The banana embargo was over, although the story was never told till now…. There was some, convoluted excuse about an experiment to preserve bananas, that neither parent really bought, but, the little ones zipped their lips, and couldn’t be broken, and Gerry… dear Gerry…. He learned, after a consultation with his older brother, the power of teamwork, and the value of good, clean, fresh air…. Tricksee was OK, and, kind of arrogant, after that… He had,after all, stood his ground, against the largest raccoon that my dad had ever seen… A raccoon with a taste for bananas….

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