|Family Ties: Eddie Alex and Me.|
But read this first:
It’s a quick story about my older brother Alex. And if you’ve met him, you’ll have a hard time believing it. I kinda do even though I was involved.
I was in grade five, in St. Albert’s School, in Sudbury.
It’s important to know that St. Albert’s was half French/ half English. The English part--where most of us Carters went--was on the first floor. The French kids were upstairs.
And for some reason, the two groups were kept apart.
Really, two separate two schools in one.
Yes we were all Roman Catholic, and we all came from the same neighbourhood. But the two schools had different principals and separate staffs.
They had their sports teams, we had ours, and I have no idea if their teams had uniforms, or, now that I think of it, if they even existed. We just never had any truck with the French kids, except to fight.
Here’s something that bugged us. The French kids’ recess was 15 minutes before ours so we could hear them playing in the yard while we were still locked up on class. That hurt. Ditto their school exit time.
All this means that in our little kid brains, French boys were dumb and French girls were easy. I wish I were joking but that's the way we thought.
(Ironically, because my folks were very progressive they encouraged us to learn French; and my sister Mary actually attended all of her education—from grade one to a Nursing degree—in French. Must ask some day how she pulled that off being easy and all. But I digress.)
As I mentioned, the French kids got out 15 minutes before us. That gave them plenty of time to clear the schoolyard. But one day, for some reason, one of them was still hanging around the exit door when we were let out.
And, for the same mysterious reason, he took a dislike to me.
What happened—according to my memory—was this: I walked out of the back door of the school, he was leaning against the wall. After I got a few yards away into the schoolyard, he found a reason to chase me. I had to get out of there as fast as my skinny grade-five legs would permit.
I turned around to escape and without raising my eyes to look for an escape route, I ran headfirst DIRECTLY INTO THE WALL OF A BIG SILVER TIN GARAGE that sat beside the schoolyard. I slammed into the wall and fell backwards. (I think it’s happened to every little boy at least once.)
Mr. French guy caught up to me. Got me in a headlock. But even from that unwieldy and unflattering position of having being bent over with my head vice gripped in they guy’s forearm, I managed to spot—walking across the sidewalk down where the laneway met Eyre Street, my brother Alex, a grade-niner, walking home from high school.
The coincidence couldn’t have been more timely. All those years of my being an altar boy and sucking up to God just paid off.
I yelled. He heard. He ran towards us and looked menacing enough to scare the evil French kid away.
As I alluded earlier, “menacing” and “Alex” don’t really fit in the same sentence. While strong and funny, Alex is anything but a fighter. But that day—for me--he was.
I’m only writing this because earlier this evening I heard on the radio a situation described as “very Big Brotherish.” In that context—and in far too many contexts—“Big Brother” is a negative image. An unwelcome presence in one’s life.
And it’s 100-percent wrong.
Big brothers are the best.
I should know. I have four: Pat, Tom, Alex and Ed.
When I hear something is “Big Brotherish,” I think, “Great!”
Believe it or not, that laneway incident was not the only time Alex saved my life. He rescued me from choking to death, years later. (Come to think of it, the reason I was choking is because my other big brother Pat and I were involved in a food fight and Pat shoved a piece of beef in my mouth. But never mind that. Al held me upside down and saved the day.) Eddie, too, pulled me to safety after I fell through the ice on Mud Lake near what is now the Ghost Town of Creighton, ON.
In other ways, all four of them taught me things that saved my life and/or bacon one way or another.
They taught me to drive; to be a dad; which music was best and –this is key--how to not get caught doing things.
They know all my secrets and have never ratted me out. They know what I don’t want anybody else to know.
Say what you want, George Orwell. My wish for the world is that we all have Big Brothers.
And with that, I want to share this fabulous piece of music called "My Brother" by Ian Shaw.