Sunday, February 14, 2010

I REMEMBER...the Flaming Marshmallow

...having a minor altercation with my sister, Sharon, when I was about twelve and she was about nine. It involves a flaming marshmallow.

But first......being the first born child, with all the inherent rights instilled in that position, I always had a tough time convincing my little sister of the level of reverence and respect that was due me. Maybe, after 50 years, I am beginning to see inklings that she might be coming around. She treats me very well.

In our youth (many light years ago) my little sister, Sharon, had this misconceived notion that she was also in charge and had equal, if not even greater, rights within the family. I fully believed that Mom loved me best. After all, I was the first child, first boy, only boy and my character was overflowing with admirable qualities [such as: I could make the perfectly believable sound of an alien spaceship taking off and landing without taking an extra breath and I had many merit badges in Boy Scouts for cooking on top of a coffee can, etc.]. Sharon also fully believed that Mom loved her best. After all, she was the girl that Mom "really" wanted, someone of the female persuasion Mom could confide in - in ways that boys and men would never appreciate or even know. She was smarter, prettier, cuter and always, without exception, willing to cheerfully help Mom with any project without resistance. Disgusting.

Whereas, my sister probably had some relatively decent qualities, there was an inherent evil that I just could not get my Mom to acknowledge. It was bad enough that Sharon was practically perfect in every way; she was still compelled to accent my occasional slips off the pedestal. I would be engaged in one of my Mom's dreaded "Death by Lecture" sessions for some totally misrepresented indiscretion when my sister would cheerfully (in a Shirley Temple kind of way) "just happen" to skip into the room and announce stuff like "Hi Mommy, I just wanted to tell you that I love you very much and that I just vacuumed the whole house, put my straight A's schoolwork on the refrigerator next to my award-winning artwork, fed Bobby's dog because he forgot to again....and wanted to see if there was anything else I could do to make your life easier, because you know I love you very much!"

Already in trouble for something (that is why I was getting the lecture), it did not enhance my innocence when I would uncontrollably lunge forward to wrap my hands around the neck of the cheerful little bluebird that was, once again, pointing out why Mom should love her best.

Mom couldn't see the tiniest of Mona Lisa smiles on Sharon's face as she skipped out of the room, knowing she had firmly placed yet another brick in the wall separating the good child from the bad child. Perhaps, if my Mom hadn't been busy physically restraining my thrashing, foaming-at-the-mouth, struggle to get to my sister, she could have noticed.

So what about the flaming marshmallow? This was perhaps my crowning moment in my endeavor to somehow "get even" with my sister. We had all gone camping in Yosemite National Park, back in the day, when they still had the Firefall - [this has nothing whatsoever to do with the story, but is a cool memory before environmental regulations - you should have been there, but then you had, of course, you would be old or dead, if you had really seen it - so click on the link for the next best thing].

We were enjoying (for a few fleeting moments) the traditional - go camping and roast marshmallows over the crackling fire. My sister always toasted her marshmallow perfectly - a delicious golden brown glow, spread perfectly over the entire morsel. I hated that.

My marshmallows were more like crusty little charcoal briquettes. I employed the young testosterone technique of roasting by jamming the entire marshmallow-on-a- stick deep into the coals, covering it in its entirety with hot ash and enjoying the ensuing moment when it would burst into flames.

Unfortunately, my sister Sharon picked that moment to, once again, point out to my Mom the difference between her perfectly golden creation and Bobby's "burning-black-thing-from-Hell-on-a-stick". My Mom wasn't fast enough to grab me this time when I leaped over the fire with my flaming sugar-bomb on a stick in front of me. I was a Lancer on a mission with the famous Alfred, Lord Tennyson's epic Charge of the Light Brigade.

That was the last straw. Seeing motive, intent, opportunity, and total disregard for the reprisal I would surely receive later, reflected in my blazing eyes, my sister jumped up [dropping her perfect gold marshmallow into the fire - a small side benefit, I relish to this day] and ran screaming into the dark forest.

Knowing I probably wouldn't catch her, and not being clear on what I would actually do if I did, I whipped my roasting stick in her direction out of frustration. Not planned, but ever so grateful for the result, the still flaming marshmallow slipped from the stick and flew through the darkness and stuck perfectly to the back of my sister's head.

A small hairless spot from the smoldering, melted sugar remained for quite awhile, before the hair grew back on Sharon's head. The endorphins [ The term endorphin rush has been adopted in popular speech to refer to feelings of exhilaration brought on by pain, danger, or other forms of stress, supposedly due to the influence of endorphins.....allowing humans to feel a sense of power and control over themselves...Wikipedia] released from the ecstasy of finally seeing Sharon get her just desserts ["Marshmallows Suzette"] allowed me to endure the resulting pain of the beating and lecture-until-you bleed-from-your-eyes that followed.

Even now, when I am having a down day, I can play that perfect moment mind-video again in my brain...with slow-mo and color...and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Epilogue: In the truest sense of Men-Mars/Women-Venus thinking, I have retold that story over and over, many times over the years. Men and boys think it is absolutely hilarious and beg me to retell it. Oddly, I have yet to find a woman that thinks the tale is funny. Mostly, they focus on why I couldn't take direction from my sister and just learn how to properly toast marshmallows and confront my inadequacies and anger-management issues.

After about 40 years, I am sure my sister has not let go of the memory. I fear she is gearing up for some kind of Ninja reprisal. She recently told me she was on vacation at an exclusive resort in Mexico, but I have included photo proof, that it was indeed a Ninja Training Camp for Women Harboring Issues From Their Childhood. I never would have been able to hit that target on the back of her head if she had employed a tree-top, zip-line escape.