CommentaryOnline attempt at Jeopardy!
Published in the May 16, 2012 issue
By CHRISTOPHER SOUTH
My daughter posted a message to me on Facebook asking, “What kind of a son would cut all the leaves off their mother’s plant?”
That was followed immediately by a post from my sister saying, “Lol. Where does she get this stuff?”
For any readers who don’t know, “lol” means “laughing out loud.” I prefer to use “la,” meaning “laughing aloud,” or even “ic” (inwardly chortling).
Addressing my sister’s message first, she framed it in the form of a question, as if this were “Jeopardy!” That being the case, the category would have read something like, “Sisters who like to provoke their brothers.” The $600 clue would have read, “From Amy.”
“Ummm, ‘Where does she get this stuff?’ Alex.”
To make a long story short, my sister was not asking a question but gleefully identifying herself as the source of the information. When I was 2 years old, I took some kid’s scissors and cut all the leaves off a philodendron in our living room.
“Only your dad,” my sister Becky chimed in.
That statement becomes relevant later in the game.
I replied to my daughter and two sisters and mentioned something everyone in the family conveniently forgets - my mother was proud of me for what I had done.
The “rest of the story” is that our mom was talking to our Aunt Jean on the phone and Aunt Jean told mom she wouldn’t let her kids use scissors - even the round-tipped kids scissors.
While mom was on the phone having this conversation about scissors, I was quietly and proficiently cutting all the leaves off her plant. She came in and found me sitting there with the scissors in my hand, bare stems on her plant, and all the leaves on the floor.
Mom would tell the story and say she was not even mad because she was so proud I could use scissors at 2 years old, when my older cousins weren’t allowed to touch them.
My sisters prefer to cast me as a plant-ravaging menace who terrorized the floral world.
Becky said, “Because of that story I didn’t let Nick (her son) use scissors and when he went to preschool they told me he couldn’t cut with scissors. I told them ‘I know, I don’t let him have them.’ They thought I was a terrible mother.”
I don’t think I need to say more - but that has never stopped me. I told Becky, “Because you were worried about a plant you scarred your son for life.” That may seem harsh, but it is totally acceptable in the world of sibling ranking. Ranking is an old term for put downs).
“Next thing you know,” I told Becky, “he’ll be falling down.”
That was a reference to Becky’s falling and breaking her wrist while housecleaning, which shows what a danger housecleaning can be.
“Oh, snap!” Amy offered. That is shorthand for, “Did you hear what he just said? “You aren’t going to let that pass, are you?”
“Oh, aren’t we a funny guy!” Becky said.
The next “Jeopardy!” question: “Pronouns for $200, Alex.”
My family has a problem with pronouns, possessive or otherwise.
I tell my sisters not to use the royal “we” unless they are actually royal. They respond that I am a royal pain.
We resent that remark.
My daughter’s original question contained a grammatical error. She wrote, “What kind of a son (singular) cuts all the leaves off their (plural) mother’s plant?”
I point this out because my mother would never let this pass without correction.
It should have been, “What kind of a son (singular) cuts all the leaves off his (singular) mother’s plant?”
While thinking of pronouns waiting for the online conversation to continue, Amy challenged Becky, “Seriously, that’s the best you’ve got?” She wanted Becky to be more acerbic.
“And the answer is, “Amy.”
“Umm, ‘Who is the instigator in the family?’ Alex.”
I don’t pick on Amy regularly, but there are times when I just can’t help it.
I wrote a column about our mother and shared it with my family via Facebook. Several people, including Amy, said the column was touching.
“This made me cry. It is all so true,” Amy wrote.
Then she added, “I’m ticked off because I just put on my makeup.”
I ended up tugging on her heartstrings and getting on her nerves simultaneously.
That is pretty much a win-win in terms of sibling ranking.
To complete the trifecta, I told Amy, “Making you cry was my goal. Ruining your makeup was a bonus.”
Okay, I may have written that, but it wasn’t true. For some reason I just can’t help playing this game of sibling ranking when interacting with my family members.
I blame my late brother Tim for starting it. Before Amy came along, he was the chief instigator. I remember his wife once asking, “Why do you all do this?”
“Ask Tim,” I said. “He started it.”