Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Thanks bro'.

My youngest brother Josh was something of a handful when he was a kid. Not one of those hyperactive whirling dervishes; more of a mad scientist in training. Josh used to do some of the most jaw-droppingly stupid things that always caused some sort of chaos, yet my parents never killed him as punishment. If it had been me, one day after wreaking Josh-level havoc, I'd have been dead exactly 24 hours.

Remember those foam capsules that you dropped in water and various shapes would appear? When Josh was two, he took some of the resultant foam shapes and shoved them way far back into his nose. We didn't notice. For days. Finally, we all noticed something of an, ahem, odor about him. Naturally our parents checked his diapers. Nothing. His breath reeked, so he got an extra thorough tooth brushing. Didn't help. We all shrugged our shoulders and went off to church. After church, we went to the nursery to get him and the stench in the room caused us to recoil. Again, our parents checked Josh's diaper and found nothing. Finally, someone thought to look in Josh's nose and noticed that his nasal cavity seemed somewhat obstructed. Half an hour -- and many toddler tears later -- there was a pile of decomposing, snot-and-blood-slicked sponges in the bathroom trashcan.

In the ensuing years, Josh tried all sorts of interesting things:

He systematically dismantled our mother's music box collection to see how each one worked. They never worked again after that.

He climbed anything that could be climbed. Surprisingly, my parents never needed to call in an orthopedic surgeon.

Once, when Josh was about 12, he decided to experiment with the magnetic properties of various things. His experiments basically involved throwing a small magnet up against metal items to see if it would stick. The very last item he tested was our parents' late '80s minivan. Except that he missed the side of the van and hit the window. The window that had a metallic-based tint. He didn't just crack the window or even put a hole in it. No. The window just disintegrated into millions of tiny glass splinters. I have never seen a kid look so scared and so certain of impending death. Nope, didn't happen. I guess it was just the luck of being the youngest and having parents who were already worn down from parenting. (Blame it on Meredith and Michael, not me, I was a model child of course.)

One of my favorite episodes -- and the one I was reminded of this morning -- was Josh's fruit flushing episode. Yes, he flushed fruit. He started with something small, like a grape, to see what would happen. Nothing bad happened, so he moved up a size, to a plum or something like that. (My memory may be a bit faulty on the exact fruits, but you'll get the idea.) Again, nothing happened. Ultimately, Josh ended up flushing an orange, which was about the same diameter as the plumbing. Yep, it got stuck. And it was the only toilet in our house. A house with six people living in it. Plunging didn't do the trick. My stepfather ended up having to disconnect the crapper and then reach down into the plumbing. It took a while and involved some really inventive new curse words. Sailors would have learned a thing or two from him. I certainly did. Eventually, all was fixed and Josh lived to wreak havoc on other days.

(In all fairness, I should mention that Josh is a terrific adult without any sort of rap sheet or sealed juvenile court record. He has a master's degree and is teaching high school. Definitely an awesome guy and a great brother.)

The reason I was reminded of all this today was I think Josh may have a disciple: Elegant.

This morning we were having breakfast and getting ready for school and work. Elegant is not a morning person and definitely not a breakfast person. If given the option, she'd probably just sleep until 9:00 and then ease into the day with coffee and "The View."

So Elegant was sitting at the table, hair in her face, obviously wishing she were back in her nice warm bed. Out of nowhere, she asks, "How EXACTLY do toilets work?"

Pete and I looked at each other with wary eyes and declined to give her any specifics. I'll be hiding the fruit and putting a plumber on speed dial. While I'm at it, maybe I should hide the magnets too.

And we have a new nickname for Elegant: Josh 2.0

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