MY DAUGHTER IS FINALLY PREGNANT, so it’s highly likely that a grand-something is in my future. She forgot to ask, but I advised her to have a boy. After many years of shielding major appliances from Mixed Sister Arts battles, I’m pretty sure girls are not the gentler gender. Besides, I have lots of blue bootie yarn still waiting for male toes.
When I shared this wisdom with my neighbor Paul, who was big brother to four terrified sisters—or “targets,” as he liked to call them—he started to choke.
“You have much to learn, Grasshopper,” he whispered solemnly. Then he recalled the glory days of taking his baby sister’s Patty Play Pal doll out with his child-friendly bow—and arrows, which were on fire at the time.
For little girls in 1961, Patty Play Pal was the ultimate life-size companion. She was 3-feet tall with long, shiny hair and a perky polka dot dress. But at $29.95, Patty didn’t come cheap. Fifty years ago, that much cash would put 120 gallons of gas in your Studebaker or 56 dozen eggs in your frying pan. Only the luckiest girls got to claim Patty PP as their BFF.
But Paul’s 4-year-old sister had one. Back in the ’60s, little girls still played with dolls and big brothers still packed plastic weapons. And they specialized in creative ways to use them.
“Dad wouldn’t let me and my brother have BB guns. He thought we’d get into trouble,” Paul said. “And he took away our M-80s after the rug incident.”
The rug incident?
“Yeah. It was raining, so we were setting off fireworks in the living room and torched the Berber,” Paul said calmly. “But we had some extra carpet, so it was just a matter of cutting the bad part out and gluing the new stuff to the floor. Nobody knew until Mom decided to change the carpet. Our patch wouldn’t come up because we used three tubes of Super Glue.”
Clearly, Patty PP was up against some powerful enemies. Even when your older brothers surrender their explosives, arson remains a concern.
“Patty Play Pal had it coming. I never trusted her,” said Paul, who recognized an enemy combatant whenever his sister got one for Christmas. “She was impervious to piercing projectiles. Even full of arrows, her expression didn’t change.”
With Patty wounded, Paul’s sisters retreated to the straw hut that was a nativity scene until January, when it became the family fort.
“We never got the arrows to stay lit until that one flamer hit the hut when my sisters were in it,” Paul said. “They never went more than 10 feet before that.”
Until this conversation, I knew Paul as the gentle, relatively normal, grandfather of nine. But he used to be a boy—like the one I’m wishing on my daughter. Sure, my girls turned over a refrigerator here and there, but they never set fire to real estate or attacked a manger.
Hopefully, there’s still time to change my order. I already gave all my blue yarn to Paul, in case he gets a sudden urge to incinerate something.
JAN A. IGOE is a writer from Horry County, eagerly awaiting her Official Grandmother card. All advice from professional grandparents is welcome. Reach Jan at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop.