Even the single bond, between mother and son, or between lovers, can excite enough complications to keep a novel, or a psychiatrist's notebook, moving for hundreds of pages. More so the relations within the family, for this is no more homogenized, say, than a molecule in physics. The Babe began with a close-knit family of four, which grew to six. But see what happens then within it, taking up just the four early members.
It is not only the Babe nestling among or acting against all three others as a unit. He has the possibility of nineteen types of relationships. This is not only mathematically evident; it is anthropologically true. It can be portrayed by the most banal of illustrations.
Here we have the Babe who wants to hit the streets: "I'm going out!" he announces, thus alerting the household to offer any objections that may be in order and giving due and legal notice. Observe: he is already relating to the three other members of the family as a whole.
Always the optimist, he decides to put on his tennis shoes, despite the wet streets and the lowering sky. Bro Bus, reading on the bed, is disturbed by his sprawling and bumping under the bed looking for the shoes, and says, "You'll get'em wet. It's raining." "No, it isn't." Bro Bus is more interested in his book than an argument. Besides, it's no skin off his nose.
The Babe has to pass through the kitchen. The Mom glances at him up and down and says, "Take off those shoes. It's raining, you'll catch cold." The health nexus! But it is more important to be fleet- footed than dry-shod. "The rain's stopped," he says. "Look, the sun's coming out. I'll keep them dry." "Don't make me laugh. Take them off. You heard me." "If I get them wet, I'll come home." "No!"
At this point the Dad enters the room; "What's going on here?" They address him together: "You'll catch cold." "It's getting dry outside." "It's wet," the Dad says, peering through the steamed window. The Babe cannot handle the two together, so he aims at the Dad: "My other shoes are big and ugly. I can't run in them. The other kids will laugh." The Dad is more susceptible to appeals of skill, propriety, and dignity; the Mom is unmoved by the prospect of his being laughed at: "Laugh back at them." But the Dad says, "Alright," but to please the Mom, "Come back as soon as it rains." (He will, when it rains hard and he is thoroughly soaked.) "Thanks. See you later." And off he goes.
He has in several minutes acted in regard to five relationships, the full group of three, the Dad-Mom combination, and each in turn of the three individuals. Nineteen less five leaves fourteen other combinations. If Bro Bus had also gone into the kitchen, leaving his book, he would have probably sided with the Mom, since he was not going out, by commenting on the heavy rain and the prospect of more. The Babe would then have been faced with the Bus-Mom combination and he would have stridently assailed the Bus ad hominem, viz., "You stay out of this. It is none of your business," and "You wait until you want to go out."
Or suppose Bro Bus noticed that he was taking with him a softball belonging to both of them; he might be moved to go directly to the Dad's room to point out not only that it was raining but also that the ball would get wet and be ruined. Confronted with the "destruction of property" argument, the Dad would say something like, "Stay home. It's warm and comfortable. It's a good time to practice your music." This is the Bus-Dad combination, the worst to come up against.
But it doesn't last long, because Bro Bus doesn't like the implications of that mention of his music practice, namely himself practicing, for he has been intending to go out as well, as soon as he finishes reading a gripping chapter of Captain Blood. So he says, "Yeah, finish your homework," which is a less audible occupation. For, fifteen minutes later, as the Babe idles by the window regarding the mist and drawing on the steamed glass, he hears, "Let's go out. It's dry now," and here is now Bro Bus, so now the two hypocritical propagandists form a combination, putting aside past differences in favor of a mutually desired enterprise. The duo repeat the confrontation with the Mom and the Dad solo, and the Mom and Dad together. As they go out the door, we tally ten types of relations so far.
The second scene of the drama opens thirty minutes later. The Babe rings the bell angrily and comes storming in. Bro bus has taken off with the ball to play with older boys lacking same, leaving him stranded with several powerless "little guys." His parents are impressed and don't mention that his tennis shoes are soaked. When the Bus returns, as he eventually must, he has to confront the mighty combination of M. D. & B. He is likely to get a slap for this caper, and be warned that this may just be the last time he will boast of partial or full title to a baseball.
As twilight deepens the Babe reappears in the kitchen waving a pair of ugly beaten shoes, effects of his tortures, to be sure, but nonetheless: "These are the shoes that you wanted me to wear! Look at them! Holes in them... They leak!" The Mom is unimpressed: "Go show them to your Father." The Babe does so and emerges triumphantly, "He agrees!" The Mom escorts him back; she is now on his side, and tells the Dad that she should get him a new pair of shoes and will pick him up at school and take him downtown to buy them. (She has been looking for an excuse to visit the Loop anyway.) Thus the Babe and Mom present a solution to the Dad, who agrees.
They return to the kitchen to face Bro Bus, who is holding a pair of fairly neat old shoes in his hands. (He has had an ear cocked; semper vigilans.) "Why not let him have these?" he says. "They're getting too small and I'll need another pair anyhow." Economy! The Mom wavers. The Babe is outraged: "Look at them! All worn out! And they're too big!" He seizes one and struggles into it, pushing his foot back and forth in it as hard as possible. "See!" The Mom chooses his side: "They are too big. He can't wear them yet!" Bro Bus argues for a change of jurisdiction: "Ask Dad if they're too big! He's a man. He can tell."
To say "no" to this might imply that the Dad has no special knowledge for being a man, or even is not a man, so all three march into the Dad's room, he saying, "What's the matter now?" by way of greeting, and when Bus explains, he agrees with him, forming the fatal Bus-Dad combo. But the Mom, still working in the Babe-Mom alliance, but now coopting Bro Bus, comes up with, "Well, why don't I take both of them with me and get both of them new shoes. He can use the other pair in the country." The Dad concedes, "Sure, why not?"
And then the Babe seizes this one opportunity to make a corollary appeal against his own ally: "But don't take us all over the Loop, we have homework, O.K.?" He deserts the Mom but perceives that he has two new allies instead. The homework that he speaks of is unlikely to occur, but who can object to it? She says, "Oh, come on, I'll go where I have to go." However, they know that she'll feel under some restraint in dragging them around with her throughout the store and other stores. The scene dissolves.
We are left with only three types of relations from the nineteen, those involving the Babe and the Dad against each of the others, and against the other two together. The nub of the relation Babe- Dad lies in the use of moral issues, in matters of conscience, for the Bus and Mom have pliable consciences, and the Dad a rigid one, and the Babe a pliable one with a full appreciation of the rigid conscience. So when he is playing his role alongside the Dad, he plays the Dad's vocabulary of conscientiousness. We have just seen how the mention of homework in the presence of the Dad buffaloed the Mom into limiting her shopping tour.
Throughout all of this the Mom has been preparing supper and as they reenter the kitchen for the third and last scene, she says, "Set the table!" and the table is set. Then she says, "Go tell your Father that supper is ready," and he is told. They sit down and the milk is poured and the soup is slurped. The Mom mentions her Dear Dead Mother's thanking the Lord before every meal. Bro Bus mentions the prayer that they have to recite each lunchtime at Franklin School (this being before the Court decision in Engel vs. Vitale 370 U.S. 421, 1962): "God is great; God is good; we thank him for our food, amen."
Bro Bus is amused, the Mom is accepting, the Babe chooses to be indignant, enlisting his Father's views: "It's not right to pray in a public school, is it, Dad?" The Dad agrees and pontificates that our nation was founded upon the separation of church and state.
The Mom says, well, religion does a lot of good for people, look at Poor Lucy.
The Babe rebukes her; Lucy should work harder and go to church less. The Dad picks up his line of argument, adding that some of the greatest scoundrels in history have been Popes, that the Church gets rich from the poor, the ignorant, and the superstitious.
Bro Bus doesn't care, but he realizes that he had better not tease the presumptuous Babe, not now, so he lets himself be bored. When the Mom engages again, to say that she didn't have to agree with everything, but it was good to go to church once in a while -- her mother was so devout, she attended Mass daily -- the Bus adds to the Babe, "Why don't you just mumble, you don't have to say the words."
And the Babe, sure of the Dad's dislike for hypocrisy, retorts, "That's faking. Why should I have to fake? Anyhow I say it so fast it's all a jumble." The Dad says no more; the Babe has spoken for him. End of scene with Babe--Dad vs. Bus--Mom and vs. each individually.
The nineteen types of relations are complete, resolving, blending, exchanging. The same or something basically like it happens in all families, and, as here, is largely unconscious, partly unconscious, even deliberate. In each type, the role of the Babe, or anybody else, alters more or less, depending on many circumstances. Upon reflection, I would say that the Babe, just as he learned to speak, learned to relate unconsciously, and then became more aware, and even sometimes calculating, through time.
The other members of the Family had their nineteen categories as well, ways of acting a little or a lot differently in each of the structured situations. When Brother Eddie came upon the scene, the types of relations escalated in number, and when Vic arrived these increased unto nigh one hundred.
One ought not be incredulous; human affairs are indeed complicated, but so is the acquisition of language (and some children learn two or three languages in the same way plus the languages of 2music and mathematics); so, too, is the human brain, which at maximum activity, is enveloping electro-chemically only a fraction of its possible circuitry while performing operations well beyond the ability of the greatest computer.
Then it is no longer incredible when I say that the Family situation as presented has been simplified. There are other elements to be introduced, raising the types of relationships into the hundreds, the thousands, yes, the millions. Types -- it is important to realize -- not particular relations that rise actually into the billions. If the Babe came practically as a random sperm from out of 300,000,000 spermatozoa, the particular human encounters that the descendant of this unicellular animal developed marched forward into the billions, representing hundreds of relational types.
To begin enlargement of the aggregate structure, I went back to the Babe as a single self, a single person: this is wrong. As Montaigne says in his essay on inconsistency, "We are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment plays its own game, and there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others." The Babe is a multiple of selves, defined as the roles that he plays enough of the time to make them significant. Just as you have Laurence Olivier as a king, lover, captain, vaudevillian, Roman, Moor, and so on in his various stage manifestations, so the Babe had at least eight roles to be taken seriously: cowboy, captain, scholar, athlete, politician, lover, musician, and, never to be discounted, child, even though he played the role of a child under duress, when forced to by circumstances or when defeated in a higher role, and then acting as he thought a child would act, whining, snivelling, subservient, incompetent, beseeching, impotent. All the others were adult roles that he acted from the age of four years onwards with increasing self-awareness and ability, though hiding them from view and not naming them to others, because he was aware that he had no status nor resources for assuming the roles nor had he mastered them.
However, he cannot hide them from us, who observe closely his behavior, and can without much difficulty pin these labels on his brown shetland sweater. Although these are personae, they are not exactly persons, for they all depend upon the same eyes, tongue, heart, lungs, liver, alimentary tract, brain stem and nervous system; but each persona lives a somewhat different life in the cerebral cortex and forces the organs into some degree of conformity, so that, for instance, when the cowboy Babe says "Giddyap!" to his Hobby Horse, his heart accelerates and his backside is toughened. And when Captain Babe says "Charge!" the Company advances like one man across the drawing paper's battlefront, and his guts gripe, his lips tighten, and his eyes open wildly. When he was deciding which shoes to wear to go out, in the described case, he had a conflict of selves: the Captain in him would wear heavy shoes to brave the elements and tromp through the storm, while the tennis shoes would give free play to the athlete. And these two personae and the other eight roles, I would say, had somewhat different relationships with Bro Bus and the Mom and the Dad.
It actually mattered, that is. Different consequences ensued from the role each would happen to be playing when he became caught up in the Babe's shenanigans, as described above. In all, hundreds of sub-role combinations were possible.
The Mom and the Dad possessed their own personae and marked distinctions. Since they were rarely at loggerheads, they admitted to their difference with pleasantries and joshing. Yet the differences were startling when you come to consider them. Whereas the Mom was inherently active, the Dad took action only upon deliberation, so that they gave very different impressions and had different effects even while both of them could be said to be always "busy." She was fast-moving; he was well-paced. The Babe, taking after her, measured all actions tempo allegro assai and felt impatient toward his Father for "taking his time" to do things. His Mother would tear open a letter that the mailman had brought with two rings of the bell from below; his Father would let his letters stand as if incurious until he could "get around to it."
She was innovative, enchanted with novelty and wanted to be in on the latest things and practices. She commanded the American language and vernacular and slang. He was conservative, much more concerned about doing things in the old ways and doing them "properly." He commanded the English language and resisted slang entirely. He could tolerate prolonged repetition, she could not. So too with routines. He would copy things over and over; she would not. While she coveted the greatest variety of clothing and shoes, he dressed simply and well within the narrowest confines of propriety.
She was trouble-making; she uncovered and brought forward problems about people and things, was ready to complain, argue, become involved. He was restrained, pleased when orderliness prevailed, and took up one thing at a time. He always kept his pens and pencils (sharpened) in one place; she was always looking for a pencil and wrote with wretched dull stubs. She piled things here and there or left them scattered about -- her things, although she was critical enough of the boys for leaving their things around and about; it was not true enough that this happened because she had more stuff to handle than the Dad; for instance, if he were otherwise, he might have had his music scattered all over the place, but in fact it was always neatly ordered.
She was short-sighted, calculating actions by the next meal, the next day, the week-end, with the summer or the next holiday being the limit of planning; she usually arrived just in time for an appointment. He was far-sighted, endorsing and approving long-range plans, life plans, buying insurance, adding up last year's accounts or thinking about next year's; he invariably arrived for an appointment, whether a concert or a personal engagement, well ahead of time.
She sought for the ephemeral, was curious to know "what's going on," and could not grasp the notion of "a classic"; I repeat how she felicitously combined folk slogans, the vernacular, and the latest slang in her talk. She spoke with complete ease, yet not excessively. She valued events for their excitement; else they were "nothing to write home about." Her talk bored the Babe only when she was talking to her friends and when she was repeating instructions to him or getting after him about misconduct or mishap. She claimed to take pleasure in imagining the boys "when they grow up, getting a steady job making good money and bringing their wages to me." Which the Babe was aghast to hear and said, "Whatever I'll be I won't be That!" He never let people enjoy their illusions.
Her religiousness was poetic and hedonistic; she enjoyed the passion of Christ, and the rest of the Gospel, as cinema. She feared death for others, not for herself. She thought a bedtime prayer would benefit the boys, sounded nice, and would induce slumber, so she taught them, "Now I lay me down to sleep, and pray the Lord my soul to keep...," whose neat rhymes brought instant learning, but hoots and jeers thereafter.
The Dad meanwhile was seeking depth; he had no large capacity for philosophy or practical logic, but he venerated profundity, whether in music, art, politics, or the thinking of others. He disliked gossip and small talk. In his letters, everything was in its proper place, enjoyed its classical syntax unmarred by errors of spelling, but they may -- I say "may" because letters have such subjective effects - - have been rather more boring than the Mom's. Her letters also were fully clear, without an iota of the incomprehensible; yet her style was of the freely-associating kind that James Joyce and William Faulkner would admire, interminable sentences that might begin with "How are you?" and end with"so must close with love," and, without the distinctions of punctuation, carry in-between these two thin terminal slices a delicatessen of happenings, injunctions and plans.
Finally, whereas she was tolerant of people's peccadillos and worse, he was intolerant, and considered Dante's assignments of so many people to heaven, hell, and purgatory -- although he disbelieved in these places -- as a marvelous model of classificatory justice. Her tolerance and his intolerance both rested upon a normal score in a paranoia test, I would guess, neither too gullible or too suspicious, though she would comment often enough, "Where there's smoke, there's bound to be fire."
The contrast between the two personalities was truly schismatic and we could revert all the way back to ancient Greek history for Thucydides' display of the differences between Athenians and Spartans, which coincide with the differences between the Mom and the Dad. However, in the historical confrontation, the Athenians and Spartans fought to the death, whereas here, the reincarnation of the same contrast produced, perhaps because he was twelve years older and a man of the world, perhaps because he and not she was the Spartan -- but I wouldn't vouch for these reasons -- a remarkably enduring harmony of existence.
People resemble nations, and, alas, nations are like uncontrolled people. By a stretch of the imagination, the Dad could be seen as Germany and the Mom as Italy. Then the boys might be placed in the Third World, materially deprived, seeking identity, survival and progress in relation to the western countries. Bro Bus would be India: proud, fancy, dancing, accepting much nonsense, whereas the Babe would be China, expecting greatness, aggrieved that others ignored this inevitability and did not surrender to it without further ado. As for the small boys, let us call Victor the boisterous Congo, fat though poor, and Eddie Arabia, with a melancholy vanity and a promise of riches. Where are Britain, France, Russia and the rest? Well, it was not a large enough family to tie in with all nations.
Let me refer to the Italo-German analogy, calling up much of what I have earlier written: the Dad was deliberately active, well- paced, conservative by temperament, took one thing at a time, bore a grudge, was engrossed by the phenomena of orderliness, farsighted, ambitious, ideological and searching for profundities. The Mom was inherently active, fast-moving, innovative, troublesome, short-sighted, forgot grudges, unambitious, manipulative, apolitical, and caught up in the life around her.
So it goes: as the Mom would say, "If the shoe fits, put it on."
What a setting for sibling rivalry! How did Bro Bus suffer the clamorous egalitarianism of the Babe? Would he not have hated him intensely and obviously? Would he not have refused to play with him, to share his toys with him, confide in him, bring him along wherever he was going? Would he not have beaten him up, tongue- lashed him, appropriated his playthings, played dirty tricks on him, lied to him, related tales of his incompetence to other boys and of his incapacities to his parents, concealed everything possible from him? When the two younger brothers, his juniors by nine and eleven years, came upon the scene and swung into action at the age of two, would Bro Bus not have used his power and authority to line them up against the Babe?
As a matter of fact, Bro Bus did all of these things and more, but sporadically, erratically, guiltily, futilely, inefficiently, half-heartedly. The Babe had a quick temper and would, after abusing him verbally, attack him physically upon any one of the above provocations, whereupon, after a short intensive struggle, Bus would end up on top of his brother or have him in a headlock from which there was no escape, no matter how many chairs were overturned or rugs curled up in the fury. At this climactic moment, the Babe had to cease his struggles and go off crying to the parents or into a corner to plot revenge. He might then swear vehemently at his brother. Or come charging back with a stick. But the weapon was never dangerous or fully employed -- almost never, for there is a case on record in which he came charging with a pair of scissors, which, however, he did not use to stab Bro Bus. Nor was a headlock pressed hard enough to give anyone a sore throat or a blue face.
Any mark of true injury or acute agony brought in an angry Mother and ultimately an irate Father who would give the Bus several stinging slaps and a kick in the pants, who would threaten the use of a belt on him, and, of course, Bro Bus, who would now be crying, might be sure that for hours, perhaps even days, his expressed wishes of any kind would be resoundingly negatived. This was enough to control all such crises, more than enough in some cases in the eyes of the Babe, who would be overtaken by a remorseful sympathy for his brother and seek to reduce the stringency of his accusations and even to assist his brother in the process of plea bargaining.
Bro Bus was, in fact, a Third Force in the household, much taller than the Babe to begin with and always so, two and a half years older, not old enough to be Olympian to the Babe, not young or weak enough to be his equal, so he became a kind of short-range target. It was indeed a perfect set-up for sibling rivalry, and the Dad, more than most fathers of sons, had recourse to the Genesis story of Cain and Abel as he pulled them apart, remonstrated, threatened, judged, and, on occasion, cuffed them.
On the one hand, Bussie was a help, directly and indirectly. To speak, to write, to play, to adventure, to relate to others -- his was a model of how to behave. To help the Babe dress, tie his shoes, use the toilet, climb on chairs, lick a spoon, ask for things, pretend to be napping, wash one's face, recognize people for who and what they were: these and many more skills came more quickly because Bro Bus was teaching him so, or letting himself be imitated.
On the other hand, Bussie was a constraint, a limit to what could be achieved, a non-believer in equality, a dampener of enthusiasms, a teaser, a snob. He had a strong sense of primacy, and probably would have enveloped himself in defenses even without the Babe's assaults. In fact, the Babe caused him both to build up fences and then, by being bright and enthusiastic, caused him to open up one gate after another. But there was always the barrier around the older child, and open terrain around the younger.
Bro Bus was a protector, surprisingly reliable when one realizes how tempting it was to let the Babe go ahead and do foolish things, like swearing, stealing, falling, forgetting, disobeying. Or was it that the Babe also came almost instinctively to discern when Bro Bus was acting out of sincere identification with him, that is, out of good will, or was exploiting him and cunningly inducing trouble? We cannot be sure, so complex, subtle, obscure are the circumstances. We surmise, however, that the older brother did in significant ways love the younger and at the same time the younger was clever enough to perceive the limits of love and sense the presence of mischief or danger.
The smaller boys stayed out of the battles and had notably fewer struggles of their own, whereas the big boys fought physically until they became positively indecent, when, let us say, the Mom could not by the administration of a broom handle to the ankles, shins, elbows and heads, send them their separate ways, protesting and grumbling in pain. As often as not, she would refuse to hear any testimony, unless also involved was an offense against third parties or damage to household property, she saying with disgusting finality, "It takes two to start a fight."
The troubles or conflicts of the boys never seemed to depress the Mom. She spoke of her "nervousness" as something long vanished together with the uncertainties of a young bride. The Mom neither sighed nor soughed, snivelled nor screamed. She wept no more than several times in the Babe's experience, and he was anguished when she did: once when, as I mentioned, he broke a wedding ceramic of hers, once when a neighbor died, once when poor she lost her shopping money to a thief, once when the Dad was furious and struck her bluntly, once when her father died. She could and would throw her voice alright, holding her own with anyone when it came to a declamatory dispute.
Despite their wrangling, the Babe served his brother well, often in devious ways. Quoth the Mom, "What won't they do next?" Two boys will normally have common wants and make common cause in treating with their parents. The Babe was an important ally, whatever his cost and however independent his interests. One boy asking for a sled can be put off; two boys, asking, get their sled; once the sled is on the scene, quarrels break out over its use and "two sleds" seems to be the logical answer. If the Bus wants a pair of Keds because other kids are disporting in them, the Babe can offer sworn testimony as to the need and the practice; again, one pair of Keds implies two pairs of Keds. If two boys don't want to see a sickly sweet film that the Mom wants to see, it's too bad for her; if two boys want to see the feature film over again, the Mom will be hard put to get them out of the theatre. If Bus thinks a cab ride home from Oak Street Beach is better than walking back under the blistering sun with their clothes donned over their wet wool swimming suits, he suggests it to his junior, and the Babe sets up the appropriate complaint and demand. Or if Bus does not like the company of Mamie and Julia and the other nice ladies that the Mom wants to visit, the Babe is persuaded to launch a tirade against going along and, at their prompting, Lorraine, the next best thing to pure licence, is hired to keep an eye on them at home or in the Park across the street, and this goes for the small boys too.
The Babe's obnoxious straining for equality plays into the Buster's hands: equal pay suggests equal work. When he might otherwise have pretended to be a pathetic youth, the Babe was logically compelled to admit to a capacity for the chores that the Bus performed: sweeping, dish-washing, coal-hauling, bed-making, going to the store, and so on. Moral support came along with the help on chores and also with the theory of equality. Greater than proportionate moral support arrived, for moral sentiments coming from the young are accorded greater respect than the same coming suspiciously from the elder: "And a little child shall lead them."
Nor, in explaining Bro Bus' less than "Holy War" against his brother, may we ignore the sympathy and companionship often extended the elder, nor the satisfying feeling of Bussie, no matter how ill-founded, that the younger was a minion, a myrmidon, an agent, a servitor. The Bus, however, did not suffer much from such illusions, nor would he have been let to enjoy them. For, let us face the fact, the Babe was an indomitable child. He could not be permanently subjected, not diverted for long from a passionate desire. He could be sent bawling, his possessions could be snatched, he could be outdistanced, he could be excluded from a game, he could be ridiculed into a rage, he could be outfaced, he could be beaten time after time in a game, but neither his brother nor anyone else could under the circumstances rest relieved of him.
At bottom there was no way of convincing him that he was a loser. First of all, he did not believe he had lost, next nor that his loss was justified, and further that he should be refused another chance, nor that he should go uncompensated for what he lost, and neither did he believe that he would not be soon in a position to exact retribution, or could not discover an alternate route to the same or a better goal. In short, he was a rotten sport, who accepted only the basic rules of the game and these by his own interpretation and only when he had to. Little by little he changed, significantly more quickly in the external world of affairs than at home, stripping off one by one the particular behaviors in the particular situations which might cause him a defeat or build a bad reputation.
Still, there remained the heart of the matter, which was his inordinate ambition to be the World Hero and his fierce competitiveness, even in situations, whatever their type, when he was foredoomed to lose. He might have inherited these ways, but the tests of genetics are not perfected to show such; at least we can say that his genetic make-up did not prevent his peculiar development. Also, we can marshal nicely evidence of intra-uterine trouble, premature weaning, sibling rivalry, the parents of contrary character and tastes, and the restless and combative rough outlook of Chicago the Godfather.
His Father's dominating role and attractiveness gave the Babe a large Authority with whom to identify. (Significantly, both boys shared this view of the Father, but it was the Babe who needed to ingest Authority to combat his brother, who, also significantly, had a rougher time separating from the Father in adolescence. Continuously then, the Babe is thinking "My Father is pleased," and derives a high pleasure from the feeling. It is a protective pleasure more important to the Babe than his own, or other people's. So he armors himself with this Authority and carries it with him through the years.
There was in the Babe a very early urge to dominate the world, common enough, perhaps universal, which however did not diminish, for the world grew broader and larger instead of shrinking, owing much to his omnivorous auto-didactic education, while the means to domination, the techniques, became highly varied in proportion, not focussed like Charles Lindbergh, say, upon a flight across the Atlantic, but upon general megalomanic power. Was he not called "cuckoo" in astonishment when he first emerged from the womb ranting and raging? (Incidentally, Zeus, King of the Gods, was called "cuckoo" for tossing his siblings out of Heaven. He appropriated the cuckoo-headed wand of Hera, his consort.) He was a born agitator and warrior whose many competencies and precocities had little meaning and gave small satisfaction to himself. As much as he demanded close affective relations, he simultaneously rejected them or kept from sentimentalizing them, from taking them to heart or expressing them on his own account.
If it had not been for the continuous braking force exerted upon him by his older brother (granting that Bro Bus was also contributing to the syndrome), if it had not been for the humdrum materialist embrace of Middle-class Middle America, he might have been disposed to be a pugnacious cowboy, a mad priest, a Huey Long or a merciless remorseless revolutionary. He preferred bombast to sweet poetry, so he thrilled to read near the end of his days in the little poem "Invictus" of absolute egotistic independence, and would have hailed Rand's work of "Atlas Shrugged." But he breathed deeply of melancholy when he saw himself buried among the commonplace resting souls for whom Grey wrote his "Elegy on a Country Churchyard," for by then, at fourteen, he had matters under some degree of control. He even said, when asked, yes, I guess I want to be a lawyer.
In sharp contrast with the Babe, the brother Sebastian did not have an aggressive disposition, nor was he interested in absolute dominance. After early severe illness, which included a bout with what was thought to be, if not diphtheria, then typhoid fever, because his temperature soared to 107 degrees, he had grown a calm and placid side to his character and showed strong flashes of hedonism. He was content at school and was already chalking up high grades before the Babe appeared on the scene. Their report cards subsequently differed in slight degree, ranging at or near the top of their classes. In the first grade, Bro Bus' class staged a play, a sort of vaudeville, and he called out nicely a poem that began:
"Happy-Go-Lucky they call me:
Happy and Careless and Fancy-Free!"
The Mom loved the poem and recited it back to him repeatedly over the years, whether to remind herself that he was so, or to stop his grouching, or to break up the snarling foreplay of a fight.
It was only half-true, because Bro Bus had a strong streak of melancholy in him, a deep-down fear of illness that never surfaced, a less sanguine and more skeptical view of the world therefore than the Babe. Left to his own devices, he would be less alert to opportunities, less susceptible to schemes, more circumscribed, more expert at what he undertook. He was a better musician than the Babe. Babe might know a little more about handling a band, but he knew a great deal more about putting together musical compositions. Where the Babe could hit singles, he could hit homers on occasion.
He did not want to run the world; he wanted to enjoy it. As his independence grew with age, his scholastic performance, his childish partnership with the younger brother, his presence in the home diminished. His internal preoccupations increased; his reaching out for models in the outer world turned toward hot music, flappers, cars, and fine clothes that were out of the pages of the new magazine "Esquire" and hung on his broad shoulders handsomely.
A time had come to separate from the Babe. It was twelve for the one and fifteen for the other. They lived in the same apartment, ate together at some meals, fought at times because, whatever the reason, the Babe knew he was losing touch with his brother. Bro Bus bought a car, a De Vaux, a yellow roadster with a rumble seat. He taught the Babe to drive it, in two lessons; he felt badly -- rather to the surprise of the driver -- when the Babe ran over a turtle the first time out. He later damaged the car, also someone else's car, left the scene of the accident, and had to get the Dad's help to pay the costs and to avoid police charges. He spent much of his earnings, gave the Mom some, and the Babe nothing -- not that he asked him for any. He spent much time across Eddy Street in the apartment and company of the stately woman and her tall blonde daughter -- the Mom's "floozy" whom I mentioned -- and their small poodle; they were actresses. They thought that he should be an actor. He was.
It was full adolescent revolt for Bro Bus, while the Babe slipped through the lines only slightly wounded. They were not friends, they were not enemies; they now were merely brothers going their separate ways. The Babe felt a slight melancholy of abandonment from time to time and sometimes a rage against the route that Sebastian was taking. But the Babe was busy, busy. The younger brothers began to fill up the social and physical spaces of the apartment on Southport Avenue and more so after the moves to Eddy Street for a year and then to 1235 Addison Street.
Edward and Victor: the Babe urged the names vigorously. He thought, with notable perspicacity, that Edward was an elegant name and Vic a tough one. They were born at home, like the older boys before them, and in the same room. When the moment came for Edward, the boys were driven away in the car of Mr. Irmo. They were neither surprised nor much impressed when they returned to a happy little party and were introduced to the baby.
Bro Bus thought that the infant came from the Mother's stomach but couldn't express himself in any greater detail. He was nine years old. He didn't know how it happened. He told the Babe the secret, in an aside; no one else came near to telling the truth. Nor was it of any use to clamor for knowledge that was sure to be uncomfortable in the telling and in the hearing. The "stork" and "Heaven" were realized to be code words for some kind of female process which a boy did not look into any more than he would lift up a woman's skirt to see what was there.
The Babe, in fact, had not hitherto been curious over his own manner of entering the world, nor how it happened that Bro Bus had preceded him. It is astonishing that a generally curious and irrepressible child who believes himself to be the centerpiece of the world may feel no need to know how he came to be.
Libraries, bookstores, and the press and movies were silent regarding the great secret. So were teachers and parents. Medical schools deigned to teach the secret; also mothers spoke of childbirth among themselves, of course. Midwives were a vanishing breed. The few animals that were encountered in the city happened not to reveal to the boys a parturition; there were neither cats nor dogs under everyday observation. Whatever the Babe came to know -- and in all his reading he must have come across some information -- he repressed, and therefore did not "know," although he must have
been affected unconsciously by it. Girls were told not to play sexually with boys lest they give birth to a baby in consequence, but the boys were not told to restrain themselves for this reason.
The Virgin Mary, Mother of God, did not help matters; one day she heard herself named to bring forth a Special Child; then when her time came, it seemed to these innocent Christian children that God handed Jesus down to her with his long arm and there Jesus was, beaming in his manger. The Babe thought little one way or another about this, in truth, but it was one more stumbling block to curiosity and learning.
The Babe lived nine years with Edward and seven with Victor. He kissed and hugged them when they were the cutest of babies, he tended them, he taught them vigorously, he had the highest ambitions for them, foreseeing their achieving even beyond him, for did they not come after him, therefore well-counselled, feeding off his and Bro Bus' hard-realized lessons of life and books? The Babe believed in progress in every sphere and even the few years of difference between them and him were supposed to produce distinct advantages.
It seemed to be happening, too. They were quite healthy, bright, handsome, neither depressed nor manic, energetic. They attended Blaine School, a more orderly and even-paced school than Franklin. Their fast learning did not seem to excite them so much, perhaps because it was already a family pattern and because it did not come from the more stimulating source psychically, the parents. They were poorer in street experience than the older boys, for the streets around were clogged with parked cars and buzzing with traffic.
Bro Bus loomed large as a personage to them, though he was less on the scene. He was more benign than the Babe. He arose late, played the piano beautifully, was fully grown, graceful, dressed to kill and knew women. Bro Babe was more disputatious, demanding, and seemed always on the verge of doing something unrelated to the moment's focus of interest and attention of the small boys. He was bossy, critical, full of advice, less patient than Bro Bus, uncaring of their wishes and privacy; he was ambitious for them and fostered competitiveness. On the other hand, he could be counted on to haul from the basement all the toys and junk that they would want to play with. He set up their trains, tried to make the things work when they failed to get them underway, and talked of bigger and better railroad systems.
He had them put on Charley's present of many years ago, sparring gloves, professional model, such as boys rarely received as toys. When Eddie was six and the Babe deemed him ready for the ring, he arranged a match with a little boy down the street, but both boys were perplexed with the large gloves and his motives as promoter, so they refused to engage. Although the Babe was less fascinating than the Buster, he was more into things than the Bus or the Dad, excepting the Mom, who was on the Babe's wave length more than the others and she in turn was adored by Eddy and mothered him, more than Vic or the unaccepting Babe, also because Vic grew broad and tall, as big as the Dad by twelve, and was more independent of her and everyone else, a gourmand from birth, smiling but more then needs be, whereas Eddie carried an air of elegance, diffidence and innerness that could be an invitation to or an attractiveness for mothering, and methinks that the same partiality was shown him by Lorraine.
Lorraine, a great many years later, recalled these golden times in a letter to the Mom, now aged sixty-six, who had moved to Princeton, New Jersey.
3039 N. Ashland Avenue
I had hoped you would drop me a card, when you got settled. Or aren't you settled yet? Or are you too busy straightening up the too many things you brought out there with you? You see, I know you. How's the weather, out there? Last week we had very cold weather; and this week it's very warm. Find any good department stores out there? I'll bet they don't compare with Montgomery Wards or Wieboldts? Wieboldts just had a big sale. It was on for two weeks. Your sister in law, Ann stopped off and saw me, at the store. I'm in a moody mood for putting things down on paper. Things that I just can't say; or in talking, I can't explain. I want to thank you and Mr. De Grazia for wonderful memories and many things you did for me as a youngster. I can remember the many times we went to the circus. The weddings you took me to: and how when Ed and Vic were small, they would sleep behind the piano through all the noise.
Remember when Babe was in the hospital for his appendicitis operation? You let me take care of Eddy over in Lincoln Park, while you went up to visit him. Then one afternoon you took me up to see Babe. Of course Columbus Hospital has grown since then. It's considered to be a block square, now. And they have a beautiful gold and black marble altar in their Chapel. Then when Eddy saw me one Halloween night as a ghost; After that it was always `Rain go hoo.' I got quite a thrill hearing him say it. And poor little Ed. Always having tonsillitis. And you using Argerol all the time.
The song "Should I," came out when you still lived on Hill Street. ["Should I reveal, exactly how I feel, should I confess, I love you..."] Buss would play it a lot on the piano. Seemed like he only used three fingers to play it. And looked easy when you watched him. Once he tried to teach me; it was like playing with two left feet. Remember your great piano concerto? And you played it when you had a party: the Blackhawk Waltz.
Remember the time we were at Oak Street Beach; how Buss stepped on a piece of glass and cut his foot? Ed was a baby then. You took him with you and took Buss to the doctor. And Babe and I had to load the buggy with the different beach items; and go home. Eddy was always eager to hear stories. I remember once I made up a story and days later he was telling it to me.
And Vic? His beautiful curly hair. All I had to say was, `Rain curl your hair'; then he knew I would take him out. And he would hold still and let me comb and curl his hair.
That big tan carriage you had for Ed and Vic? It was a beautiful thing. And those two boys; I was always proud of them when I took them out in the buggy. And where did I go walking with them? Along Dearborn Street and State Parkway. Where the rich people lived. So, I thought. So I could show off the baby and the buggy. I never did see another buggy like it.
And when Mr. De Grazia played at the Navy Pier or Lincoln Park; the great pride I felt, knowing I knew the conductor, that was up there conducting the band. It was a long walk from our house to the Navy Pier; and many times Mr. De Grazia would give me carfare to ride home.
And now with Halloween coming up: remember how we watched out the kitchen windows -- watching the big bon fire over in Seward Park. When you still lived on Hill Street. The men and boys would bring old wagons, boxes and wood of all kinds; just so there was a big fire on Halloween night. And how the boys and I would have a little party of our own. Remember the time I dressed and made up Eddy as a Chinaman? I used one of your old stockings to make a wig and pigtail. He looked so cute.
And the many times you had me iron clothes. So I would be able to make some money. And fifty cents would buy a lot of loaves of bread for ten children.
I remember when Babe was at Lake View High School and was in the R.O.T.C. Now, I have a son in R.O.T.C. at Lake View High School. He was presented with a certificate and was made a Sergeant First Class, a few weeks ago. I don't think you would recognize or know him if you saw him. He stands over six feet tall. He has a year and a half to go to school. Then he wants to go into Radio or Radar Electronics.
Remember when Vic fell and bit his bottom lip all the way through? Does he still have the scar? I remember one time, Buss forgot about taking Eddy home and went off with the boys. It was after four o'clock when you sent me up to get Eddy. He wasn't frightened or crying; but he was patiently waiting in the school hall, for someone to come after him. That was when he was in Kindergarten in Franklin School.
Remember the time Mrs. Erickson made fresh strawberry ice cream for Babe's birthday? And still on Hill Street; the old whiskered gent who lived under you. He could only talk Swedish, Eddy and Vic used to call him Santa Claus as many of the kids in the block did. And Mr. Villars (sic) who lived across the hall? Buss and Babe were fascinated by the stories he would tell them. Or different things about scouting. Then of course he had his pet polly, too.
Remember, when Vic and Ed were small. Remember the bears or horses on wheels your sister gave them as gifts? You and your sister are very close. Maybe I'm a little jealous. Look at us. Nine sisters -- all living in the same city. Yet, so very far apart.
Remember the dog you had, called Cooney? Our dog is just like him. And will be six years old next year.
Remember when you lived on Eddy Street, you had a party? You forgot to defrost the ice cream; and when I tried chipping it with a carving knife, I cut my thumb. And Vic went with me to the drug store. Yes, I still have the scar.
And when you were on Hill Street, Buss and Babe would send coal and wood up on the dummy waiter! I thought that was great. And Babe spending many hours with his drawings of soldiers and wars.
These are a few things I remember. Do you? Thank you so very much, Kate. I'll close now hoping to hear from you soon. GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU. Hello, to all.
P.S. I forgot: famous words: Lorraine, wanna clean the pantry?
As the Villiers and the Ericksons were close friendly neighbors, in his network, and Lorraine Anderson and Tony Aparo, the great jazz reeds-man, were close family retainers -- "just like members of the family," -- it was said of them, then how place his closest relatives, the Blencoes, and after them other relatives and family friends, his pals at school and in the neighborhood, his teachers, his book heroes, his comic strip and movie acquaintances? The network stretches out to include ever-increasing numbers of acquaintances, hundreds of them, who make up dozens of types, and contribute thousands of encounters and thoughts that combine and recombine. It is all plausible and mathematically certain, you can be sure, although indescribable, for the Babe's brain carried every experience that he had ever had, as yours does, too, on your own account.