Crossing the Hot Lava Together

My brother and I are three years apart. When we were kids, we spent hours occupying ourselves, just coming up with random things to do together.

There was the obstacle course we made in the living room, that we only used when playing the songs, “I Walk the Line” and “Run Around Sue” (I had Dick Clark American Bandstand album that was our soundtrack for a good five years). There were the “time bombs” we made by twisting the swings up as tight as they would twist. There were games of “balloony,” where the object was to never let the balloon touch the ground. There was also “Bull,” where I, the older sibling, would be the mechanical bull to my brother’s cowboy. Thirty years later, there are still things we laugh at and smirk at that no one else really “gets.”

I’m sure we thought we were the only kids in the world doing these things, but I’m pretty sure they’re universal. Last night, I looked over and saw my six-year-old daughter giving her three-year-old brother a bouncy ride on her own back. A simple balloon provides hours of entertainment. They’ve both obsessed with “hot lava” and construct blanket forts like certified engineers.

At times I worry they’re too plugged in; that sharing a You Tube video isn’t really meaningful time spent with one another. But then they start to make up words to the tune of one the songs they like, and I know they really are bonding in their own unique way.

Siblings for sure get the worst of each other, but in watching my children, I see they also get the best. No one can make my daughter laugh harder than my son, no one can cheer him up faster than his big sister.

What did you do with your siblings to pass the time? Are there inside jokes? You can tell me!

11 replies on “Crossing the Hot Lava Together”

My sister and I are about 3 years apart. I’m the older one. She’s much more feminine than me and is frustrated by my lack of fashion sense. Lately, we’ve bonded over Pinterest and discovered we like a lot of the same things (home decorating, fashion, jewelry, handbags, cooking, etc). She takes a lot of joy in giving me makeovers and I’m starting to take pleasure in them. When we were younger, we liked to fool around with the computer scanner and took images of our butts as a joke.

Talking about your soundtrack to the obstacle course reminded me of a game I used to play with one of my brothers (the one closest in age to me) when we were very small.  We would play fast-paced, exciting classical music – In the Hall of the Mountain King is the one I remember most vividly – and run around the house in opposite directions (there was a circular route you could go).  Every time we saw each other, we would throw our hands up in the air and keep running.  We’d go faster and faster until, I think, we were both just too out of breath to keep going.  I don’t remember how the game started or what it meant, but I remember that it was SUPER FUN, and may just be one of the reasons we both like classical music.

I have three brothers and we’re all extremely close, so we had a TON of games, and to this day have a bunch of in-jokes and “games” we play, but that one is definitely the most ridiculous I remember.  Just childlike joy in movement, music, and excitement (even if there’s nothing, really, to be excited about.)

I’m six and seven years younger than my siblings and they went to boarding school, so I had this weird combination of being an only child and having siblings. With them being in different age-worlds to me, we never really actively argued (very rarely, and usually over pretty quickly) and when I saw them I was really grateful to get to see them.

What did happen a lot was that they came up with stuff for me to do. I remember my sister used to build these elaborate lego towns and then I would play a character, a lot like an RPG; I had to “find the gem” or whatever but it was a totally normal town where the people were pretending to be human but were actually hellbeasts. She had a good imagination for that sort of stuff.

Other than that, I lived in my head, and mostly alone. I used to spend a lot of time playing make-believe by myself, reading, exploring. Apparently I’ve always been a total loner, and very quiet. One thing I vividly remember is my fascination for fuschias; I used to pretend the heads of fuschia flowers were four-winged birds, and the washing line pegs angry vultures that ate the birds. I also loved lego, I made the Knight Bus lego into apartment blocks because I loved Friends, and I also used to build hiding places for my awesome villain (I think she had a wide fur hat and a female face on an Indiana Jones lego) to hide.

I remember that I had a villain who was based on the Voldemort lego, and then this other villain woman was based off of Shego from Kim Possible; she was amoral and they never managed to kill her because she always got away or abandoned the villain at the last moment. I think she had some of Mystique’s powers too. Then Ginny Weasley, Tom Riddle (because I liked the look of his lego better) and Harry Potter were all protagonists. Once my she-villain had to help them, it really built bridges. *cough*

I had the sort of idyllic rural childhood that is so often aggressively obnoxious in memoirs, what with the tree climbing and the apple picking and wilderness wandering and such.  Until I was 9 we lived in the middle of nowhere.  Our closest neighbors were several minutes away by bicycle on the other side of a country “section” (which was a real unit of measure in Illinois).  They had a son my age, but he was a farmer’s boy and often unavailable for play.  So my brother and I used to waste hours playing 1 on 1 football, which is about as exciting as it sounds.  He was slender and I was stubby, so he could outrun the crap out of me but woe unto him if I caught him out.  THUMP!

The other thing we did, which I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody, was play something called Girl-land.  This was in the early 80s and the gender divide in the midwest was thick with cooties and ignorance.  We’d pack up supply bags and tromp off into the wilderness Indiana Jones style, climbing trees and exploring the abandoned farm buildings on our 3 acre nonworking farm. I don’t really know to this day what Girl-Land was about.  I guess they were enemies of some sort, but it was unclear even then what exactly they wanted to do to us or what we wanted from them.  Sometimes we’d be in the back overgrown acre throwing hedge apples at each other when one of us would point and shout “Oh no, here they come!” or some such and we’d run up some tree.   I don’t remember ever searching for a lost McGuffin or anything.  I don’t even remember it being actively misogynistic.  “Girls” were just some undefined thing that we had to avoid and an excuse to run around and climb junk.

When we moved into a city when I was in 4th grade we started playing with a boy my brother’s age and started playing Star Trek. This was even dumber, now that I think about it, because we’d go over to his house to get our supplies then run around the neighborhood alone pretending to talk to each other on communicators made of lego, every once in a while bumbling into each other in a alley or a yard.

Being a boy in the early 80s sounds kind of dumb now.

I am an only child, and thus missed all of that. When I was younger (say, under ten), I really really wanted a little brother or sister. But then I realized that the younger siblings of my friends fell into three broad categories: The clingy one who destroyed our toys, the irritating ones that friends mothers basically forced us to play with, and the diarrhea rocket types who just…no one wanted to hang out with them, all right? So, I was a happy only child until about three or four years ago, when I realized that when my parents get old, it’s basically down to me – and me alone – to care for them in whatever way I can. With those years looming, I wish I had at least one sibling (even though I know there is no guarantee that sibling would help me in any way).

I have an older brother which I was annoying little sister that always followed him around to. I can’t exactly remember lost of one on one games (except with a Super Nintendo in between) but him being around always allowed me to join in whatever game his friends/the neighborhood kids were playing.

Declaration of war was and is still one of my favorites.

We would play a variation on hot lava called the lava monster.  One person would be in the lava trying to bring others into it.  If you got caught you became a lava monster as well.  The Lava Monster had to stay in the lava while the rest of us could not touch the “lava.”

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