There’s very little I recall about having the chicken pox - a thousand years ago - but one part I remember clearly to this day. While trying to soothe my fevered brow and itchy skin, my mother offered me a variety of material that she might read to me. Ours was a house crammed with books for all ages, but I wanted none of them. “Tell me about your naughty brothers,” I begged. And for perhaps the hundredth time, she did.
I never tired of hearing about the five handsome and brilliant, and thoroughly wild Morrissey brothers. There was a wealth of tales of the mischief they got into during school days where they were regularly kicked out, and the pranks they pulled during summer vacation when the whole family relocated to the Connecticut shore. One of my favorite stories was the time they invited their three little sisters to a funeral where the corpses turned out to be the girls’ treasured dolls. The best part was always the punishment and my mother described in great deal the wrath of my grandfather who locked the culprits in their rooms for tortuous lengths of time. And they would escape! Once, they climbed out back windows of the big old beach house and slid down drain pipes in order to show up in time for a dance on the tennis courts of the nearby resort hotel.
Much as I adored my grandfather, I loved to hear that my boisterous uncles always beat the rap. A few years later they beat another, more serious rap when all five joined the armed service: one Army, one Army Air Corps, two Navy and one Marine. Each claimed his branch of the military more valuable than the others. They were so competitive!
When one or more was home on leave, there were wonderful parties at my grandparents’ home. The uncles would chase wildly squealing grandchildren in order to tie together the feet of their Doctor Denton pajamas. They would poke us with broom handles as we squirmed, laughing hysterically, beneath the grand piano. During dinner, they would tickle us under the dining room table, making us giggle during Grace.
We learned the names of places where they served from the big map on the dining room wall. Our stories then included news broadcasts and we knew names like Anzio, Tobruk and Iwo Jima, because they were there. One of the uncles was a decorated pilot and provided us with serious bragging rights at school. One married a WAC, more bragging rights. One saw Winston Churchill.
. They were our wonderful heroes. My grandmother had a special flag made to hang in the front window, with five stars, thankfully, all blue. They all saw action and all came home safe and sound. The Hartford Courant ran a photo of them, all in uniform, all so proud.
In recent years it occurred to me that my mother told us those lavish stories without knowing that she herself would eventually deal with five sons of her own.
And they could be oh, so naughty.