Visiting my brother’s group house

My oldest brother moved out of the house – after a history of increasing unpleasantness between him and our father – when I was a child in grade school. Our family was rather conservative, religious, and conventional. My brother, who was artistically inclined and never the rough-and-tumble son our bullish, alpha father would have theoretically wanted, was having a go at the hippy life much to my father’s disapproval. I’m sure my mother didn’t think much of his lifestyle either, but this was her favorite child and she saw it as her role to run interference between the two, albeit not very successfully, so he got a pass in quite a few things. Still, my father ruled the roost and rebellion was not well received, especially the counter-culture kind.

My brother left after one last ugly conflict, of the sort where I was awoken one night to hear my father and brother shouting at each other on the front lawn, coming to – or about to come to – blows (not for the first time), while my mother hollered at them to stop, saying “the neighbors would hear.” Laying awake in my trundle bed in the room I shared with my sister, I was so scared.

He moved into the city and lived in a group house with his girlfriend and roommates. After a little time had passed and enough smoke had cleared, our family, that is, my parents and their three youngest children of which I was one, went to visit. We put on our church clothes for this little foray. Father in suit, mother and girls in dresses, little brother combed and cleaned up, the whole bit. And drove to a sketchy neighborhood downtown where the big old rental house was located. My life was a sheltered affair; I found the whole thing shocking, from the fact of my brother leaving us to his new arrangements. Group house? What is that? When my brother pointed out his room that he shared with his girlfriend, I took note of the solitary mattress on the floor. Mattress on the floor? Just one?! What was this?? I didn’t know about sex, not at that point. I just knew something was up.

We sat, in our good Sunday clothes, in the dark, high-ceiling living room and made small talk with my brother. It was uncomfortable. There definitely wasn’t anything for children to do there. From the outside, we must have been quite the sight. I remember a long-haired roommate passing by and giving a nod. Otherwise, whoever was in the house at the time, steered clear. Who could blame them?

Other details are lost to me now, but I was most impressed with the Chore Wheel I saw tacked to the kitchen wall. It had all the housemates’ names written around the outer edge, and a smaller circle with various chores written on it, inside, and it manually turned so that once a week, a new chore would line up by someone’s name. How ingenious! This I could appreciate.

It was the only time we ever went there.

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46 thoughts on “Visiting my brother’s group house

  1. nimi naren

    You’ve written this so beautifully that I could feel it. Thank you. I agree this ‘chore wheel’ idea sounds great. Never heard of this. Will be good to try it out for some group projects.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks you Nimi. I never did use the Chore Wheel in my own life, despite having had lots of roommates. You know what? You’ve given me the idea now to make a personal one just for myself. (Sadly, I will be the only name listed for chore duty!)

      Liked by 2 people

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  2. vanbytheriver

    Closest I came to a group home was a temporary housing situation with 9 other freshmen. That was too close. After that, the dream was a single room or studio apartment ! My son lived with 5 band mates for a few years. Once he moved in, we weren’t invited…and that was a good thing!

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      10 people?! Oh no. I did spend a year in a new group house myself and I liked it, but didn’t like the high turnover which meant some unpleasant characters started to move in. The landlord chose them and we had no say.

      Liked by 1 person

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            1. writerinsoul Post author

              Somehow I know I wouldn’t live differently – not that I have anything terrible or bad to report, more perhaps not always the best use of my time, because I was so woefully ill-prepared for life. (Sound familiar?)

              I’m sorry things get dark for you. I bet, like me, humor has been the saving grace, the life raft, the tide-turner, the thing that makes it all worth it. (I mean in addition to good people like your wife.)

              Liked by 3 people

            2. John Callaghan

              Yes it is. Oh man, laughter and people like my wife and friends I’ve had since childhood, have made my life so much better. And, oh god, so ill-prepared for life in so many ways. I read somewhere that turkeys are so dumb that they will look to the sky in a rainstorm and, if it’s raining hard enough, they’ll drown because they can’t stop looking up. That was me: a turkey in a storm.

              Liked by 4 people

            3. writerinsoul Post author

              I hear you brother. In middle age I am STILL learning things I should have been taught in childhood or under my parents’ roof. I don’t dwell but I DO think what in god’s name were we all DOING in that time?!?

              I can never imagine you as having been dumb. Maybe misinformed, poorly guided, left to his own devices, but not dumb. (Although that turkey image – which I have heard and don’t know if it’s true or merely a slur against poultry – is excellent.)

              Liked by 2 people

      1. writerinsoul Post author

        Oh Angle, thank you. That moves me in a way I wish you could see. What a great description – on WordPress we help each other see ourselves – and I would have never come up with your words.

        Liked by 3 people

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        1. Angie Mc

          You are decidedly the wordsmith when it comes to writing about matters that touch a child’s heart, especially the child who is now an adult. Some of us have a hard time articulating such matters, so in your articulation, healing comes for yourself and others. How very generous of you, Colette. While your work in this isn’t easy, it is invaluable. Thanks you ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. writerinsoul Post author

            I knew when I started this blog, I wanted to talk some about the past, my family. Like I wanted that to be one of the side dishes, not the entree.. I’ve spent a lifetime working it out and, like you, I’m okay with where I’m at now – which makes all the difference (I think) in letting me write about it. I’m really glad you get something from it, truly.

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply
            1. Angie Mc

              Side dish, what a perfect way to describe your intention for how your past, your family will be shared in writerinsoul. And you are right on the money about having worked it out; it shows. I, too, made some choices about what I would and wouldn’t blog about. Because of my name being attached to my blog and having many relatives with access to it, I’ve chosen accordingly. Hopefully my little piece of the blogging world will bring forward hope and healing in it’s own way.

              So now back to my regularly scheduled program. Something about tofu 😉

              Liked by 1 person

            2. writerinsoul Post author

              Although I don’t put too many explicit identifying features on the blog, my rule of thumb is I need to be comfortable with anybody (in the world) reading my posts, knowing it’s me. The way I figure it, it’s mine to tell (even as I’m certain there are people who wouldn’t like it A BIT.) As the quote about screwy families goes: “There’s nothing wrong here and don’t you dare tell anybody.”

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Angie Mc

              I love your rule of thumb and feel the same about feeling comfortable with anybody reading my blog, especially those who may be hurting. I can see your rule of thumb in action and I bet that’s part of why your posts are successful at sharing sensitive material. While you’re watching your DVDs from the library, I’m watching you to learn how to share in this manner. You write, “It’s mine to tell.” That’s another important rule of thumb. Thank you.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Angie Mc

    One of the reasons I’m passionate about family life now is because it was difficult for me when I was young.

    As adults I think we find each other, which is lovely. We can validate the truth of our challenging past while also supporting each other to live well today.

    Thanks, Colette, for writing about how I feel, but can’t express nearly as well ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. writerinsoul Post author

      How well put (I just wrote something very similar in response to your other comment, without having seen this one).

      It’s heartening to know that somebody like you is so dedicated to raising a family well. I think a large part of why I never had kids was because I knew I had no (workable, decent) blueprint.

      Your words cheer and encourage me.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
      1. Angie Mc

        You are right about the challenges of not having a workable and decent blueprint. It takes time to sift through what worked, what didn’t and to basically create the wheel.

        To be honest, my thinking went in a different (and in retrospect very cavalier and naive) way regarding family. As a child I looked around and saw only families who were struggling (each had something lovely but there was so much strife across the board in my poor neighborhood) and I thought to myself, “I can do better than this!” In other words, I too could have a family but mine would be different.

        So it seems to me that you and I have been on a parallel walk, creating a workable and decent blueprint for life. I have learned to depend on friends as family and am so happy whenever, wherever, I find someone who can see me. As I am privileged to see you ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. writerinsoul Post author

          Angle, you had the right attitude as a child, whether it was naive/cavalier not. I looked around and said, “I know this isn’t right” but I never went further with the thought in the sense of “I’ll do better.

          I know what you’re saying – there is a real validation that comes from having someone connect to your truest self, who is paying enough attention to do so. Receiving attention, real heartfelt attention, I think is rare. So we notice when it happens. And I see you because you let me – thank you.

          Liked by 1 person

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  4. vanbytheriver

    This post and its comments…so brilliantly illustrate what I love most about WP..Angie’s sensitive observations, Colette’s genuine responses, John’s “drowning turkey” metaphor…Perfect. Thank you all. ☺ Van

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
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