My mother is a hoarder, however not the kind you’ll see on reality television. Her home is neat and uncluttered. All the hoarded items are neatly stored away in cupboards. Many of the things she has kept are decades old. I was at my parents’ house on Saturday and I was looking for some teabags and I noticed they were kept in a type of take away container (the T-750) that we used in our family’s restaurant business thirty years ago. Next to that was a plastic cup that I remembered taking with me on a Scout camp in 1979. I fossicked around a little more hoping to find the egg cups that my brother and I used when we were kids, but Mum thought they’d been given away.
The memory of the egg cups loom large for my bro’ and I because they were a constant source of irritation. When I was 8 and he was 6, we fought incessantly over who would get which egg cup. They were standard ceramic egg cups identical in shape and size. Both were banded at the rim and at the base with a thin line of gold paint. The only actual difference between them was one egg cup was pale green and the other was fire engine red.
Naturally we both wanted the red egg cup. My brother was never happier than when he had his dry, hard-boiled egg firmly held by Ol’Red. I felt the same, except I preferred my egg slightly soft. The paleness of the green was the problem. If that shade of green had been a match for the electricity and vibrancy suggested by Ol’Red, then it wouldn’t have seemed such a compromise. But we both knew that no egg tasted as good the moment it got into the clutches of Paley G. Dad said the colour of the egg cup made no difference and we took this to be one of the transparent half-truths of parenthood. He had to say that so we didn’t fight.
As the older brother, I engaged in a variety of tactics to get the red egg cup. I would call dibs, simply grab it first out of the china cabinet or attempt bribery. My mother would have none of it. She made sure we strictly alternated green and red. Whenever I was stuck on green, I ate with a little less pleasure and fixed my pupils of rage on my brother as he supped on his desiccated yolk, washed down with a side order of gloat.
The battle of Green versus Red was only part of the morning routine. I had to have a tea with milk and two sugars. I had this every morning until I was seventeen when I decided I hated tea. I have since learnt that what I hated was approximately 3300 Lipton teas in a row for more than a decade.
We had to get ourselves out the door by 8.30 in order to arrive at school on time. Mostly we walked the seven blocks, but sometimes we be driven by our two-doors-down neighbour. (The following names have been changed because I’m a control freak.) Mr Peruzza would chauffeur us up to school in his green Ford Falcon XB because we were friends with his son Giacomo. His daughter Nina would also be along for the ride, but we had zero interest in her and her mysterious agenda and motivations. She probably inherited this quality from her enigmatic father. What he meant or thought was unknown because Mr Peruzza wouldn’t speak to us, exactly. When my brother and I got in the car, he would issue a string of sounds, which I recall being somewhere between a hum and series of grunts. “Good thanks,” was our reply. Then he would fiddle with the radio to tune into John Fryer and Peter Dean and light up another Peter Jackson cigarette. Some may balk at the idea of our going on a trip in a car filled with tobacco smoke and wearing no seat belt, but if you ask me the greater harm was the Radio 6IX playlist. I don’t believe any child should be subjected to as many rotations of the pop music version of The Lord’s Prayer, by Sister Janet Mead, as we were. If you don’t know it, YouTube it; you’ll find the experience almost as instructional as we did.
When we got a little bit older, I went through a phase of purposely using the green egg cup. I actually became fond of Paley G and found Old Red’s vibe a little too much. I realised that I had overlooked the serenity of green for the garishness of red. I had chosen bustling rouge over zen green. This had to change. I was older and now I could see that I was more on green’s wavelength and colour temperature. I think this and the colour of Mr Peruzza’s Falcon XC led eventually to my painting my room green.
Or maybe I’m just opportunistically grabbing random facts and connecting the dots any which way. After all, isn’t that what we’d expect of a Generation X-er raised on a diet of boiled eggs and white tea?