Anyone with older sisters will tell you that one of the greatest blessings (or curses) is that you never have to buy new clothes. This was especially true for me, as I got clothes from both Jam and Deb. Actually, since Jam is very tall (5’9″), even Deb would get clothes from her from time to time.
This was a good thing, as Dad was very strict when it came to money. I actually grew up thinking we were dirt poor until I got to Junior High and figured out Dad was just cheap. On one occasion, Jam and I were travelling with Dad and he opted for the most el-cheapo motel he could find. Then at 3 am, someone starts banging on the door looking for someone named “Bubba.” Dad stormed to the door and yelled at the guy, “I AIN’T BUBBA!”
The good thing about that was Jam and I were able to convince Dad not to stay at the cheapest motels anymore. We were scared out of our wits.
That wasn’t the only time Dad had to scare someone off. In high school, one of Jam’s classmates started harassing her in class. He even started calling her on the phone and making rude comments. Jam did the wise thing by handing the phone to Dad, who immediately told the boy off in no uncertain terms. He never bothered her again.
You don’t mess with Dad.
Now there is an upside to growing up with a cheapskate for your dad. He was actually very money savvy and taught us early on how to manage our finances. He gave each of us a checkbook in high school with a bank account and an automatic deposit. The catch was, we could not ask for any other money. Period. We had to use our own.
This made me glad that I never had to purchase clothes. I was able to use my money for other things. This included paying for school lunches, until we got the bright idea that we could bring lunch from home for free (as Dad still paid for the weekly groceries).
Jam always said that it was school lunches that gave her the habit of eating too quickly. I read a lot how Europeans and other nationalities think Americans eat too fast. Jam says it’s all because of the school lunches. She would spend three-quarters of the lunch period in line getting her lunch and finding a seat. Once she actually sat down to eat, she would have only three to five minutes left before the bell rang. This was another reason it was better to bring food from home.
Another thing we paid for was our music lessons. Dad had tried to get us into sports, but it was all in vain. Neither of us is very athletic and we simply didn’t enjoy it. The only game my fourth-grade basketball team won was the one where I wasn’t playing, as I was at a Girl Scout function. Since Deb had done fairly well playing clarinet in the school band, our parents figured music was a better activity for us.
Jam wanted to play the flute first, but she had just been fitted for braces at the time. So she opted to learn piano and the flute was passed to me. I never really had much choice in the matter, although I was given to option of switching to the trumpet at some point. I decided not to since the trumpet was a “boy” instrument. I wound up playing the flute on a regular basis for the next fifteen or so years, all because Jam had wanted to play it, but wasn’t able to. She was fairly content with playing piano though and even inherited our grandmother’s piano, as she was the only grandchild who could play.
I probably would’ve done a lot better with my flute playing if I had actually practiced. But as it was, there was just too many good shows on after school. Jam and I were hooked on Ghostwriter in Junior High. In the first episode, the character Jamal is called “Jammy Jam” by his older sister, which is how I started calling my sister “Jam” as well.
Watching Ghostwriter also spurred us into making up our own episodes. We would spend hours lying on Jam’s bed and creating elaborate plots. We later did this for other shows we liked to watch, mostly reruns of The Monkees and Dukes of Hazzard. Mom called it “molting,” as it didn’t seem like we were doing much of anything just lying there. But those hours spent “molting” with Jam was what inspired me to pursue writing.