Growing up Griggs

Sarcasm and cynicism is something I come by honest. Perhaps it's because I'm the youngest of three boys, all separated by a mere two and half years, and my place on the food chain was well established from day one. Or maybe it was all the comments that me and my brothers got when mom dressed us up all alike and people would stare for a second and then exclaim, "Oh my! Are they triplets?"

It was at this point that I usually got into trouble. Before my mom could explain our ages, I would step up, hands on my hips, and ask, "Do we look like triplets?" I mean, come on! We were stair stepped in height and, other than a crop of blonde hair on top of our heads, we really didn't look all that much alike. Those early lessons that I learned after the fact about manners should have stuck with me longer than they did.

Growing up in a house full of boys wasn't always easy, but it most certainly was fun. From the beginning the outdoors was our playground. When the summer months hit and school mercifully released its hold on us, darkness was the only boundary for being home that we knew. We had neighborhood boys up the street and one street over, so we never lacked for playmates or friends to dare us to do the next stupid thing that brought out the band-aids at best or grounding at worst. Life seemed so simple and slow then.

My parents were and still are amazing parents. They both worked ridiculous hours at more than one job to feed and clothe us, their work ethic still etched in my soul. I can remember my dad dragging in after a long day's work as a contract draftsman only to change clothes and run off to a church softball game or another sporting event that we were involved in. My middle brother made the high school soccer team as a freshman, an unheard of feat in the 1980's, and he started all four years. To my knowledge my dad only missed one game, home or away.

Mom was that constant presence in our house. Whether it was making sure we had breakfast in our bellies or everything we needed before running to the school bus, she always seemed to save the day just in the nick of time. I can remember one day forgetting to grab the paper bag that my lunch was packed in and having to call home to see if she could run it up to school. This happened to be one of those days when laziness trumped responsibility and all I had packed was a quarter bag of nacho cheese Doritos. When my name was called to come pick up my lunch at the office, I found a bag filled with a sandwich, chips, fruit, and a cookie. She never did fuss at me when I got home either, for I figure she knew I had learned not to slack-pack again.

We were fortunate to all have our separate bedrooms, my brothers and I. That split-level house on Winslow Lane in Winston-Salem, NC, looked kind of like a barn, but in my eyes that place was a castle. On the bottom level joining the garage was a room we called the playroom. It was where all of our gear and toys were stored in bins and shelves and where I would retreat to help G.I. Joe save the day or make a test run of the Millennium Falcon. Sometimes at night we would turn off the lights in that room and play what we called "The Game," which was nothing more than hide-and-seek in the pitch dark. The thrill of waiting for that hand to accidentally tag you was often more than I could stand.

By the time my second year in high school rolled around we were living in another house located in a different school district on the other side of town. Not far away from us was the prestigious neighborhood of Buena Vista, marked not so much by boundary lines as it was the sheer size of the homes and quality of the cars in the driveways. Many of my friends lived there and I cut through there all the time on my way to school and their houses, yet I knew that I wasn't quite up to the social standing that they had been born into. That never really bothered me and no one ever made me feel that way, it was just something I knew and appreciated. I was proud to be in the middle class.

Sophomore year in high school marked a new era for my family. My oldest brother was now a collegian, even though he was living just ten minutes down the road at Wake Forest University. Still, it was odd having one less body in the house and one less role model to lean on. Two years later I was the only bird left in the nest, my next oldest brother having retreated to that state university in Chapel Hill. I thought I would enjoy the freedom of being the only child and of not having to share the car during those years, but the truth is I felt more loneliness than I cared to admit.

You could say that going off to college began the final transition into manhood for me, and you would be right if I had stayed gone, but I didn't. Home was what I knew. Even though my grades and degree predicted a decent future for me, those thoughts were put on hold as I wound up back home for a few years before I was able to finally grow my permanent wings that helped me to leave the nest. I know that I am not alone.

Growing up Griggs wasn't always perfect but it was wonderful for me. It is so tempting to romanticize those days of coming home covered in dirt after catching crawdads in the creek or scoring the winning touchdown in a no-holds-barred game of tackle football in the backyard, but I find that I don't need to embellish a thing. The memories I have are fond and most of those people in my life who helped to form who I am are still doing so today.

Honestly, I don't call my brothers as much as I should and my parents hear from me less that a faithful son should admit. Yet not a day goes by that I am not ridiculously grateful for my family and how they helped to shape me into the husband and father that I am today.

And now I have four kids of my own who are living their own version of Growing up Griggs.

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