For most of my peri-pubertal years Little Jimmy was the bane of my existence. My uncle’s stage name was Jimmy Carr, so I thought if young Jim, who was never referred to as ‘Junior’ anyway should ever became a criminal, he could just call himself Little Jimmy “Side Cars.”
Little Jimmy was the model son my father never had. He learned how to play golf, was a talented musician who eventually played clarinet with the Orlando Symphony Orchestra. And although I was offered the opportunity to play both clarinet and piano, either I did not have the time, the interest or the talent to get any good at either instrument. It was probably just lack of inspirational passion that led me to never practice, although regrettably today I wish I had. The same thing held true for golf.
But Little Jimmy always practiced music, Little Jimmy always helped his father around the house, and Little Jimmy learned to love golf.
To hear my father say it, he practically begged to have more chores. Little Jimmy always volunteered: to go up on ladders, to wash windows, to wash the car, to cut the lawn and to rake the leaves, to go out of his way to visit poor lonely Grandma, to help her around her house, ad infinitum and ad nauseam. There was not single thing he could not do or a single spectacular feat I would not hear about.
It was many a terrifying Saturday when my father would come home from playing golf with Big Jimmy and launch into the standard soliloquy:
- I stopped by Jim’s house on the way home and do you two boys know what Little Jimmy is doing right now while you are watching television?
- Probably painting the house, tarring the driveway and busy making a hole in one. Right Dad?
Besides schmoozing Grandma, Little Jimmy had a knack for ingratiating himself to anyone else who could do something for him. He was always kissing up to Uncle Eddy, so that he would be sure to go on a fresh-water lake fishing trip or perhaps get a rare penny out of his coin collection.
Uncle Ed knew that I liked to fish too, but I was only invited once. Aunt Rose waved good buy at the door; calling out to remind me I should not forget to help Uncle Eddy “oar the boat” so he wouldn’t be too tired when he came home. But the word in the family rumor mill was that since my family had a summer home and I could fish there all the time, I did not need to go with Uncle Ed. Little Jimmy was perpetually portrayed as being deprived in comparison to the privileged Hamptonite cousins.
Poor Little Jimmy; if it wasn’t for Uncle Eddy rescuing him from his domineering father I shudder to think that he might not actually have had any childhood at all.
I do not believe my father thought he was doing harm by comparing his children in a negative way to our cousin. He was only trying to be inspirational in a most unenlightened way; however I do not recommend this technique to be on the top ten list of “How to be a good parent.”
It never made me feel insecure because I cannot remember if I hated the clarinet or the yard work more, the sum total of which only served to make me resent my cousin instead.
After I became successful in my own career as Little Jimmy progressively hit the skids, becoming unemployed and then homeless, I turned to my father one day and said,
- Gee dad; I wonder what Little Jimmy is doing right now.
It went right over his head as he started to fill me in on the latest details, usually about how he was doing some menial work as a hospital aid or hovering over some dying family member in the hidden agenda guise of helping them out during their terminal infirmity. Eventually Little Jimmy disappeared altogether as even his own sister lost track of his whereabouts.
My father had simply failed to recognize three things: that Jimmy’s father was the organ grinder, that Little Jimmy was the monkey, and that Little Jimmy would have been homeless many years earlier if he had not been a very good little monkey indeed.
(My brother, myself and Little Jimmy )
Around, and around the Mulberry bush
The Monkey chased the Weasel
That’s the way the money goes
“Pop” goes the Weasel