However, I was far from being the only problem child in my family. Even before we formally adopted her, my sister brought a whole truckload of issues with her, but that’s not entirely under her control (and I’ll save those memories for later). My younger brother, on the other hand, caused almost as much damage to our house and the sanity of my parents as I did.
One of the earliest examples of this that I can think of is the time he set fire to our kitchen. At the time Craig was around three, which puts me at around seven years old. The school year had yet to start for me, so I was naturally upstairs sprawled out on the couch in front of the television.
Craig was doing the same downstairs in my parents’ room, taking advantage of their waterbed in order to optimize the enjoyability of his television viewing experience. My dad was occupied in the living room, working to clean the aquarium. My mother was at work, and we were all expecting a fairly low-key day of lounging about.
At some point, my brother got up and went into the kitchen. He may have been planning on getting a snack, or he could have been planning on visiting with our dogs. I may never learn his initial motivation, as he was too young at the time to remember it now. What I do know is what he ended up doing.
As my father siphoned out and replaced the water in the aquarium (or something; I admit I’m still a bit foggy on the mechanics of aquarium maintenance), he heard Craig open the microwave. This wasn’t at all surprising; since a young age, my brother has shown an almost prodigious knack for stuffing his face and then not gaining weight.
My dad heard Craig open and close the microwave, enter a time, and then start it up. From his obscured vantage point, he saw my brother retreat back to his cartoons. A few minutes later, the microwave was still running, and my brother walked back in to check on it. The second time he did this, he walked back with a look that my father described as “more worried than a three-year-old should ever be”. It was a few moments after my dad made this observation that he saw the smoke.
When I say “smoke”, don’t think the light gray haze that accompanies your average culinary blunder. This was an acrid black cloud that dramatically reduced visibility and smelled of utter despair. My dad dropped what he was doing and ran into the kitchen.
The microwave was on fire. Not sparking, not kind of melted, but completely ablaze. A massive black scorch mark was slowly spreading across the wall marring the wallpaper my mom had picked out years prior.
At this point, the combination of the smell and the wailing of the smoke alarm had become overpowering enough to draw me out of my television-induced stupor. I hurried downstairs, wondering what was going on. My dad immediately ordered the both of us out of the kitchen, somehow managing to put out the fire.
When we conducted an autopsy on the remains of the microwave, it was discovered that there was a lump of melted plastic and metal in it. Well, a lump of melted plastic and metal separate from the lump of melted plastic and metal that was the microwave at this point.
It would later be revealed that my brother had found a recording microphone somewhere and, noticing that it shared a prefix with the microwave, decided he wanted to see what happened if they were to be combined.
Unfortunately, my brother failed to travel back in time or gain eternal life or whatever he’d been trying to do. Instead, he got to be the reason we re-wallpapered our entire kitchen and bought a new microwave with a password-protected child lock.
As seems to be the case with so many of my memories, Craig seriously damaging our house was not a one-time occurrence. As the years went on, he’d knock holes in the walls (once or twice with his head), nearly rip out the railing on the stairs, and almost set the carpet on fire. Of course, if you want more details on those stories, you’ll just have to keep slogging through my interminable ramblings until I decide to share those stories.