The summer before my fourth grade year, my oldest sister (#1) and her kids moved to town, and changed my summers forever. She lived with us the first summer until she found a job and house big enough for her and her 7 children. There were 11 kids, ranging from newborn to 17, living under one roof that summer. It was so much fun.
My sister, #1, was 25 years older than me (#10), so my nieces and nephews were about the same age as #9 and me. The closest to our ages were Mon and Zep (read more about them here), and for a couple of summers during middle school, we did everything together. Our lives were a lot like Stand By Me and Super 8 except without the dead body and the aliens.
We were on our own to fill the days as we chose, and we were very imaginative kids.
One day while upstairs in my parent’s dry, hot, un-airconditioned home, we decided to tape a soap opera, As The Stomach Grumbles. Why? I have no clue. It sounded good at the time.
We made up names that sounded soap opera-ish, wrote a small script, nabbed my dad’s black cassette recorder, mini-microphone, and an empty blank cassette tape from his office (a monstrous bedroom converted into his own personal play room which we were not allowed to enter without permission) and set out recording what we knew would one day be a great production. We also grabbed our older sister’s, #7, turn table and some assorted records for background music and scavenged the house for stuff that would make great sound effects.
Huddled upstairs in the girls’ bedroom, As The Stomach Grumbles was created. The four of us met upstairs every day for a week and poured our hearts and souls into the production, becoming our characters. We even added new characters when Leese and Core (Mon’s and Zep’s older sister and brother) wanted to join the show.
We started with a typical American family living in a typical American small town living the American dream. There were happy family scenes interrupted by argument scenes that escalated into fighting scenes that ended that installment of As The Stomach Grumbles in a cliff hanger, only to be resolved in the hospital scene during the taping of the next day’s show. We had romantic scenes between the daughter and her beau, kissing the back of our hands to make it sound like we were making out. There was mystery and intrigue. During one heated drama scene, Nature Boy (given that name because Zep was always farting and cracking jokes about poop) passed gas and Mon says, “Nature boy just released a little bit of his nature!” We started laughing so hard, and then gagging from the smell, that we had to halt production.
Nature Boy got killed off by a boa constrictor only to be reincarnated as a house plant. It was only fitting. Someone commented, “Well, he always did love nature,” during the discovery of Nature Boys’ reincarnation. Zep didn’t have a speaking part from then on. He had to shake the leaves of one of my mom’s house plants to interact with the rest of the cast. It may have been his punishment for always passing on his “nature.”
All of this fun came to an abrupt end when #9 discovered during one of the play backs that we had inserted “#9 love Charlotte Asbury” into the show while he was out of the room. He got mad and erased the entire tape and wouldn’t talk to any of us for a couple of days.
After the brief silent treatment, we were right back at it, taping a remake of All In The Family. Mon was Gloria and #9 was Meathead.
*Thanks to Mon for helping me remember*