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Brothers and bunk beds

I had two bedrooms that I recall over the course of growing up, the first notable because it was shared with and defined by my interaction with my brother, a year younger than me, when we grew up living above my busia (grandmother in Polish) in the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago, the second notable because while it, too, was shared with my brother, it was the first bedroom we had when my parents moved to their own home near the edge of Chicago, an area that felt vastly more open and almost suburban, even though it was still tiny and we acutely felt the closeness of the shared space even as we very much needed our own space as high schoolers.

The first bedroom was tiny and kitchen/bathroom adjacent in the cramped second floor of the bungalow we lived in in the old neighborhood. But it had bunk beds, which were kind of cool, in that as kids you could really trapeze the hell out of the arrangement. I had the top bunk, and could flip over the edge and onto my brother's bunk by grabbing the bars and sort of skinning the cat. The bunk beds had a ladder to the top, but I never used it. The hoist and flip method up was preferred, and way cooler.

My brother had what my mom has in later years characterized as some possible/probably variation on ADHD, and when he was little he would rock himself to sleep by curling up on his knees and gently bumping his head against the wall by his headboard and humming some sort of rhythmic mantra. It disturbed everyone to see it, but it seemed to soothe him, and it was our normal. He also had ear aches a lot, and my mom would bring him a hot water bottle to lay on to ease the pain.

The bunk beds were dark wood, probably oak laminate, with steel mattress frames that took a lot of abuse. But we had them a long time, and they held up pretty well. The room itself was maybe 10 feet by 12 feet or so, and had the beds, a small desk and a couple of lamps. For decoration, I can recall that around 1975-1978, the walls were taken up with my movie obsessions: posters from "Jaws" first and then "Star Wars," the kind that came as fold-outs built around a thin 10- or 12-page magazine and billed as "collector's editions." They were held to the walls first by push pins and then later, as I got frustrated with the holes in my "collector's editions," but a miracle adhesive called, I believe, "Thum-Tac," which was a blue putty you could buy in a small pack at Walgreens and roll up into dime-sized globs to put at the corners of your posters. No holes, indeed. But they left a greasy mark on the wall and faded the color where it touched the poser art. Better, but not perfect. But poster frames, on my budget, would have to wait until after college.

We had shelves of our own in the bedroom, and that was where we distinguished our personalities. We both had the odd Cub Scouts achievement trophy or three — his mostly the Pinewood Derby, mine the regatta — and some bowling and pee-wee league baseball trophies. Some coin banks for stashing away loose change. Some paperback books for me (I was a voracious reader from as early as I can recall) and car magazines and comic books for him. We both had am radios my busia had won at the Five Holy Martyrs annual carnival. They were shaped like football helmets, with the volume and tuning knobs as the sides of the helmet. Neither was for the Bears, our hometown team, but that was fine: we each had our own.

My keenest memory of that bedroom, apart from my brother rocking himself to sleep, was listening to am radio — WBBM — on Sunday nights and then, later, summer evenings, when they aired "CBS Radio Mystery Theater," hosted by E.G. Marshall. These were great, and encompassed everything from noir-ish detective tales to "Twilight Zone"-style sci-fi. I loved them all, and sometime in the past 5-10 years have gone looking through archives online (love the internet!) to find a specific episode that I recall but have never found. It followed a pair of criminals in some undefined future world who were sentence to ... Hollywood. The ending found them struggling through a real Civil War battle as their penalty, with all of it filmed for others' entertainment.

I'm fairly certain that some part of my storyteller sensibilities were formed by those am broadcasts, the many movies and TV shows I watched with my dad, and the vast array books my mom read to me as I curled up on the couch, my head on her lap, as she leaned into the glow of the table lamp.

I'm not one for nostalgia, but those memories are strong.

Everything matches, almost.

Death by hairdryer