Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pillsbury: The Greatest Challenge to Fraternity

The Dyer Boys, 1949?
I have two brothers.  One (Richard) is three years older; the other (Dave), four years younger.  We've known one another all our lives.  And we're all three quite different, each from the other.  The picture shows us in a photographer's studio, 1949?  All I remember about that day is that the guy told me to straddle the stool "like a horse"--an invitation that endeared him to me immediately since I was planning to be a cowboy for the rest of my life.

Richard was much older as a boy.  He was reading thick books by authors with names I couldn't pronounce when he was in elementary school.  On Saturday afternoons, when he should have been outside with me throwing rocks at cars, riding bikes, playing baseball, he was inside listening to the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts (with Milton Cross).  He actually liked practicing the piano for his lessons (unthinkable to unpracticing me); he did his homework (why?); he bought recordings of symphonies, operas, concerts (why?); he used big words in little situations.  He was valedictorian of his high school class; got only two B's in college; went to Harvard for grad school, where he did everything for his Ph.D. except his dissertation but then found a job that was not a job but his boyhood dream: reviewing classical music for the Boston Globe, which he did for three decades.

Dave ("Davi" we called him then--rhymes with "Davy," but comes from his middle name, Davis) was something of a combination of Richard and me.  He was a great student (also a high school valedictorian; Harvard Ph.D. in history), but he loved baseball (still religiously follows the Tribe via his laptop) and other sports, likes bad movies with no conceivable virtues, laughs at inappropriate things, reads sci fi and mysteries with a psychotic compulsion.

And I?  Well, I was the middle child.  (Nuf said?)  The late-bloomer.  The problem child.  I was not my high school valedictorian.  Did not go to Harvard.  (Though I sometimes joke that if I garble my diction, "Hiram" can sound like "Harvard.")  In high school, I devoted myself to everything non-academic: sports, theater, music, journalism, sports, friends, sports.  I didn't start working too hard until I got my first job, teaching seventh graders in Aurora, 1966.  It was really only then that I started reading a lot, writing, caring about something other than Max Alvis' batting average.  But, like Dave, I still like bad movies and inappropriate humor ... and I eat mystery novels like Frito's.

So, three brothers.  Three quite different human beings.

BUT ... as boys we shared one abiding passion.  Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.  The ones that came in the cardboard tube that lived in the fridge until it was baking time.  Each of us was capable of eating the entire contents of the tube.

Mom would buy several tubes each grocery store trip, and my brothers and I were allowed--with permission, of course--to bake and eat the rolls for a summer or weekend breakfast.  Oh, and bathe them in the little container of icing that came in the package.

But this process occasioned conflict that was, alternately, Darwinian, Communist, Democratic, Fascist.  It was a problem of simple arithmetic.  There were three sons.  And eight rolls.  Do the math.  Generally, it worked out like this: The two older sons got three rolls; Davi got two.  (Dividing rolls did not occur to us in our all-or-nothing youth.)  This division caused Davi some ... anxiety.  Some discussions ensued about simple fairness and equality--discussions that intensified when he actually baked the rolls and felt that his labor had earned him the third roll.

It had not.  Richard and I were the job creators; Davi was labor.  Thus: 3-3-2 prevailed.  Richard also had a very annoying line he would use on his younger siblings: "My body being a bigger machine therefore needs more fuel."  (This is still true, by the way, the part about his body being a bigger machine.)  I knew there was something wrong with that reasoning, but I couldn't figure it out in the heat of debate.

We all tried ways to avoid sharing--like baking when one (or more) brothers was absent.  Like baking before all of the brothers were awake--a plan that rarely worked: Pillsbury cinnamon rolls have an insistent aroma that quickly permeates a house, that leads pajamaed brothers out of the deepest of sleeps, directs them straight to the kitchen.

The worst that happened, though, was when Dad smelled the rolls and decided he needed some.  Then the division went like this: Richard (1), Dan (1), Davi (1), Dad (5).

And Dad, in our house, was the Supreme Court.  No appeals of his decisions.  Nothing to do but watch him eat five rolls--and make sure you ate your lone one fast enough so that he didn't grab some of it, too.

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