Growing Up in a Wolf Pack

Posted: September 5, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

gray-wolf-pack

Okay, so I wasn’t literally raised by wolves. I just chose this title because of the size of my family – two parents and six children. And, when it came to meals in our house, we definitely took on a wolf pack mentality.

I’ll never forget the days when my three brothers were all still living at home and my mom and dad were trying their best to feed a family of eight, three of whom were boys deep in the throes of puberty. For those who have never been around teenage boys at meal times, watching the amount of food they shovel into their mouths is similar to watching twenty-seven clowns squeeze into a Smart Car: you’re seeing but not really believing it as it unfolds, because the laws of physics seem to have been suspended temporarily as portion after portion disappears into a bottomless abyss disguised as a long-haired, grunting, teeth gnashing wolf cub standing guard over his fresh kill.

I blame meal time as the reason why I was almost on the verge of starvation most of my childhood. Yes, it sounds contradictory, but I speak the truth. And this is where the hierarchy of a wolf pack reveals itself. My two oldest brothers, Pete and Tom, would convince me to sit between them, because I was their “darling little sister” and they really loved my company. And I kept falling for this line, oh naive me.

What they were actually doing was positioning themselves closer to my plate, so they could tag team me and steal my food. Here’s how it worked:

porkchopsMom would open a package of twenty-two (yes, 22!) pork chops and spend twenty minutes cooking them in shifts. She would have to serve them in shifts too, because the minute she dropped the platter of chops onto the table, that’s when her little wolf cubs would push, shove and elbow each other out of each other’s way so they could grab as many chops as they could before the platter was empty and mom had to go back to the stove.

By the time I got a chance, all the chops were gone. I would look to my brothers’ plates – they always seemed to have four chops on them. If I dared take one of their chops for myself, they’d crouch down protectively over their plates, eyes fiery with carnivorous desire, teeth gnashing, and yes, wolf their food down before anyone else could get any (including mom and dad). Their excuses were always “We’re growing boys, we need the nutrition more than you, little sis”. Sadly, my mom and dad often sided with them.

One time, as I was about to cut into my small serving of whatever I was lucky enough to have stolen back from my brothers, they worked together(as wolves do) to separate me from my food. My one brother would lean over and say, “Hey, baby sis, look!” and while I turned to look at whatever he was doing, my other brother would snatch my food off my plate, cut it neatly in half, and give the other half to the brother who distracted me. I believe there were times when there just wasn’t enough left over for me to have a single serving, so my sisters or my parents would have to give me some of theirs.

There was one time, however, when my brother, Tommy, was outsmarted and had his food stolen directly off his plate. It wasn’t by any of us, though. He was tricked by the one member of the family who loved him more than he loved anyone else — his cat, Rasputin.

Face of black kitten
Rasputin (Raz, for short) was the most vicious, conniving and predatory cat we had ever owned. He was adopted as a kitten, and was pitch black. But, something was off with this cat. He was never meant to be an indoor cat. He would spend all his time outdoors, canvassing the neighborhood for any and all prey he could kill and eat. He had the climbing skills of a leopard, and would leap high into the air to snatch birds unexpectedly from bird feeders. He quickly became hated by everyone within a four-block radius of our home.

He frightened away game wardens who tried to threaten us with fines for his wild behavior. I’m not kidding. He would sit at the bottom of the brick path leading up to our front door and just glare at anyone who walked by and, on occasion, spit and hiss at them for no reason whatsoever.

But for some reason, he adored Tommy. Adored him so much that, one day, he followed Tommy to high school and ended up sneaking into the gymnasium where, after several attempts by students and staff to wrangle and catch him failed, one of the students recognized him as our cat and my brother was called to the gym, where Raz immediately surrendered and fell asleep in Tommy’s arms.

Our family had a tradition where, on our birthdays, we were allowed to have whatever we wanted for our birthday dinner and dessert. Tommy chose steak, a rare treat in our family. So rare, in fact, that only he was allowed to have a steak, the rest of us had something much less…tasty. I think it was tater tot casserole.

leatherbenchWe had a green, L-shaped bench in our kitchen that was nailed into the wall. It helped accommodate all eight of us around the octagon table my dad had made. Tommy was sitting against the wall, with fork and knife in hand, about ready to cut his first, juicy, piece of steak when it happened.

 

 

From underneath the table came this perfectly positioned black paw, claws extended. As if in slow motion, we all sat in shock as we watched five razor sharp claws reach up and onto the top of Tommy’s steak, and then press down into its delicious flesh. Then, with one swift tug, the steak slid right off his plate and fell to the ground, where it was slowly dragged under the bench, right between Tommy’s legs. It looked like something out of a sci-fi film where the giant alien monster tentacle comes up from the dark, deep depths underground to snatch some poor sailor off his ship.

The rcatpawesultant snarls and hissing that came from underneath the bench as Raz devoured the entire birthday steak sounded like the devil had taken up residence in our house.

It was such a horrible sound, we all agreed it would be wise not to come between Raz and his prey. For once, the wolf pack was outsmarted and outdone.

By a cat.

Feline: 1   Canines: 0

 

 

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