In the middle of my sister’s wedding last month, I walked over to her and said jokingly, “Now we are so happy, we do the dance of joy!” She finished the sentence along with me, as it’s one of the many weird in-joked the two of us have, most of which have something to dow ith the countless hours of crappy 1980s-era sitcoms that we grew up watching in syndication because my father was too cheap to spring for cable.
It is entirely fitting, by the way, that I turn to sitcoms when I think about what growing up with my sister was like. I know brothers and sisters who are weirdly close, or have one of those relationships where the brother may as well be another father. I also know brothers who are perfect confidants and had greeting-card upbringings. While Nancy and I had annoyingly ordinary childhoods, we weren’t exactly the Cleavers of the Bradys. On some level I guess you could say we were the Cunninghams, even though my parents didn’t have an older child who mysteriously disappeared (I’ve always thought that Chuck Cunningham was an early anti-war activist and a member of the communist party so Mr. C. drove him to the Canadian border under the cover of night because while he loved his son, he was proud of his country and didn’t want to face the humiliation of HUAC) and none of my friends were cool guys who lived above my parents’ garage. Besides, we didn’t really grow up watching Happy Days unless WPIX was rerunning it in the afternoons.
No, we were more accustomed to vegging out in front of stuff like Growing Pains, The Wonder Years, Full House, or Charles in Charge. Full House, especially, stuck with us over the yars because it gave my sister her longest-running nickname (unless you count the Wonder Years reference “butthead”).