I was seven years old the first time I recall feeling the emotion of embarrassment. I was in the second grade and it was the beginning of the school year. We went to Parent-Teacher night, and it was my mother, my brother (four years old at the time) and of course me. They had us students sit at our assigned desks and the parents had chairs to sit next to us. My brother was placed at a small, round table in the back of the room with the other younger siblings. I think they were coloring.
We were raised in a large family and spent a lot of time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And our cousins weren’t [and still aren’t!] just family—they were our friends. I have three cousins in particular, all sisters, and I am the same age as the youngest of them. It was common for us to be around their house on weekends, and we happened to be there on a weekend right around the beginning of my second grade school year. Two of the sisters were three and six years older than me, so they had a collection of movies that four (or even seven!) year olds should not see. One movie in particular that caught our attention was Beetlejuice [the beginning of my Tim Burton fascination, *sigh]. It had just come out on video and my older cousins had it! My aunt actually let us watch it and we soaked it in…
[Back to the real story]
So my second grade teacher, Mrs. Conrad, was up at the front of the room, carrying on as a teacher does at Parent-Teacher night—I don’t recall exactly what she was saying. I am just proud to vividly remember as much as I am still able. With one scene in particular from Beetlejuice still fresh on his mind, my four year old brother had an idea.
From the back of the room we all heard a sweet [familiar] little boy’s voice exclaiming, “Nice FUCKING model! *honk *honk” “Nice FUCKING model! *honk *honk.” We all turned around to witness my baby brother standing on his chair at the young children’s table, yelling this sentence, and in true Beetlejuice style, he would grab his crotch for a visual to go along with the *honk, *honk.
I remember laughing, for obvious reasons, but as soon as I began laughing another feeling came over me. I knew he was not supposed to be doing that, I knew he was in major trouble, and I remember feeling actual embarrassment for the very first time. I thought the act, in itself, was hilarious, but I wished it had been someone else’s little brother.
The next thing I remember was being drug out of the room by my mother and looking over to see my brother being carried out like a football, my mother’s hand cupped over his mouth. We were heading home early from Parent-Teacher night.