Roses are red, violas are blue

This week of January is never complete without thinking of my brother, who died in a winter weather-related car accident 15 years ago on Jan. 17.

Curtis Wallgren, circa 1995

Curtis Wallgren, circa 1995

He was kind man, and I’ve written about that aspect of his personality before on my Minnesota Transplant blog (“Ode to my brother“). Today, however, I’m sharing a snippet about him that I’ve written in my work in progress, a memoir recalling the year I turned 15 and learned to kiss.

Here’s to you, Curt.


* * *

It was the Friday before Valentine’s Day, and it began auspiciously. My little brother, Curtis, who was in third grade, gave me a homemade Valentine at breakfast. On the front, he wrote in block print:

Happy Valentines Monica. Be mine. I love you.

Inside, it read:

Roses are red,
violas are blue,
I love you,
hope you love me.
Love Curtis

Only he had crossed out “violas” and wrote “violets.” His poetry was like his jokes: Not quite finished. He had learned to appreciate poetry and humor from our droll grandfather, but he hadn’t yet learned the finer points. Just the way he told a joke was the funniest part. As he told the joke, the suspense wasn’t in the punch line but whether he would have one or if he did, how he would botch it.

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”

“Three pigs.”

“Three pigs who?”

“Knock knock.”

“What? I don’t get it,” I’d said. “‘Knock knock’ is the pigs’ last name? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“They’re knocking. That’s the joke. They’re not ringing the doorbell.”

“Oh, Curt, they’re not ringing the doorbell. That’s the joke. The last line should be ‘Three pigs who can’t reach the doorbell.’”

“Oh.” And then he would laugh like it was the funniest joke he’d ever told.

I decided Curtis was my favorite family member in the house. Mom and Dad were always picking on me, and Kay was always tattling on me or performing some other form of mean retribution for perceived slights. Curtis, on the other hand, was always nice to me. Plus, I got paid when I babysat him.

One Sunday, the most boring day of the week, I took a nap in the afternoon because I stayed out late the night before to see the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark with Cindy and Valerie. Because we always watched reruns together on Sunday afternoons, Curt woke me up from my nap in time to watch Wonder Woman. We were TV fanatics. When I didn’t have basketball, we also watched The Incredible Hulk and The Dukes of Hazzard on Friday nights.

It was nice of him to give me a Valentine. Kay didn’t. She did tell me I wrote good poems though.


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