The Great Big Test o’ Rempeness

“I could’ve been a Rempe!”  I’ve heard this from a number of people over the years.  In most cases*, the person speaking is attesting that they share much in common with the Rempe boys, love some of the old family stories, and would have enjoyed being raised in our household.

But there is more to being a Rempe than sharing genetic code or a general lack of common sense.  There is an ethos, a mentality, a philosophy that permeates the very being of a natural-born Rempe.

Do you have what it takes to be an honorary Rempe?  The following questionnaire will help determine your level of Rempeness.**  Points for each answer will be revealed in the answer code.  Please proceed with caution.
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The Butter Knife Story

As the title might imply, this blog will from time to time look back at stories of my childhood and assorted Rempe lore.  For starters, I thought I would begin with the story portrayed in the above banner—what has come to be known to friends and family alike as “the butter knife story.”

In recent years, some have called into question elements of this account.  The objections generally center around the nature of household current, and its ability to propel small children considerable distances.  To this, I can only say that I remember what I remember, and the images from that Sunday morning remain firmly entrenched in my brain.  Nobody has ever questioned that this is something in which the story’s principals would have participated.  In fact, the story could help to explain a lot about the Rempe brothers and our development (or lack thereof).

With that caveat, and operating under the premise that absolute truth should not be allowed to get in the way of a good story, I offer a cautionary tale – one that will be shielded from my offspring until they have learned the dangers of conductivity.  I give you “The Butter Knife Story.”


It was early on a Sunday morning.  I was about eight years old at time—roughly the age when you start realizing that sleeping in can actually be a good thing.  Alas, younger brothers Doug and Bill had not yet reached that stage in their development.

“Steve!  Get up!  You have to see this.”

Doug was bouncing with excitement.  “You really need to see this!” he repeated.  Before I could protest, he had thrown the covers of my bed open and had pulled me halfway out of the bed.  Knowing that resistance at this stage would be futile, I grabbed my glasses and followed Doug into the living room.

I half-expected some major destruction as I rounded the corner.  Instead, I was greeted with the sight of younger brother Bill, still in pajamas and with uncombed hair, seated on the floor.  His feet were straight out in front of him, about a shoulder’s width apart, facing the far wall.

“What’s he doing?” I asked?

“Just watch,” Doug replied.

There were two things that I had failed to notice upon my entry into the room.  The first was that between Bill’s feet on the wall was a standard two-prong household outlet.  The second was the all-metal butter knife he was holding in his left hand.

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Goldilocks and the Laws of Thermodynamics

Part of our family’s regular nighttime routine is to gather in our daughter’s bedroom and read a couple of stories before putting the kids down for the night.  Each kid gets to pick one (hopefully short) book to read, followed by a Bible story.  Then, it is off to Sleepy Land, usually with some really schmaltzy kids’ CD serving as a soundtrack.  (I tried once to put Grace to bed to the collected works of Charles Mingus, but she woke up the next morning wearing a beret and asking if I had any cigarettes, so I put the kibosh on that.)

One of the books that regularly makes it into the rotation is Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Now, I must admit that there are a number of things about this book that have always bothered me.*  First, what the heck is a little girl doing roaming a bear-infested woods by herself?  And what’s the deal with her just barging into the bears’ domicile without the appropriate welcome and making herself at home with their furniture and food?  Does she have no parents, or just very poor ones?  Or is this some kind of socialistic fairy tale where Goldilocks is representative of the proletariat, seeking the redistribution of the Bourgeois Bears’ ill-gotten commodities.  (In true Dave Barry fashion, I must point out at this juncture that “Bourgeois Bears” would be a great name for a rock band.)

Yes, all those points are disturbing, but there is something else—something vague and undefined—that always seemed to scrape uncomfortably against my subconscious.  Then, as I began reciting the story for the umpteenth time, it dawned on me what it was that was so irritating.

When the bears leave the house that ill-fated morning, they do so after having prepared three bowls of porridge—a large bowl for the similarly-proportioned Papa Bear, a middle-sized bowl for the Mama Bear, and wee little bowl for the offspring of these two.  When Goldilocks happens upon the Bears’ cottage, she notes that the large bowl of porridge is “tooooo hot.”  She then comments that the middle sized bowl is “tooooo cold.”  Finally, she finds Baby Bear’s bowl to be to her liking, and consumes it.

Obviously, this flies in the face of all we know from modern science about temperature transferal.  If one assumes that the porridge was served from a common source (and seriously, what Mama Bear would make an entirely separate pot of porridge for each family member?), then we can say that at the time of egress, each bowl of porridge was at roughly the same temperature.

Now, the story’s protagonist arrives.  The largest bowl, we are told, remains too hot to eat.  Based on this information, one could surmise that the next bowl in descending size would be somewhat cooler than the larger bowl, with the smallest bowl being the coolest of the three.  But no.  Somehow, the middle bowl is now the coolest of the three, with the smallest one being the optimal, median temperature.  This simply cannot be.

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