Now that I am older, I have come to appreciate the amazing restraint my mom exercised when I and my sisters were children and teenagers. With our rolling eyes and know-it-all comments and all-around pain-in-the-posterior attitudes, it is a miracle that any of us ever made it to adulthood.
And yet, here I am, a mother myself of children with their own eye rolls and smart-aleck responses and P.I.T.A. performances: I swear they will be lucky to make it to next week!
When I lamented to my own mother about my raucous ruggers, she tried to be supportive, she really did… Okay, who am I kidding, my mama laughed her tuches off! No sympathy from that sector, it seems…
But then, who can blame her? My sisters and I did do and say some (not too many, mind you, but some) things that would have tried the patience of a saint. Many times my sweet Mom vowed that she would sell us to the gypsies camped somewhere “down the road” or trade us in at God’s exchange desk for a different model. Thankfully, she kept us, for better or for worse…
Why, I will never know, especially when Mom canceled Christmas. Two of my sisters engaged in a cat-fight royale that brought down the tree. If Mom was going to blow a gasket, that was as good as a time as any… At least I was not a part of that fiasco.
Sadly, I did have my moments when pushing my mama’s buttons seemed like the right thing to do. Boy, was I wrong!
Like the time that I talked back to my mother. I do not recall the topic of the conversation or the reason for my defiance, but I do remember my mom’s response. “Okay, that’s it!” she said. (Anytime Mom uttered those words, we knew to run.)
She then reached into the earthenware crock sitting on the kitchen counter and pulled out a wooden spoon. (To this day, decades later, I can still hear the sound of that spoon sliding out of that crock.)
However, before my mother could turn around to whack me, I was out the door sprinting for the old tree out back. Lickety-split, I climbed up, up, up into the branches, far from my mother’s reach. Mom, terrified of heights, stood below, hands on hips, glaring at me. I did not move an inch.
Time passed slowly, and still, she stood below, staring at me. Just when I thought she might not ever speak to me again, she said calmly, “You know, you have to come down sometime.” She then walked away.
A few steps later, she turned and said, “By the way, we are having strawberry shortcake tonight…” (one of my favorite desserts). And with that, she walked back into the house, secure in the knowledge that eventually I would give up, climb down, and come home.
Of course, my mother did lose her temper from time to time. One instance, in particular, stands out among from the rest. It too involved a spoon.
My mother took pride in her home and expected that everything should be kept neat and tidy, including our playroom. But being a playroom, it often looked like a bomb went off in it.
One day, when the clutter became too much for my mom, she told my sisters and me to “Clean it up now!” Which is what we did…at first. But soon, all those toys beckoned, “Please play with us.” Who were we to refuse?
About an hour later, Mom stopped by to see the progress. However, instead of putting things to right, we seemed to have made them worse. My mother realized that she had to take charge. Like a general marching into battle, she bellowed orders: “Y’all grab something and put it away!” My sisters and I scrambled to obey her command.
All seemed to go well for a bit, but as children are wont to do, we soon lost focus and began playing again. I guess that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My mother had had enough!
Grabbing the object closest to hand, a hefty stirring spoon with a deer-antler handle, my mother threatened us to get back to work. Unfortunately, we did not obey. Disgusted, my mother let out a rebel yell and hurled that spoon at me. Luckily, my quick reflexes prevailed, and instead of bonking me in the head, that spoon went straight through the window.
We all stood speechless, surprised at what had just occurred. My mother was mortified, not at flinging an object at me, mind you, but because she broke the window. “That wouldn’t have happened if you had just stood still,” she said.
Most times, when my mother was at the end of her tether, she did not resort to using spoons as weapons. Oh no, my mother was much too clever for that. More times than not, my mother used her wits when she was at wit’s end.
Such was the case when I was a teenager, and my sisters and I had really, really pushed my mother to her limit. But instead of getting angry, Mom got even.
A few hours later, my mother called us to supper. Sitting at each of our seats was a meal of liver and onions, Harvard beets, and cooked spinach. My father dove right in, as did my mother, who both loved liver. But my sisters and I hated every single item on our plates. Even the smell of the liver was enough to make us gag.
We all tried, in vain, to get out of eating dinner, but Mom was having none of that! “There are starving children in Africa,” she admonished.
Although we despaired for those children, there was no way we were eating that meal. Mom then said, “Y’all will not leave the table until you eat everything on your plates.” Still, we would not eat.
Hours passed. Eventually, my sisters and I started drifting off to sleep. My mother shuffled us off to bed.
The next morning, we awoke, famished. We raced downstairs for breakfast. Waiting for us at our seats were our reheated meals from the night before. Oh yes, my mother sure knew how to make her point…
Unfortunately, my sisters and I did not only reserve our misdeeds for home. Sometimes, we took it on the road. One such time involved us bickering in the back of the car.
This specific squabble was not the first time my siblings and I fought in the car. It had happened many times before, so much so that the back seat had been divided by duct tape. Each child had her own designated seating area. “This tape is the DMZ,” my mother had warned. “Do not cross into each other’s space!” We knew that Mom meant business, so rarely did incursions into another person’s territory result.
But that did not prevent us from arguing. We argued about everything. “Mom, she’s looking at me!” “Stop breathing on me!” “I wanna listen to that song!” “No, I wanna listen to another song!”
One day, my sisters and I really got into it. We argued and argued and argued. Finally, my parents had had enough. A couple of miles from our home, my father pulled over on the side of the rural road and told us to get out. When we tried to appeal to my mother, she responded, “If you girls can’t behave like civilized human beings, then you can just walk home.”
Once our doors closed, Mom and Dad drove off. We stood in silence, surprised that our parents actually left us! We then turned on each other. “You started it!” “No, you started it!”
Now, my parents did not really intend for us to walk all the way home. They were just trying to teach us a lesson. They figured that after walking for a few minutes, we would have time to think about the error of our ways and repent our sins.
However, about 15 minutes later, my parents, who had doubled back, were disgusted to see that we had not moved one inch where they had left us… and Lord help them, we were still bickering!
Do you see now why I am amazed that any of us ever made it to adulthood? After recounting all those misdeeds, I think I’d better call my mother and thank her for her patience and ask for her forgiveness. Hopefully, she won’t trade me in or sell me to the gypsies!