The following is a story that is very near and dear to my heart, it doesn’t have a happy ending for me, but it is filled with memories. Decades after the event Mom and I talked about this, and while both of us smiled at the memories, I also reached for my butt.
I was in the 3rd grade when this event happened. We lived in Easton Maryland, in a sub-division of small homes and they pretty much looked all the same. Our little house had a huge Weeping Willow in the center of the back yard. This was a majestic tree, with branches sweeping down and touching the ground. Underneath this tree was the coolest place in the summer, cool and shaded on the hottest of days and my friends and I could stand upright underneath, it was our not so secret hideaway. It was a place to relax and cool down after playing ball or a bike ride. It was a gathering place for the kids in the neighborhood. And it was as good a place as any to get out of the rain, because it offered so much shelter. But not someplace you wanted to be during a thunderstorm. I was surprised where a thunderstorm could come from.
I am sure each of you can remember the roles yours parents play in your ongoing discipline. Maybe some of you reading this were never a problem, thus never requiring discipline. Most of you most likely experienced some level of discipline as a child. Myself, well, I was one of those children that tested every nerve, every civil bone, and each shred of patience of a parent. As long as I can remember, my parent’s roles were quite defined. Mom was the disciplinarian, and my Dad was the enforcer, that’s not the saying Mom couldn’t enforce, oh she really could/would when needed. Sometimes when I really screwed up, my parents would double up on me both fighting for the role of enforcer.
Mom was a career Nurse. It is the only work she did after she left the farm in south central Kentucky. She studied nursing at John Hopkins University School of Nursing. She completed her years of study and training and graduated before I was born. With her education and training she could get a job no matter when the family needed to move. This is served her well several times over the years, and also when the family moved to Easton Maryland. During this period Mom worked 2nd shift (3pm to 11pm).
I had been bad (surprise surprise). Today I don’t have the faintest clue what my crime had been, but apparently it warranted corporal punishment. Mom was home, I don’t remember the circumstances, but it was clearly before 3pm, or my mom had the day off, doesn’t matter. After mom had sustained her role as disciplinarian, she decided that today would be a good day to be the enforcer as well. Mom told me to get a switch from the weeping willow tree in our backyard. In the best reasoning I could muster (as a 3rd grader) I found the smallest switch I could and gave it to mom. The switch itself as about 2 foot long, as thin as a single strand of spaghetti, it had little tiny branches with a single leafs the entire length, and could have weighed no more than an ounce or two at the most. Mom was not the least bit happy with my choice, but she looked me dead in the eye and said, “You’ll be sorry!” She then used that switch to beat me within an inch of my life. The first time she cracked that switch, and leafs flew from it, I realized I may have made a mistake. Even before I felt that switch strike my butt that 1st time, the sound of it whistling through the air scared me beyond words. I have never felt anything that provided that level of intense pain since. Hearing and feeling that switch were two entirely separate processes. After that first strike I immediately went into begging mode, MOM! MOM! MOM! no more! PLEASE NO MORE!! MmmmOooooMmmmmm I’m sorry ! ! ! I will never do it again ! ! ! and I stayed in begging pleading mode throughout the entire beating. Yes! kids got beating back in the old days. And while I was getting that beating, as my heart raced, as the tears flowed from my eyes like Niagara Falls, I was quite sincere that I wouldn’t do “IT” again, whatever “IT” was. Finally the beating was over (probably less than 10 swats) life went back to normal. Mom was cool in that she got over anger quickly, and she didn’t hold a grudge (at least not with us kids).
Throughout my blog I have admitted to being dumb, sometimes ignorant, even dim-witted, but I have never claimed or taken credit for being stupid. I learned my lesson that 1st beating about tiny little switches. The next time this happened (and yes it happened often) I went out to that Weeping Willy and got the biggest damn stick I could carry, and presented this to mom. Mom laughed, made me go get a different branch, and still gave me a good beating. I grew up during the period were spankings and switches were a part of growing up. Dad was much more physical and I really hated it when Mom was so mad she would say “wait until your Father gets’ home.”
I would like to say that lightning struck that tree, or a tornado came thru and ripped it from the earth, but I can’t. Most likely, 54 years later, that friggin tree is probably still standing.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If you have any questions, concerns or comments please share them. Take care, Bill