Welcome to the
of Flashback Friday.
Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been! This week Linda wants to know:
Were your parents strict, permissive, or somewhere in-between when you were growing up? Did you tend to be compliant or rebellious? What did you tend to get in trouble for doing? How did your parents discipline/punish you – spankings (and what did they use when spanking), revoking privileges, grounding, time-outs or some other manner? Did both parents handle punishment or did one tend to do it more than the other? (And which one was it?) Is there anything that you have admitted doing since you’ve been an adult that you got away with as a child? Or is there anything you were punished for that you have since learned your parents had to try hard not to laugh while they were meting out your discipline? If you are a parent, what is something you have done or not done (or vowed you would never do) as a result of your growing-up experiences with discipline?
Okay, I am going to surprise you all by not talking about my step-mothers. I’m going to tell you about the way I was disciplined, not the way I was tortured. When I was a kid just about anybody in the neighborhood was free to pass out discipline. I only remember one spanking given to me by a neighbor — Mr. Jenson. He spanked all of his kids and me, too. We’d done some trespassing and stolen grapes from a neighbor’s yard. Mr. Jenson used the razor strap on our hind ends. When I got home Gram spanked me with a wooden spoon.
My Gram was really pretty lenient. With me she could be. I would have rather had a dozen spankings then to be told once that I had disappointed her. Gram favored making me sit in a chair and think about what I had done. And she talked to me and made certain I processed what I had done and why it was wrong. Being forced to admit I was naughty was horrible!
I recall very few spankings from Gram. Once she gave me a swat with her hand when she told me not to stand in front of the fire in my night gown and I ignored her. Once was when Marlene and I skipped school (first grade!) together. We pretended to leave for school, but slipped around the house and came back in the basement door. After Gram left for work we had the house to ourselves, unfortunately we used the telephone and the neighbor (party line) overheard us and let Gram know we were home and calling people on the phone to ask them if their refrigerator was running. I think she used the wooden spoon that time.
The third spanking Gram gave me, also with a wooden spoon, I still to this day don’t think I deserved. She scolded me for throwing rocks and told me I was never to throw a rock again. I heard her and I understood. That’s why the next time Marlene threw one of her tantrums and ran off, I threw a pine cone at her instead of a rock. Gram didn’t get the distinction and spanked me anyway.
I don’t think Gram ever grounded me. For one thing, sending me out to play was about the only way she got any peace and quiet. Grounding me would have been punishment to her. If I was given time out I was expected to sit on the stool in the kitchen or go to my room. The kitchen stool was for short time outs. When I was sent to my bedroom I was usually there for at least an hour before Gram called me to talk to me about what I had done.
Gram was rational and explained why I was being disciplined and made me think about my actions. My dad just said, “Because I told you so!” That was one thing I swore I would never say to a child and I never did. I always processed with them, like Gram did me. My goal was to teach, not control. I wanted the child to learn to control him/her self!
As for getting away with something and owning up to it years after the fact:
Grownups lie to children. They tell them about the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy. They tell them about leprechauns, happily-ever-after, and wishing on falling stars. They also tell them wet matches won’t strike. Then the kid burns down the house and everybody is upset.
A brief summer rain swept past, wetting the grass, cooling the air and leaving the street full of perfect splashing puddles. My friend Kathy and I were gleefully skipping up and down the road hopping in every puddle we could find. After one such leap we found ourselves, side-by-side, looking down at a matchbook.
We were scandalized. It was a very bad and careless thing to just leave a matchbook lying about. Why some little kid could find it and start a horrible fire. Being six, and not little kids at all, we decided we had better pick it up before someone less responsible found it.
Kathy picked up the matchbook. She opened it. It was full, but mortally wounded. The match heads bled red where the water had soaked the sulfur tips.
“They won’t light.” I said.
“I know!” Kathy answered scornfully. She pried a match from the pack and scraped it across the striker. The match head disintegrated.
“Stop!” I made a grab for the matches. “They’re not to play with!”
“They don’t work anyway,” Kathy said. She shoved the matchbook into my hands. “Try it. You’ll see.”
I pried a match from the pack and scraped it across the striker. The match head disintegrated. I handed the packet back to Kathy.
While we were “testing” the matches and talking, we were also walking. We’d left the street, crossed the lawn and jumped the bank into Gram’s backyard. We were standing at the trail into the gully.
Gram’s backyard wasn’t really a backyard. It was just a wide strip of grass around the edge of the house to keep it from sliding into the gully. The grass was wild, seed-topped and hadn’t been mowed all summer. Kathy struck another match. It lit.
“What do I do with it?!” She screamed.
“Get rid of it!” I screamed back.
She tried to hand it to me. I slapped it away. We both watched the match arc into the air and disappear into the tall grass. We stood frozen. Holding our breaths. Nothing happened.
“That was close!”
We laughed. Kathy tossed the matchbook away and we stepped onto the path to the gully. A noise made us look over our shoulders.
“Fire!” We both squealed at once. I was trying to climb out of the gully. Kathy was trying to climb through me to get in. We were both screaming. Gram came around the side of the house.
“What on earth are you two …! Fire!” She yelled for us both to go to the front yard. Then she grabbed the garden hose.
I crossed the front yard and went straight into the house. My eldest sister, Jean, was at the kitchen table eating Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup and reading a novel. “Jean! Jean!” I yelled, “The house is going to burn down. You need to come outside.”
“Don’t be silly, “ Jean answered. “The house isn’t going to burn down. I am getting married tomorrow.” Even at six I knew her logic was flawed. I grabbed her arm and pulled. She moved, but only to the kitchen window.
She glanced out, dropped her novel and trampled me on her way to the telephone. The window was above a utility cart too big for me to see over, but whatever she saw, it prompted her to call the fire department. Then she grabbed her wedding dress and drug it and me outside. She kept muttering, “The damned house had better not burn down. I’m getting married tomorrow!”
Outside the whole neighborhood had arrived to watch the show. My brother and two of his friends were trying to push an old car out of the garage, which was already burning. They were struggling because the driveway had an uphill slope. My grandmother yelled, “Leave it! It doesn’t run anyway!” And my brother yelled back, “It’s full of gas!”
Mrs. Jacobson came and pulled me across the street into her yard. Kathy was there, too. We looked at each other wide-eyed, but didn’t say a word.
Soon the fire trucks came. Three of them. And big men in rubber suits with huge hoses were running around, shouting back and forth and spraying barrels of water into the air. One hose soaked the garage. One soaked the house, three poured water into the gully, which was completely engulfed in flames.
Handsome and Grumble Jays grumbled because their tree fort was burning. They weren’t much concerned that the garage was on fire – of course with the car safely in Mrs. Jacobson’s driveway, there was no thrill left there.
Kathy and I huddled in Mrs. Jacobson’s skirt. I was doing a lot of praying. Kathy probably was, too. The flames drowned. The firemen quit yelling. The neighbors wandered home. Gram and two firemen approached Kathy and I. Gram said. “You two need to talk to these men. You tell them the truth. You hear?”
They separated us. I had no idea what Kathy was saying. The fireman asked, “Did you set the fire?”
“No!” I answered emphatically.
“Did your friend set the fire?”
“No!” I answered again. Then I told him that we were going to the gully to play and we heard the fire before we saw it. Then we got scared and started screaming. Several yards away, Kathy told almost the same story. The cause of the fire was determined, unknown.
Don’t think I got off scott-free. Before he left the fire chief told Gram, in front of me, “Ma’am, sometimes these summer grass fires can smolder for a long time before they flare. There’s still a lot of grass, pine needles and tree roots down there that could be holding live coals. Keep a close eye on the area.”
As they left Gram took me around to the backyard. The red shingles on the back of the house were blackened. Charcoal water dripped from the roof. The basement windows were covered in black soot. I looked up at the kitchen window and saw Jean peeking out.
The west and north sides of the garage were charred as well. The tree fort was still intact, but the rope and board ladder was gone. Every where I looked, blackened stubble, soot and ashes reined.
Several times through the afternoon and evening Gram would look out the windows toward the gully. I knew she was looking for fire. She stood at my window for a long time that night when she put me to bed. I asked if we were safe. She said for me not to worry. That wasn’t a reassuring answer.
All night long, over and over again, I sat up in my bed and stared out the window, certain I was going to see fire blossom. And for the remainder of the summer I would wake in the night, startled, and sit staring into the gully, watching.
I never played with Kathy again.
I finally confessed at 17, not realizing that there is no statute of limitations on scolding. Gram chewed me up one side and down the other and was appalled that I had kept such a horrible secret for so long. Once again, a spanking would have been less painful.