Once I Was Bad (Maybe More than Once)

St. Pat's 7I like to think I was a good girl.  Most the time I was.  But… once I was bad.  Well maybe more than once.  I did think for a while that maybe I was my mother’s punishment for when she was a bad little girl.   She was full of mischief.  She never told me that, but I was a good listener, and sometimes I heard her laugh about stuff she and her brothers did when they were kids.

Church could have been boring when I was a little girl.  All that Latin, and trying to follow along on the English side of my missal was dull.  That’s probably why the altar boys, my friend Frankie and his big brother Red, rang those bells every so often:  so everybody out in the pews got reminded to wake up, and so we could get back on track with the missal.  Anyways, my missal had a little red picture of bells every so often, so I could slow down or speed up, depending on how fast I read.

first communion handsSometimes I said the rosary during mass.  Lots of people did that, especially the ladies.  My rosary was white crystals.  I got it for my First Communion.  Mom’s was black.  Mom’s rosary beads were smooth from so much praying.

Other times I just looked around and watched stuff, like flies mating.  Mom said that was disgusting and I shouldn’t do that in church.  She got worried about a lot of stuff I thought was interesting, like whether I could really kill somebody by calling them up and ringing a high-pitched tuning fork in their ear.  I saw that on Twilight Zone.  I didn’t really want to kill anybody.  I just wanted to see if it worked.

Anyways, one Sunday, I guess church was super-crowded, cuz I had to sit up in the front row, away from the rest of the family.  My family took up about two rows in our church.  Same thing for my best friend ever, Connie.  She got to sit up there with me, too.  Next thing I knew, there was Annette, another friend from my grade, sitting right up there with me.  Annette had a super-strict mother who never let her wear slacks, even when she did the barn chores.

The three of us got to giggling and whispering.  I thought we were pretty quiet and not disturbing anybody until Annette’s big sister Marie came and dragged Annette out of there by the ear.  Me and Connie looked at each other and laughed into our hands.

Connie and I did everything together. We are blood-sisters.

Connie and I did everything together. We are blood-sisters.

Connie’s eyes were wet and shiny with the giggles, that’s why I laughed.  No one can resist that kind of look.  It’s catchy, even if the laugher pulls her mouth in a straight line and looks down at her missal.  I gotta say, Connie tried to get serious.  I did not.  I was bad.  I poked her with my elbow.  Laughter stuffed down made me get a stomach ache.

Mom grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back to the vestibule.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” she hissed at me.  She made me look straight into her brown eyes.  Her lower lid pulsed up and down.

My stomach still ached for a different reason.  All the laughter seeped out through my feet.

“Kneel down,”  she said.

I did.  Right under the little bowl of holy water.

“Kneel here for the rest of mass.  I don’t want to see you get up once.  You better be kneeling here when I come out of church. While you’re down there, ask God for forgiveness.”

I did just what she told me to.  My knees hurt.  My back hurt.  I prayed.  Mostly I prayed that Mom would forgive me.  I prayed that my guardian angel would protect me and make me good.

church I stayed right where she told me to stay.  One thing I knew for sure, I better do what I’m told when I see those lower lids pulsing up and down like that; no questions asked.  Never mind if I was out of her view.  Somehow she would know if I moved.  Some people talked about getting the fear of God put into them.  The fear of Mom was way worse than the fear of God could ever be.

All the parishioners filed out of church, dripping some holy water on my head as they blessed themselves. No one said a word to me.  Maybe somebody looked at me; my head bent down in shame, so I never knew.  At last Mom came and  told me to I get up.  She asked me if I was sorry.  Of course I was.

I heard Mom tell Mrs. R. all about it over a cup of tea.

“It wasn’t enough for her to see Annette dragged out of the pew,” she said.  “She sidled right up to Connie and gave her a big grin, without a care in the world.”

Mrs. R just shook her head and looked into her teacup like she was looking for an answer to how a little girl could be so bad.

Right then and  there I thought, I must be my mother’s punishment just like Father W said on Mother’s Day:  If you’re bad to your Mom, you’ll get two bad kids when you grow up.  I bet one of the Little Kids was gonna be bad, too, cuz Bonita and Deanna and Vickie were always good girls.

It sorta makes my throat tight just thinking about those two moms talking about my badness and shaking their heads.  I sure was a puzzle.

Me and Connie and Annette never ever talked about that day.  I guess we were all ashamed.

I was bad.  Being bad felt lonely.

I did other naughty things when I was growing up, some probably worse than giggling and whispering in church.  Still, that day is as bright as yesterday.  Maybe brighter.

I never got any bad kids of my own, so I must have been Mom’s punishment.  Anyways, I have no memory of my kids being bad.  They are smart, and strong-willed, and athletic, and amusing as all get-out.  They did give me a run for my money sometimes.  I do remember that.  My grandkids? That’s a different story altogether.   They are delightful.  They are perfect. They are never even close to bad.  Just ask their mothers.

I wonder if anyone else remembers being bad.  What did you do?

Now and Then Friends

Connie and me at 4-H camp

Sometimes I wonder what makes friendships last.  Is it a common history?  Shared interests?  Intellect?  Points of view that mesh beautifully?  When I was a little girl, I had all sorts of friends:  Betty, my best-friend-from-the-bus;  Connie, my blood-sister-best-friend;  Debbie, my best-friend-cousin; Bonita, my best-friend-sister.  I suppose Mom had friends, too.  She had Extension Club and Church, and of course family.

I never thought about Mom having friends, when I was a little girl.  That’s ’cause mothers are not real people.  Well, not real like kids are real.  Moms never get sick, or need anything, or want to do anything except take care of kids and maybe have more kids. Oh, and talk about kids.

Mom visited all the time with Mrs. R, from across the street.  Mrs R was  Nancy’s and Doug’s and Noreen’s mother. Us kids played cowboys and Indians or piggy-in-my-pen, while those two moms talked all afternoon.  Moms never played.  They just watched kids playing.  Most of the time,  they didn’t even watch.  Play kinda bores Moms.

Mom went to Extension Club, same as my friend Betty’s mom.  At Extension Club,  moms got together to Continue reading

Secrets in the Boys’ Room

Statue of Scouts at the Cockrell Scouting Cent...

Statue of Scouts at the Cockrell Scouting Center of the Boy Scouts of America in Houston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never heard of Girl Scouts when I was a little girl.  We had 4-H instead.  I did know about Boy Scouts, because Dad’s friend Hal King was a Troop Leader.  He had a uniform and everything, just like he was still in the army.  Loren Dee-dee-bopper was still in diapers and my other brothers were just twinkles in Dad’s eye when he took me and Bonita and Deanna to the Boy Scout Camp.  That’s why we knew next to nothing about boys.  Deanna’s best friend Nancy from across the street went along, plus her dad.  Probably all the moms and Dougie and probably little Vickie and Loren Dee-dee-bopper, but this story is about an eye-opening discovery made by little girls.

Hal King’s Boy Scout Camp was way far away in the wood, full of tall pine trees all growing close together.  I loved to climb trees Continue reading

Friends and Work and Work Friends

When I was a little girl, my parents lives were full of work and chores and things to do.

My Dad was full of adventures and friendships.  Of course he had his five brothers, my uncles, which meant he had a leg up in adventure department.  Those guys were always thinking up something crazy funny to do. Dad had neighbor friends, too.  I knew those men; I saw them all the time:  Men that loved to laugh and play card games, and baseball with us kids.  Men who tried to teach us kids how to play old-fashioned games like Kick the Can or Flag Football, and looked all down in the dumps when we wanted to play our own games.  We preferred “Freeze-tag” and “Piggy in My Pen.”

Dad had some mysterious friends, too.  Army Buddies and Work Friends.  I hardly ever saw those friends, I only heard their stories.  I had a good imagination, so Continue reading

Lemons, Smiles, and The One

Citrus x limon flowers.

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday a dear friend from high school told me he always liked my smile.  I do like to smile.  For some reason that simple statement reminded me of something I did long ago when I was still a little girl, trying hard to be grown-up.  I wrote a letter to Ann Landers, the advice columnist.  Yes, I was so sure I was in the right and Mom was wrong, I wrote a letter to get documentation from a respected outside source.

Dear Ann Landers,” I wrote using my stationery with the violets on the upper left corner.  “My Mom forbids me to go steady. I’m not going steady, I just want to date the same boy.  I’ve liked him since 8th grade, and only this year have I been allowed to date.   I don’t have his ring or anything and we don’t say we’re going steady.  He’s just the only boy I’m interested in.  I know he’s The One.  That’s not enough for Mom.  Now she insists that I go on three dates with other boys between each date with The One.  I think this is unfair.  I am only allowed to go out on a date once a week, which is stricter than any other parents.   Mom’s new rule means I will be able to date The One only once a month.  How should I handle this situation.  Sincerely, Love Thwarted.”

That last word before my signature,  ‘situation’, proved I was grown for sure, and ‘Love Thwarted,’ well, that was better than any signature I ever saw in Ann Landers’s newspaper column.

I waited and waited, watching the mailbox every day.  Running down our long gravel drive, the only driveway with stupid black walnuts in the ruts, to assure no one else saw my letter first.  I never got any privacy.  I planned to read Ann Landers’s reply out-loud.  Preferably at the supper table.

At last my response came in the Self-addressed Stamped Envelope I provided.  That’s how I recognized it.  I opened the letter in the kitchen, ready to proclaim the respected and sage advice of Ann Landers to that ever kitchen-occupying mother of mine.  My plans changed on the spot.  I couldn’t possibly wait all the way to suppertime.  I would show Mom the error of her ways right now.  She didn’t have a clue about how the real world worked.  I was about to one-up her, big time. Continue reading