I got used to being an only child. What was I going to do about it? Ask my parents to make a new one? I wonder if they had wanted another child, or if I was some sort of mistake?
“You don’t cross out mistakes, you erase them”. The teacher told us one day at school. “Crossing them out doesn’t make them any better, and you just end up turning in a report that is messy and incorrect at the same time.” I looked out of the window and wondered how it would be having brothers and sisters? We could play together, then they could make me do some goofy thing, which made my parents mad, but then I could blame them for doing so! “Why did you tell your younger brother to eat dirt?” My mother would be asking them, as they hung their heads in shame. “You know how he is? All ignorant and impressionable! I wonder why you didn’t sent him out on the main highway to play ball? Don’t start looking at each other as if that it your next idea, I won’t put up with it!”
Then she would threaten them with corporal punishment dealt out by my father, who would take them into the garage, and give them a sound thrashing. That’s what my mother told him to do, anyway, and I could see that it worked! They’d come out rubbing their hind ends, saying that “It’ll never happen again, we promise”. My mother would just nod her head, then tell all of us how her father did the same to her, and that’s why she turned out like she did!
I guess, my father heard her say that a lot of times, because when I was taken out into the garage, we only sharpened tools, and used steel wool to take the rust off the garden implements, and when I was finished, he told me to rub my hind end, as if he had given me a real hard spanking, making it hard to sit for the remainder of the week. He’d give me a wink, and then would turn to my mother sending her a stern glance, which meant that the deed was indeed done!
I just didn’t have any siblings to blame for my misdeeds, when I managed to do something that my mother didn’t approve of. She suggested that I made a list of things in order to remind myself, what I was not to do. The list got longer and longer, and finally was long enough that I tied it to my bedpost, and shimmied down the downspout to the ground below. I hit the ground like a cat, which fit well being a cat burglar and all! All dressed in black with black gloves and a mask with eyelets cut out, I had the perfect disguise. I would have told my mother who could have shared in my secret identity, like Zorro, having his horse, or Batman having Alfred the Butler, but I didn’t want her to be subject to the wrath of the masses, if my misdeeds were ever discovered!
My teacher had apparently been dangling my pencil before my eyes, hypnotizing the rest of the class, but still not being able to awake me from my self induced trance. In the end she made a call to my mother, who had to interrupt her social work with the poor and needy in order to rescue her “in a trance-like state” son, who didn’t respond to bells, yells or cajoling of any kind. My mother had suddenly appeared in my classroom, looking a bit less than pleased, when I had returned to my room with the night’s stash!
“Young man”, she started to say, which usually meant that I was in some sort of trouble, but didn’t quite know why. It is kind of like the Girl Next Door suddenly appearing in my yard, poking me with a stick as if she was trying to smoke a badger out of a hole. “Light a fire in the other end”, the man told his companion. The smoke will get to him, then I can poke and prod him when he comes out of the other side!” The flames got higher and higher, when finally something started to move inside the hole. “Hey you”, she said, tapping me on the head with her stick. “If I only had a match, then I could give you a hot foot!” I’d seen that in the movies, and it didn’t look like that much fun? A matchstick placed between your toes, then lit. I’d rather face my mother than experience a hot foot!
“Young man”, said my mother once again. “You need to stop daydreaming so much, or we’ll have to have you tested at the doctors!” I wasn’t sure, if I’d get a lollipop after he tested me, or if I was getting too big for that kind of thing? “What about a beer with the old Family GP?” We could sit there in the examination room, quaffing a few brewskies, talking about women, or the chances about the local baseball team to participate in the National Championships? He’d ask, how the wife was, and wasn’t she a fine figure of a woman? He’d say that his old lady had left him for some Hippy-Commie type, and he was thinking of buying a gun and taking it on the road to search for them. It might be like Bonnie and Clyde with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, living and loving, but getting plugged full of bullets in the end. All those years of Medical School wasted on the likes of her! Better to die in a blaze of glory, then to end up on the wrong side of a Whiskey Bottle!
My mother brought me back to reality once again, by shaking me vigorously and stepping on my left foot. “Ow Mom, that’s where I got the hot foot!” My eyes blazing at her, telling her to back off! She didn’t seem to have the same understanding like my friends did, and promptly pushed me out of the door, in plain sight of my other cool friends, dragging me home by my ear.
“Jack, it’s time for disciplinary action again!”, which of course made my father come out of the garage, with the steel wool in his hand, telling her that he’d make certain that this time would be more thorough than the last time! I might have told him that the tools didn’t look like they needed sharpening, but I thought it was better not to push my luck!
My father pulled me over to the side, after he had closed the door to the house. “Look here, young man” which didn’t sound the same as my mother would have said it. He showed me a magazine with an article about “how to paint stars on your ceiling”, then they would glow in the dark! “We’ll do it some day, when your mother isn’t home, and somehow forget to tell her about it!” I was so happy that I sharpened so many tools, that some of them had to be thrown away, being sharpened so far down, that they couldn’t be held anymore.
The next day was Saturday, which meant that I could do my daydreaming at home, and not risk being punished by my parents once again. I guess, I lived in my own world, because I suddenly realized that the house next door to us, had people living in it. I casually asked my father, when the new people had moved in, but he only laughed saying that they had been there all along. The mother worked at night, and the father was away, making it seem like the house was deserted. Their daughter had been away with her father, which is why I hadn’t noticed her before that most fateful day, when she called me a Ninny for the first time. Some people might not see the significance in an act like that, but believe you me, it was a turning point in my life!
The next day was our weekly trip to Sunday School and church, but afterwards my father said that he had a headache, leaving my mother to make the coffee and serve cake after the church service. He said that it wasn’t anything for me as well, and excused himself to go home, and wait until the pain went away. My mother was way too involved with who was saved, and who was not, that she just nodded and waved us out of the door, before the saved-not saved people showed up.
My father just gave me a wink again, and took me into his garage when we got back home. He then showed me some funny looking paint which said “fluorescent” on the label, and grabbing a book of stars, and a brush or two, we made our way up to my room. I held the book while he painted, which wasn’t easy, with the paint being the same color as the ceiling. We both giggled now and then, as if we enjoyed deceiving my mother on her most special of all days, Sunday. When we were done, we opened the door and the window, letting the paint smell out as much as possible, before my mom came home again. We finished off the day by each drinking a Dr Pepper, which was my favorite soft drink while I was growing up. Dr. Pepper 10-2-4 was on the label, but it didn’t make much sense to me why it did so? I would have suggested that I be allowed to drink it at 10, 2 and 4, but I’m sure my mother would have had something to say about that!
When she came home, my father was lying on the sofa with a cold compress on his forehead, being looked after by yours truly. My mother seemed to be none the wiser, and began to make dinner in the kitchen. I couldn’t wait until it got dark in my bedroom and told my mother that I was feeling a bit sleepy at 8pm. That set her off, but in a positive way when she told my father that I was getting older and wiser, knowing how sleep was good for my well-being! My father just nodded in agreement, and winked at me once again, while I trudged upstairs, after a hard day of deceiving my mother. I just lay there, thinking about how I didn’t see much of the Girl Next Door today, but I thought about her all the same. I didn’t see her in church, but I guess, she had her reasons for not coming?
I rolled over a few more times, before looking upwards at the ceiling. Sure enough the stars were beginning to appear, one by one with the planets being visible at the same time. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, when I just happened to look out my window at the house next door. There she was, just standing on her veranda, looking at my window, as if she knew I was there looking at her. She gave me a small salute, then disappeared into her house, with the front screen door slamming with a resounding bang!
I knew my mother would be sending my father out in his pajamas, on the lookout for thugs and thieves, or just noisy Canadians, who always seemed to be on the loose in our town.
That’s just how my mother was…..