Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sorry Mom

All my mom wanted for Mother's Day this year was pictures of our growing families to put in her albums.  No frames, No Albums, No trinkets--she's got plenty of those already--just pictures, oh, and memories.  She asked for written down memories of growing up to put with her old albums.

Growing up back in the 70's words were weighed more carefully than they are now.  Language was painstakingly monitored by mothers who wouldn't allow vicious words like the S word (stupid) or the D word (dumb) and certainly not the I word (idiot) to emerge casually or otherwise from the mouths of their offspring.  My mother was no exception. She would scold, reprimand, time-out or even wash out mouths if necessary to make the point: these words were not allowed under any circumstance.

In a busy young household with kids in school, sports, clubs and church activities, new words were always being discovered, brought home and tried out. Apparently some mothers were not as vigilant OR their children were very good at holding and dispersing these powerful words without their parent's knowledge. 

Round about 1st grade I discovered the authoritative and commanding SU word (shut-up) and effectively put it to use immediately.  Little brother was bugging me, "Shut up", and he turned and walked away whimpering. Baby sister was crying, "Shut up," she stopped and stared at me bewildered.  The power of this word was amazing!  Mom did NOT like this word and did her best to put it to rest but the power of it was too intoxicating and catchy.  Soon the little brother was saying it too. Mom, as any good mother would and should, declared war on the rude and insulting exclamation. She imposed stiff penalties and kept at the ready to impose them at even the slightest peep of the word.

One afternoon us kids were wrestling around on the floor in the family room likely running in circles, shouting at full volume, bothering the baby and spreading toys everywhere as we went. The room was noisy, TV was likely on and the baby's mobile perhaps.  Amidst this ruckus mom was attempting to put up her new curtains over the back sliding glass door.  She was straddled over a step stool and the couch trying to keep her balance between the long weighted-down rod and the kids running beneath her feet. She was getting frustrated with the uncooperative fixture and as her tension filled the room our volume and enthusiasm for our games escalated as well.

"Kids, stay over there." she was saying, completely ignored.
"Dani & Heath quiet down please." In her sweetest motherly voice.
"Stop bumping into me and leave the baby alone." she was pleading a little louder. We were not responding. Her frustration was building, the baby was crying, we were being crazy lunatics (we were only 5 and 6 years old) and now the phone starts to ring.

Now, this was back in the days before everyone had an answering machine and way before voice mail that picks up after just three rings.  Back then the phone just kept ringing until either you picked it up or the person calling gave up. This person was not giving up.

Mom was trying to balance the rod, reach for the phone and was asking at the top of her voice "Kids be quiet.  Kids I need to answer the phone. Kids--Kids--KIDS----SHUT UP!!!"

Mom answered the phone as the room fell silent.  The magic word had been pronounced, the word that was never to be spoken, that was too rude and antagonistic.  It was the one that was not allowed and whose utterer risked severe punishment and it had been uttered ---by our mother!

Even at five and six years old we knew immediately what this meant: the war was over, the enforcer was defeated. If mom can use shut up we can use it too!! Before the phone was hung up we were back to full volume practicing our freshly won term on each other.  I'm sure when mother hung up the phone she sunk down into a heap on her step stool and cried.

Sorry Mom.

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