As an adult, I now realize how trying to my parents were my shenanigans. I did things like attempting to be helpful. Like, for instance, I couldn’t lift the bag out of the plastic trash bin in the kitchen and therefore could not take the trash to the cans outside. So I did the next best thing, realizing ash was lighter than paper, I set the trash on fire.
Of course it went out of control instantly. And yet, while the flames were licking higher and higher, I debated whether to wake mom and dad to warn them. Even as the flames flashed up the wall and set the ceiling panels ablaze, I fretted over the punishment I would surely receive. Finally, the better Angel of my nature subverted my urge to run and I went to tell my parents. The fact I am still alive today speaks volumes of their tolerance.
There were other instances as well. Partly why I hate shopping is the way in which it had become an ordeal. Possibly that’s why my mother didn’t seem to care for it, either. At every market, department store and shopping center, I was usually taken by the hand and escorted through the maze of aisles crowded by the exceedingly tall shelves that stretched forward to infinity, sometimes with side exits. Let me tell you, having to go through these artificial canyons of commerce is more boring than having to practice cursive in the second grade.
After a time, a very short time, measured in mere moments, I would become bored and drag my feet. This would result in my mother tightening her grip and pull me up a litle higher by my arm. With this slight elevation, and the feeling of my arm being wrenched around, I naturally began walking on the toes of my shoes. however, since mom was several feet taller than I, my toes just kind of skipped along, the rubber bouncing along and squeaking at irregular intervals. Of course, the reaction to this was to lift me higher and scold me with a harshly whispered “Stop that!!” Later, upon arrival at home I would receive the standard lecture about how I wasn’t taking care of my shoes.
Other tactics included being threatened with telling my father of my inability to cooperate, eliciting short-lived improved behavior on my part, as well as ear pulling. To a five year old boy, self conscious of the size and projection of his listening appendages, the ear pulling was especially effective. It was painful. More than that, I had felt it would make them even more grotesque by further deforming them. Being a small child, I had a very active imagination, and my parents did nothing to dispel any of it. In fact, my mother only abetted in the perceived horrors I conjured in my extreme youth.
She told me that if I didn’t wash behind my ears vigorously, potatoes would take root and grow back there. Also, when asked about swallowing watermelon seeds growing into plants in my tummy, as my friends had suggested, she said she’d heard it could be quite unpleasant. What the unpleasantness was, she never said. But I imagined it to be pain from watermelons expanding in my stomach.
As one can imagine, I had much fun with this after a time. I regaled my friends with stories of having my left arm up to two inches longer than my right, due to being pulled around every day by my mom for up to eight hours. Even a few years later I told them that my ears were large and stuck out because my mother had deformed the cartilage and it would cost tens of thousands of dollars for a plastic surgeon to repair the damage. As in the opening credits of Battlestar Galactica, there were those who believed, even until now, as I am in my fifties. Most, however, know that I am just clowning around. And even though life as a five year old boy can be harrowing, I now often think of the mother of that boy, from whom she got so much guff.