Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reflection, Remembrance, Resolution, Repentence- Part 1

The nearly 2-month holiday seasoning beginning with Thanksgiving Day, some would say Halloween, are times laden with past memories, both sweet and treasured, or bitter and regretted.
As you age, the lists of memories grow exponentially. So I am taking time to draw from my 74- year old memory diaries, some faded with time, so forgive me, but yet still in the recesses of my mind. Some may be in question form, some may be in admittance of deed, or both.
Paint paddles for
spanking were about
this size but somewhat
thicker; hence sturdy.

1. Do you remember your parental first punishment,  spanking in my case,  and was it deserved? Yes, to both in my case. It took me a long time to see the lesson, in my very young mind, that was probably not ready for lessons in expectancy and courtesy, but I finally got it many years later as an adult.

My parents believed gifts were graciously accepted, but not expected. Furthermore, I-the spoiled first child of a couple, childless for the first 10 years of their marriage-was the center of attention and pride by them and their friends on all business, social and church occasions.

 Mother used paint stirring paddles, quite naturally free since Dad worked for a small lumber and hardware company chain; she claimed she wore out two paddles on us three siblings.

Broderbund ClickArt
Medieval Hand Crusher
Spankings weren't quite
this level of torture but
perception is everything!
 Dad used his bare hand much more effectively than Mother's spankings. Neither parent left any marks on our little bottoms other than some momentary discomfort and redness.We duly endured Mother's discipline and dared not mention they did not hurt because we knew who and where a second disciplinary action would  follow, and sometimes did anyway .

When Mother considered our disobedience a major violation of both parents' rules, she promised us discipline when Dad came home from work:  the excruciating wait, usually standing in a corner, with our fear magnifying exponentially until his arrival. Both parents were unified in their decisions.

My parents said I was "talking baby talk" when they picked me out from 7 available babies for adoption, and I never stopped talking. Indeed, I sometimes did not know when to  shut up, seal my lips, bite my tongue, and nobody was going to get the best of me. This included when discipline was applied. I must have decided in my young mind I had the right to defend myself--with my mouth--bad news for me.

If I lucked out and only had to stand in a corner, I could not shut off the faucet of talk. I muttered and threatened, as if a 4-7 year old could be much of a threat. My favorite threat was to leave home.

Finally Mother tired of that threat, and told me to go ahead, but not take anything for which I had not personally bought and paid. My mental picture of leaving the house buck naked finally shut me up. Also I had visions of hunger pains; as you see my food addiction started very early!

Once I received a more severe punishment I did not deserve. The spanking was mild compared to the fact I did not get a  bicycle for Christmas.

In a disputed event between my siblings I was accused of intentionally causing a bike accident in which my sister's arm was broken. She was on the back of my brother's bike when they rode through a make-believe garden I was hoeing. They rode in behind me me at an  angle. There was no way I could have planned to cause a wreck.

 Two against one, is a majority; I was punished immediately plus guilt imposed for months while my sister's arm healed; the final act being no bike for Christmas.

Parental punishment is an interesting and controversial subject. Having never been a parent, I  rely on opinions of others, most specifically my Mother who admitted sometimes it was difficult to distinguish the culprit in any given situation. We may all have been involved, so we all got punishment. Sometimes she misjudged entirely and punished the wrong person.

Because of my austere, conservative upbringing it took me a long time to realize how difficult parenting is, and forgave what I perceived as unrealistic and harsh upbringing. Responsible parents have no printed manual. They either write the manual as they go, or rely on their own past family experiences.

Dad, I perceived from his stories and knowing his dad, was quite strict as the were peanut farmers. Everyone had chores, brothers and sisters. Mother, raised by two old maid aunts probably had a less strict upbringing, but income was quite limited. One aunt worked in a dry goods store. The other took in washing and ironing.

Dr. Spock did not know everything! We are composites of all phases of our lives from infancy to old age.

It took me nearly 55 years to determine my core spiritual beliefs did not have to be legalistic to the core. Once the chain linkages were broken or unlocked, I learned to love, forgive and care for both myself and others. More importantly, the adage to judge not, was etched  invisibly on my forehead, especially after the story below.

2. Which brings me to another question:  Have you ever made a misjudgement of anyone, but specifically your best friend from the second grade?

Broderbund ClickArt
Best Friends
 My dearest friend from the second grade (the one we baptized our dolls in the city park fish pond until they would normally drown-in early blogs) had many boy friends, and was always dramatically involved with perpetually perceived most popular men on campus.

We attended different universities; she eventually met, as she claimed, the most popular guy on campus, became engaged, and married an American missionary ( in Africa) couple's son. The marriage produced one child. Suddenly, she was filing for divorce.

Of course, there was her story plus all the ancillary stories evolving other people's personal interpretations, i.e., rumors. Knowing her as a somewhat fickle person, she immediately developed a relationship with another man and I, set myself up as judge and jury, decided she got tired of her husband and was ready for a new relationship.  Further I verbalized my thoughts to others. Not one but two terrible mistakes on my part.

Not that it matters, but this is in the late 5os-early 60s when those of us who considered marriage a lifetime commitment, and separation/divorce, minimum, a failure. I was one of these persons; despite these "facts" I still considered she one of my dearest friends--still do. I was still unmarried, so I had little understanding of this most complicated of relationships called marriage.

Coincidentally her mother was also a good friend with me--remember we were young adult women at this time. She told me the actuality of the divorce where her daughter's husband had a girl friend while stationed in Germany in the Army; he brought her to US to go to Christian college where he planned to finish his ministry studies--the same college where he met his wife. Also he later broke up the marriage of  a missionary couple in Africa who were working along with his parents.

I was smitten with grief to my innermost conscience and core for my complicity in indulging and believing rumors, assumption of an sordid affair and the participation  involving repetition of my version of events.

However, I believe in apologizing for misjudgements, and went to her, asking for forgiveness for not having had more faith and trust in her, than what I heard from others. 

To this very day it was one of the hardest confessions I ever had to make. We both shed tears; she forgave me. We remained good friends separated by many miles. I came away from that  moment with a different sympathetic attitude about divorce, a my core belief to this day.

 Today she has dementia, probably Alzheimers', but I send her cards for her son to read to her. Whether she knows me at all, I do not know, but one day in  another life, when we are both again made whole, I hope to know we will be best friends.

Excruciating painfully learned lesson, today I am very careful to declare the source of any statement I make as rumor, or I personally discussed it with whomever, etc. Most especially, I am careful when discussing another person. And yes, once in awhile, I goof up, but never, never to the extent of the just regaled story. As you can see it is over 50 years old, so you know how literally burnt in my memory bank this story is today.

Again, my upbringing makes it hard for me to be the warm "hug and kiss" type of person, so many men and women find so easy to be, these days.

3.  Were you taught respectful manners, such as how to address an older person, table manners, etc.? As early as I can remember, we all were taught to properly address my relatives as Aunt,  Uncle, Grandmother, Mr., Mrs., Miss so and so, and the courteous use of 'please,' thank you,' 'yes sir/ma'am,' 'may I?' etc. which I use to this very day. Today I am amazed when persons use terms of respect and manners. It does not seem to be expected anymore.

4. Did you ever do some things, harmless within themselves, but just plain stupid which, may have reflected on yourself, as much or more than your family?

I certainly made mistakes and took turns in life which disappointed my parents, especially as I started life after graduation from high school without their supervision. Yet some of these turns, or decisions, if you may, are a part of being a young adult, deciding with whom I would associate, and indeed my own core beliefs.

Broderbund ClickArt
Not this kind of
Still single, I had an acquaintenance who drank a tad too much. However, some Saturday nights we would cruise our small Texas town of about 20,000. I being the non-drinker designated driver, do not know exactly who concocted the idea, but we stopped at a drugstore to buy a box or two of prophylactics, not for their normal use.

We started down Main Street and made "the loop" through the areas most young drivers made, blowing them up, tieing a knot in the end, and throwing them out the car windows like balloons. In fact, they make great balloons. 

In retrospect that was a stupid idea for entertainment. We did not get in trouble, nor did I ever repeat such a stunt--seemed very funny at the time, but whatever possessed me to participate in such a ridiculous joy ride, is beyond me at this point in my more circumspect life. I supposed the police, if so inclined, could have taken my license plate #, found me and accused me of disorderly, if not lewd conduct.

However, some turns in life were NOT mistakes. I remember Mother wanted me to marry a doctor. This is after I graduated from pharmacy school and was in the workforce.

Since I was single for nearly 15 years, relative and friends tried to find matches for me. They did not realize I met the man I would marry in my freshman year at the university. At that time he was in USAF, and later was in USN. We were separated by careers, land and sea. So this was close to a 15 year romance, mostly in absentia. Most of my friends figured I was destined to be an old maid.
Broderbund ClickArt
Medical Professionals
seem to have  higher
averages of marital

Because Mother never worked in a public job outside of being a homemaker, she never realized what I saw as a difficult marriage situation where your husband was exposed to 100+ cute nurses flirting with him and every other man, single or married, more hours/day  than he spent at home. I wrote those prospects off my list so early, it never made the Bucket List.

5. Have you ever said about your parents, or friends: "I'll never be like that when I grow up!"??? I have a funny realization about that little remark, too. Try to get to it in next post.

[Apologies for such a long post, Part 2 will be next, and don't know  how long it will be. This is a type of catharsis for me, and not meant to be depressing. I hope you see some of the sardonic humor of growing up in the 40s, 50s and maybe early 60s. I graduated from the University of Texas in 1960 at age 22. I married at age 33 so had a decade of single young adult life.]


Arkansas Patti said...

Long-- yes, completely entertaining--also yes. Very interesting post Carol that stirred a bunch of my own memories.
My first and last corporal punishment I remember occurred when I was 3. I had done something awful for my Mom intended to paddle my behind up ever step of our three story house to my bedroom.
Our dog Susie had other ideas. She hated even playful tusseling. Susie would jump in on any wrestling matches. She proceeded to bite my Mom on her ankles for each paddle she gave me.
Mom quickly gave up and I was never again paddled, but most assuredly punished with time outs and being deprived of toys or privileges. How I longed for the quick punishment of a paddling.
Great post.

faye said...

A wonderful post.
I relate in so many areas.
This past year will not be recalled
as one of my favorites. Losing my
sister was the hardest blow and then
realizing I was a lousy judge of
character when someone I had thought
was my best friend just walked out of my life , no reason given, no contact whatsoever... and through
it all , we go on.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

An interesting post that brought up memories from the past. My Mom and Dad used wooden butter paddles on us when we were little. Never hard enough to really hurt, but hard enough to get our attention. I remember many being broken over the years, probably when we'd put Little Golden Books down our pants to protect our rear ends.

CHERI said...

As usual, I enjoyed your post. Like everyone I have both good and bad memories of growing up...more bad than I like to think about at times. My mother used a "switch" on my older brother and myself more often than I like to remember! I swore I would never use a switch to spank my own children, and I never did...they did, however, get spankings from time to time with a wooden spoon. I used it more as a threat most of the time! I too can remember some crazy things I did as a teenager that now when I look back I can't believe I was gutsy enough to do! Sorry about your friend but so glad that the two of you could reconcile before she lost her memory. I look forward to Part 2!

Small City Scenes said...

Very interesting post. I see we were brought up around the same time. We were never paddled but quietly talked to (spoken with). Shown how disappointed our parents were with us. We avoided those talks at all costs. That's the way I remember it.
And yes we were brought right along side Emily Post---and don't you forget it!!!!
I remember my childhood with great fondness. I tried to raise my children as I had been raised. Different times though.
My Mother is still going strong at 94---we had a nice visit yesterday. MB

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

Carol honey I so enjoyed your story today and yes like Patti mentioned it was long but completely entertaining.
In fact so much I have to come back later and reread it. I loved it.
What an interesting life you have lived. I can't wait to read Part 2.
Had no idea you lived in Texas and graduated from UT. My grandson who is 6 is their biggest fan. lol
Merry Christmas and thank you for the story
My punishment from my mother were to hard and not good to bring up right now before the holidays

Anonymous said...

Your click art is good and appropriate. The hand crusher is a bit extreme. Mom used to whip me with anything that she could grab in her hand. From the dishrag she was using to wash dishes with to the shovel to take ashes out of the coal stove. Knocked me out with it. When I was real little she used to get some delight in breaking off a peach tree limb with all the short spikes on it and she called it her switch and she switched me on the bare legs with it. They bled a little. She was one mean woman—my mother. But my parents divorced and she remarried and had a son and a daughter and never laid a hand on either one of them. Go figure!

Lorna said...

Just the title was wonderful, and then it got better. I haven't thought of these issues for years, but in each of the stories, there was some little grain of truth that is going to keep me thinking for hours.

Dimple said...

So much to think about! I can identify with wronging a friend, it is hard to admit and ask forgiveness, but it the right thing to do. I'm sure you will be friends forever.

Jinksy said...

Having read both this and the next part, I have to agree - things dinned into you when a child do linger! The order 'be respectful to grownups' began by my always adding aunt or uncle when addressing adults by their first name, or Mr or Mrs if we didn't know them that well. This left me with a lifelong difficulty of saying "Hello, Tom, Dick or Harry, or Mary, Sue or Jane!' as the case may be. It took hard, conscious effort for me to overcome that one!

Jinksy said...

I'll never be like that when I grow up!

A haunting phrase - don't think we can ever be sure we've truly kicked the habit, though I know I always declared I'd never make playing with my kids come second to chores!
Many's the time when we were small, we never got to the beach before late afternoon, because the wshing/cleaning/housework routine had to be carried out every day, regardless!

I'm gald to say, my kids and I had no such scruples, and if it was a good day to up and off, we upped and offed - flew kites, pic-nic'd or just went on a jolly! LOL :)

Pat - Arkansas said...

I loved every word! We are of the same generation, I believe, and as such, your reflections brought back many memories about "my raising" and growing up.

I'm behind on my blog reading, and am now off to read Part 2.