Sunday, April 3, 2016

C Is For Consequences - A Slightly Fictionalized Memoir #AtoZChallenge

     "THIS is why we can't have NICE THINGS." A popular phrase which I am convinced originated in my household over forty years ago. I'm currently seeking a lawyer's representation so I can collect royalties (on behalf of my parents) from everyone who has ever used the phrase.
     We couldn't have nice things because they ended up broken, lost, misused, or repurposed in some inventive yet spectacularly deleterious way. The coveted board game Dark Shadows (based on the TV show) came with props including a rubber mouse and spider. They were left about the house one day; Mom was less than amused when she stepped on the mouse and lost ten years off of her life. (By my calculations, Mom's lifespan was cut short by about two hundred years.) The game was confiscated. I couldn't have nice clothes for school because I cut holes in them with scissors or colored them with markers. I couldn't have long hair because things meant to stay in the mouth (gum, Lifesavers) somehow gravitated to my head (if I didn't choke on them first). Mom couldn't have a washline because I pulled it down playing Tarzan. Dad replaced it with two metal "T" poles sunk in concrete; I promptly tried to jump up (so I could hang on the crossbar), miscalculated (as I generally did) and nearly knocked myself out. 
     Both washline incidents occurred while Dad was supposed to be "watching me". My father was a very hands-off kinda guy; he believed in parenting by natural consequences. If you do something stupid, and the results are painful, then you learn not to do it again.
     Poor Dad. He didn't understand that I was a unique creature, incapable of extrapolation. I was the rogue lab rat who kept pressing the bar even after being shocked nearly to death, hoping that a magic pellet would still appear at some point.

     Ancillary declarations beginning with "THIS is why..." included:
     "This is why you cannot stay home with Dad and watch football." (See "watching me" above.) This consequence actually worked; I learned to behave myself because despite his gruff demeanor, he was a soft touch when it came to handing out soda and snacks. Staying home with Dad became a coveted state of affairs, especially during football season when he would stomp on the floor and occasionally swear at the TV.
     "This is why I CAN'T EVEN HAVE NICE THINGS IN MY OWN BEDROOM." My sister and I, having entered the sanctuary knowing full well that we were forbidden on pain of death, had discovered Mom's wig - and the blank styrofoam head that it sat upon - on a shelf in her bedroom closet. We thought that it would be funny to draw a scary face with fangs on it. Well, that was twenty years off of Mom's life when she came home, opened the closet door, and saw that thing staring at her. My butt tingled for many hours afterward. Did it keep us out of there? For a while. 
     "This is why you can't have friends over." We didn't have any batter mix left for the Pretzel-Jetzel  Jet-Age Pretzel Making Toy so we thought we'd make our own and improve it by adding chocolate. Fortunately it only made a big mess instead of short-circuiting the thing and burning the house down. (The mix provided by the manufacturer made tiny, crappy, yellowish facsimiles of pretzels. The only fun was watching the goo in the molds travel along a little conveyor and harden under a light bulb.) I didn't have that many friends, and the few that I did have weren't wild about either house rules or our large dog. I'd rather go to their houses anyway. They had NICE THINGS.
https://mostlybrightideas.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/p-jposter.png
My first experience with advertising which promised a fantastic product experience but delivered disappointment on a grand scale.
     This is why you can't walk by yourself to a friend's house. So I got lost and wandered two miles away, knocked on a stranger's door and asked them to take me home. Big deal.
     This is why we never go anywhere. (Always threatened, never upheld.) I went around drinking out of various adult glasses one Christmas and threw up all night long when we got home. We still went places, but I was usually banished to the outdoors unless it was below zero. This is why we will never again go on vacation will be addressed later in "V Is For Vacation".
     And finally, this is why we should never have had you kids. I'm sure that Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, and every other pop therapist would be hauling out the "parental verbal abuse" accusation as well as analyzing all of the damage done to my fragile young psyche by this statement. But kids were tougher in the distant past. We got spanked, we got yelled at, we were threatened with cartoonish violence (I will kick you into tomorrow if you don't quit that), we were locked out of the house and told to stay out until dark.  But deep in our hearts, we knew that our parents preferred wiping peanut butter from doorframes and dragging screaming kids to the ER for stitches/xrays/tetanus shots to living a boring childless life in some pristine mansion with marble countertops and white (white!) furniture.
     Sometimes love means not having nice things.
     Giving things up is one of the consequences of love.

18 comments:

  1. You said it with the last line "sometimes love means not having nice things"
    Becoming a parent is so like that, but the joy parenthood can gift is often unparalleled.
    Best wishes for the A to Z challenge :)

    My Era from The Era I Lived In

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    1. Families are a messy business. I know my parents loved us very much - but they were also delighted when we moved out so that they could finally get new carpeting. ;)

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  2. What a wonderful post, To me love is not all about wealth and lovely things, but the love of one's family and the beauty of "Mother Nature"
    Good Luck with the challenge.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Thanks Yvonne! My parents are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this week. They started out with next to nothing, had their share of ups and downs, managed to survive my childhood (I really was a challenging kid in some ways) and are still very much in love. In that way they have more than any billionaire.

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  3. Enjoyed reading this! And I agree that last line really sums it up! Sounds like you drove your mother crazy. LOL I love your take on the A to Z Challenge.

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    1. Thank you! The posts started out as just random subjects. Then I did 2 "memoirs" and things started flowing. About half of the letters are now memoirs.

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  4. That was hilarious! My father was the same way. Go ahead and do something stupid - you'll learn.

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    1. Yep. I guess it's "The School Of Hard Knocks". (I got a full scholarship.)

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  5. very fun and true in my house. And my Dad was/is the soft touch. He let us get away with anything and Mom came home to clean up the mess. I admit when I married my husband who had two boys, I resigned myself to brown carpet until they day they left the nest. No point having "nice things". Good post

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  6. Oh, goodness! Cartoonish threats and guilt trips! I'm having harvest gold colored, shag-carpet covered flashbacks! And, hey, who says we never went anywhere? If only we could collect frequent flyer miles on all those guilt trips...

    Thanks for visiting my blog & Happy A to Z to you! :D
    Tui Snider
    @TuiSnider on Twitter, & sharing A to Z posts at:
    <a href="http://tuisnider.com/" rel="nofollow”>Tui Snider’s Upbeat, Offbeat & Overlooked</a>
    <a href="http://storydam.com/" rel="nofollow”>#StoryDam (a friendly writing community)</a>

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    1. Ah yes. Harvest Gold and Avocado...man, that shag was tough to vacuum.

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    1. Dad pulled the car over once. He never had to do that again. :)

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  8. Aww - those are all stories that families just love sharing at holiday gatherings! They usually start with 'Do you remember when...'.

    Your post made me smile. :)

    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles | Wittegen Press | FB3X

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    1. It's hilarious now! But nobody was laughing when the backyard was on fire...
      Glad you enjoyed it!

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  9. What a delightful journey down my own memory lane here. We might be related somehow. Thanks for the trip, enjoy the A to Z!
    @ScarlettBraden from
    Frankly Scarlett

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    1. You mean we share the same risk/reward brain malfunction?

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