A Modicum of Diversion…

Pineapple on pizza–yes or no?  Why was she yelling at me?  It wasn’t about pineapple or pizza.  Leather sofas were on sale at the local, discount, close-out store.  Not the first place to shop for furniture in my estimation.

“Why don’t we go and just look around?”  That meant we weren’t going to leave without buying something–better to just go along.  My hopes were, that nothing would happen to ruin this beautiful, sunny, winter day.

The sofas were better than expected–stock overruns from a popular major manufacturer.  Who was I to have doubted?  Even though, I was in for some dreaded furniture rearranging.  If everything stayed the way it was, from now till eternity, it would have been just fine with me.

At the service desk, two men waited.  The gray-haired older gentleman seemed calm.  The younger man, who may have been the son, complained about noise emanating from the other side of the store.  There, a young child was in the midst of throwing a temper tantrum.

“Why hadn’t she taken the young boy outside?”  Said the young man to his father.  “Nobody wanted to hear that kid’s ear-splitting screeches.”  The father mumbled something about permissive parenting being the downfall of civilization.

Waiting for the store clerk’s return, seemed to take forever.  We were second in line, behind the disgruntled young man, and his father.  The clerk returned briefly from checking inventories.  The young man complained about the noisy child to the clerk; the clerk refused to take sides, went back to work.

That was when the stalking began.  “I’m going to check on why this bratty kid won’t stop crying,” Announced the young man.  My wife and I looked at each other.  What business was it of his?  And what could he do about it–without causing a major incident?

The young man walked away hunched over, like he was trying to make himself smaller, to avoid being seen.  Jacket collar pulled up to his chin.  It was comical–in a Groucho Marx sort of way.  He carefully duck-walked the rows one-by-one, until the offenders were spotted.

What had he done–if anything?  The store was, once again peaceful.  The little boy stopped crying.  Had I underestimated the young man’s skills as a “Child Whisperer?”  Our sofa was in stock and would be delivered in a couple of days.

Then, temper tantrum, version 2.0, began, like a loud clap of thunder.  The young man and his father, were aghast.  “I’m going to show them a thing or two,” The son, announced.

In his best Groucho Marx, killer commando mode, the stalking resumed.  My wife and I made an exit at that point–wondered how things turned out.  Nothing made the police blotters.  It was one of the strangest public scenes we’d witnessed in our lifetimes.



They seem cruel now–but, back then they were attempts to gain control.  Different from admonitions, these were warnings; do/don’t do this, or this will happen.

“Come on, I’m going.  I’m not telling you again.  OK, you can just stay here at Aunt Edna’s.  Your Bubba bear is going to miss you.”

A few tears, later and the recalcitrant youngun’ came dragging along.  He wasn’t about to abandon his favorite teddy bear.

Behind Rose’s Market was an outhouse and a storage building.  The small town grocery store, was an after school meeting place.  Old men from town, met in the back, by the oil-burning stove, for their daily gossip fest.  Charlie Rose, the proprietor, gave a familiar warning.

“Get away from that shed–the boogeyman will get you.”

Grandparents gave an ultimatum or two.  Some of them quite macabre.

“Don’t play on the telephone.”  Or, Nelson Fenton, proprietor of the local independent telephone company, would come and, “Cut our ears off.”

Ultimatums came from everywhere, from aunts and uncles, teachers, townspeople.  They were battles of wills; attempts to maintain order.

“If you don’t stop crying and behave, I’m going to take you to the doctor and get you a shot.”

That usually did the trick.  No kid I knew liked getting shots.  Working in health care later, I discovered this approach, hindered more than it helped.

“Hit your sister again, and I’ll swat your butt.”  Direct and to the point–nothing else needed to be said.

Along the path to maturity, these ultimatums were no more cruel, than those elsewhere in the animal kingdom.  Mother cats cuffed misbehaving offspring; carried them by the scruff of their necks when necessary.  All creatures had to learn their places.  There were consequences for misbehavior.




Never Could Say Goodbye

Why did the process of leaving a family friend or relative’s house seem to take forever?  Little kids hated adult small talk, “My how you’ve grown.  What grade were you in school? You’re almost as tall as your older brother.”

Adult chattering never stopped.  Pitiful expressions, tugging at mom’s skirt, never made the process go faster. Going to your father for help didn’t work, either.  His standard response, “Go ask your mother.”  Which really meant, he knew from years of experience, saying goodbye could not be hurried.

Two generations later, blessed with more patience, the process hadn’t changed.  Only the players in these mini-dramas were different.  Grandma, family matriarch, cooked at home–did most of the cooking away from home.

For that reason, the head chef needed proper utensils, small appliances, to feel at home away from home–anything easily transportable.

Leftovers had to be divvied up.  Grandma refereed the process.  “Don’t take all of that–take more of this.  Your sister likes cranberries, you know.”

“Where were the disposable containers?  I can’t find anything in your kitchen.  Why do you keep things on  top shelves where I can’t reach them?  Better take a couple of pieces of this lemon meringue pie.  Your grandpa and I will never eat it–it will just go bad.”

Lost items, previously ignored, became priorities; followed by discussions of where said lost items could be; bouts of anxiety, then, retrieval of lost items–purses, sweaters, jackets, electronic devices.  When, items weren’t found.  “Well, I’ll pick it up next time–or you can mail it to me.”  The postal service would never go out of business on our account.

When visitors left our house, the process was mostly the same.  Grandkids added interesting twists to the goodbye process.  Internet savvy kids left behind connectors, adapters–strange to unhip grandparents, various clothing articles.  They sometimes took things home, not noticed, until weeks, even months, later.

“What happened to the Caladryl lotion?”  I asked, after getting into some poison ivy.  “Oh, one of the grandkids took it home–he had an itchy rash.”  That wasn’t going to help me at that moment.

Goodbyes and hugs took forever, because we never could say goodbye.



Off To the Farm and Other Lies Told By Parents

Blackie, a sweet old tomcat, was asleep in a clover field, when the sickle bar mower amputated two of his legs.  He lived for several days confined to a cardboard box.

Fluffy, the gray preacher’s daughter’s cat, sent to live on grandpa’s farm met a sad end.  The cat had fleas and was a nuisance for grandma.  No doubt grandpa’s double-barreled shotgun, sent Fluffy to the big litter box in the sky.

They were lies told to protect innocent children’s sensibilities–when in fact these unwanted pets were sent away to meet their demise.  “Brownie ran away and got lost in the woods.”

Debbie’s cat, Fluffy was, “Going to live the rest of her days on the farm with the other animals.”

Blackie was the lucky one.  He was euthanized by a local veterinarian–against my father’s wishes.  Mother just did it–didn’t ask for approval.

The lies were mean and cruel.  Spay and neuter.  Stop the exploding pet population.

What to do with unwanted pets?   Don’t dump pets off on other people that don’t want them.

Parents, please don’t give cute dyed chicks and bunnies to your kids this Easter.

There are still too many people that dump unwanted pets in the country.  These meet their demise in cruel ways, unless they’re rescued by no-kill shelters.

“He Took the Last One”

Taking the last one of anything held special significance.  An infraction among kids that deserved severe punishment.

“Mom, Billy took the last chocolate chip cookie.”

“Sherry ate the last of the ice cream and didn’t tell anybody.”

How could the last of something be more important than the first of something?  It was a mystery of kid logic.  Like riding shotgun in the family sedan.  Window seats were held in high esteem

This could explain why things were put away with micro crumbs left in the package.  Being found out was too high a price to pay.





“I’m sorry Maggie-girl, I don’t make the rain.  Maybe, we’ll go for a short walk when the weather clears.”

My explanation to one of my dogs, as she stood near the leash drawer. It was raining, with thunderstorms, for the second day.  She expected to go for her regularly scheduled morning walk.

A massive weather front marched across the area–left snow, ice in the mid-south.  It rained here most of the day.  As it turned out, I couldn’t keep my promise.   The east coast is now threatened with heavy snow.

Maggie followed me from room-to-room.  Summoned her best communication skills.  Explanations, soothing words, didn’t count for much to those pleading brown eyes.  She looked at me with her head down–disappointed.  It was one, small example, of things hard to explain–difficult to understand.

What things are hardest to explain?  …The death of a pet or loved one?  …Real reasons behind, why your teen is not permitted to do things, other teens are doing–lack of maturity, too much risk, religious beliefs.  …Why, it’s not always a good idea to act on impulse–it’s better to wait?  I’m still working on that one.  …Why money’s tight after a job loss?

Explanations can be uncomfortable to give and receive.  Such are the responsibilities of parents and caregivers.  Pets, unlike children, have short memories and tomorrow when the sun comes out, today will be forgotten.  Some extra pats on the head, a few treats, and everything will be all right.  It’s great to know, I’ve already been forgiven.