Daddy was “the Boss.” God put him in charge, so we didn’t have to worry about what God wanted. If we had any questions, we could go straight to Daddy. He always had a Bible verse at the ready to back him up, if needed. Most of them sounded suspiciously fresh-coined and self-serving, lacking book, chapter, and verse.Not having memorized the entire Bible, it was hard to prove they didn’t exist, like the one that forbade men to milk cows, “You cannot take what you cannot give.” Please. You didn’t have to be a heathen to see through that one. Actually, Daddy anticipated our needs, requiring no effort on our part. Permission to visit a friend, attend a school activity, or socialize had to come from Daddy.
Well, this is not strictly true. Mother was free to say, “No” any time she chose. The answer for visiting or socializing was easy. “No. You don’t need to go. Tell so and so they can come here.” “No you can’t go to that party. You don’t know who will be there.” Or even more emphatically, “NO! ………..will be there!”
School activities were usually okay in theory…… 1. If we weren’t grounded. 2. If one of the other kids in the family wasn’t grounded. 3. If nobody in the family had C or lower on their report card. How often would a family with five kids not have at least one doofus with a C or lower on their report card? This ruled out most opportunities to attend school activities, and “It’s your own fault. You shouldn’t have even have had to ask.” Of course, the answer was “No.”
School dances were off limits. We were Baptists, and at that time, in addition to preaching the Ten Commandments, Baptists preached against dancing, drinking, and wearing shorts. Even asking to go to a dance was a sin. The sermons didn’t hold the other Baptists back, Daddy always made sure we didn’t do those things expressly preached against. I didn’t have too much trouble with the Ten Commandments, never having coveted my neighbor’s wife, committed adultery, and so far hadn’t killed anyone, but I wanted to go to dances. There was no commandment forbidding dancing, but dancing would have incited lust. If Daddy had bothered to check out the kids we went to school with, he wouldn’t have worried too much about lust. Most kids were hayseeds, skinny, pimply, and inbred. In the early sixties, we had no access to mind-altering substances to make us look better to each other.
In the unlikely event everyone had perfect grades, the activity didn’t break a commandment, and our plans could still wash out at the last minute if Daddy was in a bad mood, or one of the neighbor’s kids had behaved outrageously, causing Daddy to require us to be a perfect example. In addition to the opportunity to provide a perfect example, we got to stay home and luxuriate in the added bonus of their lecture by proxy.
As all parents do, Daddy invoked his miserable upbringing, replete with selective memories, to reinforce whatever point he was making at the time. If he needed to point out we were being selfish, “Once we went three days with nothing to eat!” If Mother didn’t want to make ice cream, “One thing we could always count on. Mama always made ice cream on the Fourth of July.” He looked injured and almost tearful. He wanted dessert after every meal. “My mother made a cake every day.” He may have thought I wasn’t listening, but I pondered every word in my heart. The next time he rolled out, “Once we went three days without eating.” I shot back, “Why didn’t you eat one of those cakes your mama made every day.” I got a quick lesson in the difference in smart and smart-aleck and secondly “silence would have been golden.”