Q. What do you get if you pour hot water down a rabbit hole? A. Hot cross bunnies! Q. What do you call a rabbit with fleas? A. Bugs Bunny! Q. Why shouldn’t you tell an Easter egg a joke? A. It might crack up! Q. How did the soggy Easter Bunny dry himself? A. […]
The Gospel According to Daddy
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.” My life would have been so much easier if I had just followed these commandments.
I. Thou shalt not do anything without my approval. This includes failing to anticipate what I might want you to do or having to be told twice. God help you if you anticipated wrong. There is no recovering from that. About fifty-percent of the time, I’d say, “I thought you would want………” with the resulting reply, “That’s what you get for thinking.” Growl, growl , growl, growl, growl.
Approximately forty-nine percent of the time, I’d defend myself by saying, “I didn’t think…….” To which the response w.as
“If you aren’t going to think, you might as well be alike on both ends. Growl, growl, growl, growl, growl.”
If there appeared to be no retribution headed my way, my eyes glazed over with the first growl.
About one percent of the time I didn’t mess up.
II. Thou shalt not sass. Sassing includes anything from actual speech to questioning authority.
Sassing meant failing to say, “Yes sir” or “No sir,” eye-rolling, or being sullen. One should snap into a jolly mood as soon as punishment was complete show appreciation for discipline. Sometimes, I had a little trouble with this one.
Obstinance could be anything from pouting (sticking one’s lip out and refusing to speak), eye-rolling(God help you), to disputing his word. (But I didn’t leave the gate open, whether you had or hadn’t.)
III. Thou shalt not think bad thoughts. Bad thoughts included harboring anger toward parents, thinking of doing something wrong, or keeping secrets. If I knew one of my siblings had done something wrong, I was as guilty as they were if I didn’t tell. If he knew I knew Billy stole a gumball, I got my rear whipped, too, when the truth came out.
IV. Thou shalt not ask to do things. School dances, wearing shorts, causing boys to lust (this was never a big problem for me) or asking to stay over with friends could get you quite a lecture. If other kids got in trouble and he learned of it, they got lectured by proxy. I guess we were free to pass it on if we wanted. He assumed every kid who got in trouble was our dearest friend.
V. Thou shalt not be lazy. There were cows to be milked and hogs, chicken, and other livestock to be fed daily. Then there was the seasonal work; haymaking, clearing land, piling and burning brush. Daddy was generous toward his women-folk. There was no work they couldn’t do. Daddy and my brother couldn’t do “women’s work.” It was demeaning, fit only for women. Doing men’s work improved women and kept them humble.
VI. Men shall not milk cows. Thou canst not take what thee cannot give. The Chapter, Book, and Verse of this injunction was never sited. Daddy just knew it was in the Bible somewhere. He couldn’t risk messing up on this one.
VII. Thou shalt not be trashy. This one was directed to women and girls who without his guidance, have flaunted themselves. They must wear knee-length dresses and not flirt or do anything to make the neighbors think ill of Daddy. The worst insult he could hurl at a girl was “fix your clothes.” God forbid, at best, a girl’s dress was over her head, or at worst a girl might have humiliated him by intentionally soiling her skirt, a premeditated insult to his dignity.
VII. Thou shalt never utter sexual innuendoes or dress in a way that would lead any man or boy in considering you in a sexual context. This would be the ultimate insult to his dignity and authority.
VIII. Thou shalt not be trashy. This embarrassment is the worst a man can suffer, trashy women in his family.
IX. Thou shalt be grateful thee has a father to raise thee right. Thee would be in the street if he weren’t here to guidetelling ten commandments thee.
X. Thee should always come to me with thy problems. (Fat chance)
I am the barefoot girl standing in the back row. Mother made me wear a dress, since it was Easter. By the time this photo was made, I’d been playing football with my cousins. Two buttons were missing from my new blouse, finished it only that morning. The hem of my skirt was dragging. Needless to say, Mother was not pleased.
Eater egg hunts with my cousins were a lot more like cage boxing than gentle competitions. I am sure I fit right in. I had more than forty first cousins, mostly wild animals. By the time my aunts and uncles herded them to the scene of the crime, they just opened the car doors and all Hell broke loose. Exhausted from defending themselves and the babies on the ride over, it was every man for himself. God help anybody in the way.
They’d rip through the house under the guise of needing the bathroom and a drink of water, destruction in their wake, before being cast out into the yard like demons into swine. Actually, they were cast out onto the other cousins. We’d get a baseball or football team going, all the big kids on one team, so the little ones never got a chance to bat, or got mowed down in football. They’d go squalling in to their nosy daddies who’d come out long enough to straighten us out a vague semblance of fairness, often lingering to play a while.
Once the egg hunt started, it was chaos. It was survival of the meanest, shoving kids down, stomping eggs little ones dropped, squalling, and even a few bloody noses. Crazy Larry kept trying to pee on us while we were distracted. One aunt in particular didn’t think her big kids ought to have to share at the end of the hunt, even though they had twenty eggs and babies had none. “They found ‘em!” It didn’t matter that she’d only brought a dozen eggs to the hunt.
Ah, family. Better get busy. I have company coming. But not Crazy Larry. He’s in the witness protection program.
Illustration by Kathleen Holdaway Swain
I knew Champ, our horse, loved me since he trotted up to the fence every time he saw me. I carefully held my hand flat and let him snuffle up goodies with his velvety muzzle. My big sister said it he’d love anyone who slipped him apples, sugar and carrots, but she was just being mean. I didn’t tell my friends and cousins the trick, so they were scared he’d bite them. Before long, I found he could help himself to treats out of my pocket or off my shoulder.
My grandmother had written that she was coming for Easter and bringing Easter outfits with hats and shoes. I didn’t hear much except the part about outfits with hats and shoes. I was thrilled! I had been dying for a cowboy outfit with red boots, red hat, and shiny pistols in a holster but Mother said I needed other things worse. Good old Grandma knew what really mattered! I was up before daylight waiting for her. Breakfast and lunch dragged by…..…..nothing. I was getting more and more upset. Maybe Grandma wasn’t coming. Maybe she got lost. Just before dark an old black car crept up. We all flew out to the car, trying to get to her first. “What did you bring me? What did you bring me?” Mother tried to shush us, but nobody listened. Grandma was slow getting out of the car and slower getting in the house. No wonder it took her so long to get here. We got busy and helped with her bags and a big brown box from the back seat. There was plenty of room in there for a cowboy suit and lots of other good stuff.
Even though we were dying, Mother made us wait till Grandma went to the bathroom, got a cup of coffee, and caught her breath. She was slow at that, too. Finally, Grandma got the scissors and started cutting the strings on the box. She was so old her fingers shook. It took forever. I could have ripped into that box in a second, but would Mother let me? Noooooo!
Just before I died of old age, Grandma started pulling things out of the box. I knew she always saved the best for last. I got a gumball machine full of gumballs. That was great!! Next she pulled out a baby doll and handed it to me. Grandma couldn’t seem to remember I hated dolls, but I tried to be nice about it. All baby dolls were good for was burying when we played funeral. I tried to be patient till she got to the cowboy outfit. Finally, she hit bottom. She made me and my sister close our eyes and hold out our hands for our outfits.
I peeked just a little and was furious!! This was a horrible joke! We were both holding fancy Easter dresses, big ridiculous straw hats with flowers, and shiny white shoes. I hated them! Where were my cowboy boots and guns? My mother gave me a dirty look before I could tell Grandma what I really thought. I hated dresses, but Mother made us put on our Easter getups and pose next to the fence for a picture. It was hot. The clothes were scratchy. We looked stupid. My prissy big sister kept dancing around like a ballerina while the mean kids from next door laughed at us across the fence. I’d be dealing with them later. Boy was I disgusted.
Mother was as slow as Grandma. While I stood there like a dope waiting for her to take that darn picture, Champ came up behind me expecting a treat. We both got a big surprise. I felt a big scrunchy chomp on my head. The strap on my hat stretched tight, snapped, and that horrible hat with the flowers was gone. I flipped around, and Champ was eating my Easter hat. He still had straw and flowers sticking out of his mouth, but I could see he didn’t think too much of it either. He was the best horse ever. I never had to wear that hat again. He did love me!
Easter horror story from Hugh