shamMother and I natter on incessantly. Yesterday we went to visit my aunt a couple of hours away. As we rode along, I was asking Mother more about the details of her early marriage at eighteen. She slipped up and confessed a tale she’s felt guilty about ever since. I couldn’t believe she stumbled and told on herself after sixty-nine years. She usually bumbles right away. To set the stage, you have to know she has a ridiculous conscience. If she suspects there is a rule somewhere, she is obligated to follow it, no matter how senseless. If she fails, she is required to feel guilty. That’s the rule.
Mother, married at eighteen. Within months Daddy moved her into the house with his widowed mother and her two daughters. They were poor and lived in a decrepit unpainted house miles out in the country, not the newlywed home she’d envisioned. To put the icing on the ruined cake, Aunt Julie with her two squalling brats had settled in as well. The house was uncomfortable, Mother felt unwelcome, Daddy was never home except to sleep.
The kids, two and four, whined without ceasing, unless they took a break to throw a fit. One day, she was alone in the room with them and was totally fed up with the whining. She told Yvonne, the oldest, “Stop that squalling or the Boogerman will get you!” To reinforce the lesson, she stepped into the next room, scratched on the door-facing and wailed “Wooooooooo!” The terrified kids shut up immediately.” From then on, when the whining started, she’d give them another little dose of Wooooo, if she got the chance when Aunt Julie wasn’t in the room.
“Why didn’t I ever hear this great story before?” I had to know.
“Because I felt guilty, I guess. I didn’t mean to tell it now. I’m still ashamed,” she confessed.
“Well, you should be. I am sixty-five years old and I could have been enjoying this story my whole life!”