I Didn’t Do Nothing!

Connie and Marilyn, my younger sisters were great friends with Ralphie, the neighbor boy.  They never fought, playing happily for hours.  Most often, they shared a seat on the school bus, since his stop was right after theirs.  A skinny little guy, Ralphie’s nose dominated his face, causing him to endure taunts on a regular basis.

One afternoon, Connie flew in crying to Mother the instant she got off the bus.  “Ralphie hit me in the stomach!”

Mother was shocked.  They’d always been such good friends.  “Why did he do that?  He never hits.  What did you do to him?”

”Nothing!  I didn’t do nothing to him!”  Marilyn was right behind her, backing her up.

”Are you sure you didn’t  do anything to him?”  she queried.

”No!” Connie insisted.

”Come on then.  I guess we’d better go talk to his mama.  I can’t have him hitting y’all.”  She got her purse and herded Connie and Marilyn into the car, determined to put a stop to Ralphie’s bad behavior before it got out of hand.  The girls were delighted, knowing Ralphie anticipating Ralphie’s big trouble.

Miss Betty invited Mother in, though she did seem a little cool.  Ralphie and the girls settled to play, as they always did.

Miss Betty brought Mother a cup of coffee and took a seat at the kitchen table with Mother.  “ I need to talk to you, Betty.  Connie said Ralphie hit her in the stomach for no reason.”

”I know.” Betty answered. “Did Connie tell you she called him Banana Nose?  His daddy told him to do that when kids call him that. He has to stick up for himself.”

Mother was mortified.  “Connie, did you call Ralphie Banana Nose?  You know better than that!  No wonder he hit you!  You tell hm you’re sorry, right now.”

Connie was in it, deep. “I’m sorry, Ralphie.”

Hastily, Mother made her goodbyes, heading home to eat crow.

Connie learned not to call names that day.  Mother learned not to believe a kid who “didn’t do nothing.”

 

 

 

Some Things Need To Change

The first, longest lasting, and most redundant misery my was frizzy, old lady perms.  Mother did this so my sister and I would be social outcasts.  Vastly overestimating our sexual attractiveness, from the time we went into puberty until we got old enough to fight her off, she maliciously inflicted home perms on us.

She bought our underwear at the Dollar Store or the cheapest thrift store or fire sale around, should Grandma lag in keeping us rigged out in home-made torture underwear.  Long after pointy bras were unavailable in normal circulation, Mother managed to ferret out pointy padded bras in the cheapest stores known to mankind, never mind the fact that the stiff cups caved in if they were bumped.  I’d have loved some not-too badly-worn cast-offs from the lucky, poor kids down the street, but they laughed when they caught me going through their trash. I tried to hide when changing in gym to keep anyone from seeing my Grandma’s home-made drawers.  They were made without benefit of elastic in the waist and tended to lengthen your legs by several inches as the day went on.  Grandma didn’t worry a lot about soft, cotton fabric.  Coarse, woven prints were good for the soul.
I was stuck in saddle-shoes for years because they were durable and Mother had loved them in high school.  Never-mind the fact that no other kid would have been caught dead in saddle shoes.  Best of all, I was a total slob, not the kind of kid who would ever voluntarily polish a shoe.  Most of the time, I didn’t even remember I had shoes till the school bus driver was honking the horn outside our door and I was simultaneously looking for my books, trying to get a note signed (bad news) and looking for lost shoes.  My shoes were inevitably, wet, filthy, and most likely stinking from ripping through the barnyard.  Not a good look for black and white shoes.  A more forward-thinking mother would have dressed me every day in a slicker and rain boots, so she could have hosed me off.

Though I tell these stories in jest, the following story still angers me.
I think my greatest  humiliation stems Bullyfrom the fact that Mother tortured me by hooking a ride for me with a boy I despised and was mutually despised by, not informing me until it was time for me to go.  The boy’s mother was a friend of my mother’s.  He was a bully, tormenting me daily.  I’d never confided this humiliation to my mother.  I was forbidden to register more than a minor protest, cancel my plans, or refuse to go since that would first, “embarrass her.”   Had I pressed further “disputing her word,” I would have committed the worst possible sin a kid could commit.  Ashamed to voice the humiliating truth, I was enraged and ashamed as I got into the car with the equally furious bully, riding unspeaking and miserably in the back seat as he rode in the front with his mother.  I asked her to let me out on the opposite parking lot, so we wouldn’t have to walk together.   My feelings for him have not changed all these years later, though I do believe I may share this story with him.  Perhaps he doesn’t know this is important to someone.

Working Things Out With Chris

Chris and Frogs0002
original art by Kathleen Holdaway Swain

Chris was the meanest kid around.  He threw rocks, kicked his dog, stole lunch money out of desks, broke in line for lunch, and was sassy to the teacher.  He had a giant pile of sand in his yard and dared anyone come near it.  All the kids avoided him. Continue reading