Sing at the table…..

“Sing at the table. Sing in the bed. The boogerman‘ll get you by the hair of the head.” When I was a small child, I was spending the night with my cousin Sue when an incredible thunderstorm passed through.  I welcomed storms, invigorated by the rumble of thunder, the splendor of lightning, and the smell of ozone. Recalling her childhood fear of storms, Mother had always downplayed the noise and drama of storms. We were supposed to be settling into sleep but I was wildly excited by the storm and enlisted my cousins to join me in bed jumping. Aunt Julie was terrified of storms and made no effort to hide her agitation at the combination of the fearsome storm and the banshee bed-jumpers. She did not share Mother’s tender philosophy. “You little devils shut up and lay down. All that racket is making the the lightning worse. It’s gonna strike you if you don’t settle down and shut up.” One of the little devils got up and jumped on the bed again before the threat left her lips. A mighty crash of thunder rattled the windows promising to come for the miscreant. Kids dived under covers and hid in closets. “See what I told you. If the lightning don’t fit you, the boogerman will!” I stayed put, even though Mother had often told me there was no boogerman. Aunt Julie looked scary enough on her own to do the trick. Since then, I’ve often wondered why Mother never availed herself of the Boogerman. It seems like she overlooked a valuable child-rearing resource.
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It Couldn’t Be Helped Part 10

Kathleen, my octogenarian mother was snatched from sleep at three in the morning by the sound of hysterical screaming and pounding on her front door.  Through the peep hole, she recognized her neighbor, a frail, single mother clutching her toddler and tiny infant, begging to come in.  Mother was horrified to hear that Melinda had been raped at gunpoint, the lives of her tiny children threatened.  Nonetheless, Melissa called the police and an investigation was begun.

The next morning, the neighborhood was in an uproar.  Residents stood in the streets discussing the details and studying the composite drawing.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their son Jeremy stood on the edge of the crowd listening intently.  Mother had been meaning to go meet them, so as a friendly neighbor, she pulled them into the conversation.

Of course, the rape was on everybody’s mind, so Mother launched into her rapist defense plan, boasting of the shotgun under her bed and her plan to shoot to kill, not mentioning the rusty shotgun hadn’t been fired in thirty years, and never by her. She didn’t even know if she had shells. She was ready.  Eventually, tiring of the drama, the crowd dispersed and went about business as usual.

About two hours later, Mother was surprised to answer her door to Mr. Smith and Jeremy.  She had liked them well enough, but hadn’t expected them to accept her invitation to coffee so soon. After chatting a bit, Mr. Smith brought up the rape. Mother launched into her plan for the rapist, getting more excited as she continued, embellishing the agony in store for him should he be so foolish as to cross her path.  She wasn’t one of those namby-pambies who feared killing an intruder.  She’d go straight for the heart.  Should there be anything left afterward, she’d empty her gun in him just for fun.  Jeremy, a sullen teenager, rolled his eyes as much as he dared in the company of his father.  He was a little smart aleck, but Mother still thought it was nice of him to come down with his dad to check on her.

Mr. Smith was still very concerned about Mother’s safety despite hearing of her excellent rapist deterrent plan. Inspecting her locks for security, finding scratches on her back door, showing the rapist had tried but failed to gain entry there.  He asked to see her shotgun, and upon inspection, found the safety rusted shut.  When he asked her if she had a pistol, it caught her by surprise.  She had to admit she didn’t.  Mr. Smith pulled an heirloom quality pistol from his jacket, showed Mother how to fire it, had her demonstrate, loaded it and left, Jeremy in tow.  Mother was touched at his concern and generosity, realizing the pistol would be a lot more good to her than the ancient shotgun with no shells, at least theoretically.

A few days rocked by. The Smiths moved.  Little Jenny Whitmore who lived opposite the Smiths recognized Jeremy from the composite photo.  He was arrested, confessed to the rape and sent back to Wisconsin to serve the rest of his suspended sentence on his previous conviction for sexual assault.  Now Mother understood Mr. Smith’s concern for her safety.  Melissa and her babies moved away.

Life settled back down.  Relieved to have this business settled, Mother’s little neighborhood once again felt safe, secure and friendly.  The only fly in the ointment was when Mr. Smith came calling a few weeks later to reclaim Mother’s/his lovely pearl-handled pistol, not so generous after all.  She still feels bad about having to give up that sweet little pistol.  It was cute and old, just like her. (to be continued)

It Couldn’t Be Helped Part 9

When two intruders broke in her house, she made one of them help her into her robe before she would talk to them.  She gave them eleven dollars, telling them, “That’s enough!”  They thanked her when they left, telling her to “have a nice day.”  She told the police officers later, “They were polite and had been raised right

I think this story sums Mother up better than anything else.  She gets rattled over little things, but is a rock when something huge challenges her.

I got a call from her after midnight.  “I’m okay.  Don’t panic.  The police are on the way!  I just wanted to let you know someone kicked my door down!”  You can imagine the horror and shock that message sent through me, imagining my poor little mother at the mercy of God only knows who, not even a door against the night.  Bud and I flew over.

By the time we got there, police officers were there investigating.  Her shattered front door was propped up on her front porch, splintered wood splayed around her living room.  Mother had coffee ready for us. (I told you she was calm in a storm.)  She had been sleeping when awakened by two young guys dressed in black, with black ski masks, one brandishing a baseball bat.  The nearest advanced down the hall, demanding her purse. She cooperated, but asked, “Can you get me my robe?  It’s hanging on a hook on the bathroom door. I can’t be walking around in front of you with no robe.”

He agreed, getting the robe, helping her into it since she was having a little trouble with her shoulder, probably sorry he’d ever started this.  His partner laid down the bat, thank God, demanding her purse.

Fearing he’d think she was going for a gun, she said, “It’s on that shelf.”  He bumbled and found her library books in a bag, ready for return.

“These are just books.”

“Just behind them.

This time he found her wallet.  Digging through it, he was dismayed to find only eleven dollars.  “Is this all?”

“Yes, I only have that because I was going to buy gas tomorrow.  I never keep cash.  It’s too dangerous!”  Truer words were never spoken.  She usually has to dig in her car to find change for a coke, preferring to bum off whoever she is with.  It’s a wonder she didn’t ask the robbers for money for a coke while she had them there.

“What about your bank card?”

She said she gave him a disgusted look, thinking, “Now, that’s going too far. Eleven dollars is enough!”

They must have realized their business with her was complete, turning to leave.  Before going down the steps, the one who’d helped her into her robe returned for his bat, telling her, “Have a nice day.” As they walked toward the door, she thanked them for not hurting her.

She summed the whole story up for the officers, promising to get in touch if she remembered anything else.  “I don’t think they ever meant to hurt me.  They were both as polite as could be.  I think their mother raised them right.”

I am so glad she did. (to be continued)