Tuesday, February 21, 2006

According To Mama

There are many stories that take place while we are too young to remember. Our mothers tell them to us after we’ve grown old enough to remember the story and also perhaps get some laughter as well as morality out of the experience.

Here are two short stories about my early childhood...

Teaching ducklings how to swim
One warm summer day Mama noticed that I was making frequent trips to the bathroom while supposedly playing in the yard. Curiosity got the best of Mama and on one of my trips outdoors she stopped me and asked if I had a stomach problem since I was going to the bathroom so much more than usual.

My reply was short and to the point, "I’m teaching the baby ducks how to swim." Surprised, Mama could only say, "Show me." I immediately ran out to the yard and came back with a young duckling. "Come," I said to Mama as I walked into the bathroom. According to Mama, I placed the duckling in the bowl and flushed the toilet. "See," I said, "the ducky is swimming."

Mama convinced me not to teach any more ducklings how to swim until Daddy got home. No, my Daddy did not spank me and I did not go to bed without supper. Nor was I punished in any way.

Aromatic facial
My godmother had a son my age. And according to my mama, age was all we had in common. Jimmy was always dressed immaculate with pants and shirt starched and ironed. He always wore shoes. Whereas all my pants were worn at the knees and I enjoyed the feel of dirt under my feet.

Jimmy wouldn’t even play marbles with us because it would dirty his hands and pants. My mama told me that my godmother was constantly extolling the virtues of her son and kept telling me how her Jimmy could do no wrong and was smarter than smart.

It seems one day I had heard enough of her mindless chatter and enticed Jimmy to join me in the backyard. No sooner that he stepped into the yard I became an ogre of sorts. I knocked him to the ground and while my brother Bully held him down I grabbed globs of fresh chicken manure and rubbed it all over his face and hair.

I made sure that he wasn’t immaculate anymore by rubbing the smelly stuff all over his shirt, pants and shoes.

My mama told me how she made my backside red with my father’s belt and I still smiled.

My godmother and her son didn’t come over for a long time and when they did Jimmy stayed in the house hanging on to her skirt.

I don’t remember any of this, but my mama told me it was the very truth.

Joe and his maternal cousin Madeline Cain
at the wedding of Madeline's sister Katie in 1933.
Joe with sister Bernie and brother Alfred.

(They are barefoot because Alfred, already nicknamed Bully,
refused to wear shoes and the photographer suggested
the other two take off their shoes.)

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