“Okay, now sound it out… B-I-T-C-H, what do those letters spell?”
“…Beech?” I was about four years old, and embarking on the very exciting road of phonetics. I could read, and I was thrilled. If there was any opportunity to show off this newfound skill, I was there. “Dog,” “Cat,” “Yes,” “NO,” “Blue,” and that was just the first week. I was on a reading rampage.
My older brother and sister were the ones coaching me in this literary phenomenon. “Come on, sound it out, what sound does ‘I’ make?”
“…ih, IH, oh BITCH!” I had done it. They were so proud of me. Looking back, I should have known that their smiles were a little too eager, and that laughter at that moment was rather unnecessary.
“Go tell Mommy,” they insisted, “Go tell her,” they told me.
I went. You could always find my mother in front of her old sewing machine. She did the stay at home thing, but had the makings of a fruitful business in her hands. She was assembling some random garment when I met her. “Mommy! Mommy! Guess what word I just learned!” I was jumping up and down in front of her machine, the excitement clear across my face.
“What is it?” she asked, taking her foot off the pedal giving me her undivided attention.
Long story short I received my first memorable spanking. 3 smacks clear across my bare bottom. Afterwards she told me that I should never repeat that word again, it was a bad word.
It didn’t click in my mind not to return to the people that had sabotaged me. We were all having fun, and they were filling my attention quota for the day. No more than 5 minutes later had Lade and Tomi taught me another new word. This time my bottom was spared and Mommy went after the real culprits.
I think it’s that middle child syndrome that turns kids bad. They were just plain mean. Lade and Tomi were three years apart. The two of them had formed a connection so strong, based on mischief, that I don’t think I was ever able to match. It’s just three years that separates my sister and I, yet we never developed that torturous spirit she and Tomi were accustomed to. Ayo, our eldest brother was tall, lanky, and kind. The seven years he’s lived longer than me never hindered our relationship. He protected me. I admit that I was gullible, wide-eyed and innocent but, come on. Who’d think that my own big brother and sister were leading me, a poor little doe, sweeter than Bambi, to the shotgun that took his mother out? Not I.
We switched alliances a lot. Your greatest ‘enemy’ could be your very best friend the next day. When we weren’t plotting each other’s downfalls, we were experiencing the consequences of disobedience all together.
Under strict observation, I have discovered that as you get older so do your parents. They get tired, but unfortunately they don’t get any less creative. From unfortunate experience I have found that there are hundreds of ways to punish children without laying a hand on them. I kind of long for the five minute sting of pain that reminds you not to put your hand on the hot stove, or stick forks in the electrical outlets. When you get older they talk to you, they verbally issue your demise, and it lasts.
My parents worked on a system. My mother was with us all the time, so there was instant retribution if anyone acted out. If an offense was too ugly or too heinous for Mommy to handle, it went to Daddy. You didn’t want it to get to Daddy.
I remember those days when someone would do something disrespectful, and no amount of speed could escape my mother’s wrath. There was no use trying to run. If Mommy didn’t meet you personally, a shoe would fly down the hallway around the corner into your bedroom onto your top bunk over the river and through the woods and land you square on the bottom. She had impeccable aim.
The living room of our second floor apartment was where all the action took place. It was rare for someone to be caught inside his or her room, away from the pack. This made it even more interesting when someone went to trial. We were always allowed to talk our way in and out of punishment, whenever it wasn’t blatantly obvious that you were wrong. There was always a jury of your peers present.
One day Ayo and Tomi were fighting. Mommy made them stand next to each other and hold hands. That was torture for them, but rather entertaining for me. Every side ways glare between them, every sneak pinch, I was witness.
Another afternoon we were all issued the balance test. I don’t remember the crime, but I remember holding up shaky arms and not being able to put them down. If you dropped your arms your time increased. We all stood there, side by unbalanced side.
That all started to change when middle school separated elementary school. We reached areas in our lives where we could understand and appreciate the distinction between right and wrong. There was no strike of reassurance. Getting older and growing up. Receiving words instead of shoes. It’s a bit depressing. I don’t miss the pain, but I do miss the fact that punishment was something we all experienced together. I received the short end of the stick. I had the shortest time with everyone together. They were always moving so much faster than I was, so much farther. I hope I get the chance to catch up.