Them’s Fightin’ Words

In the henhouse of tough old birds, my grandmother was the dry, stringy chicken Scarlet and company dined on at Miss Pittypat’s house in Gone With The Wind.

Her name was Geraldine, and she was so formidable she could have beaten Flip Wilson’s alter ego Geraldine in arm wrestling or shot putting, or pulling an airplane with one’s teeth.

And she was scary.

She was tall and thin, and for most of her life wore a tight bun on her head, from which no hair ever dared escape.  She’d been a school teacher but had the demeanor of the most crotchety, strictest librarian.  She had five children and developed a thermonuclear mom-eye with a deadly laser component.She also had a spine-chilling collection of threats and reprimands that were as frightening as they were creative.

My father, who is the world’s sweetest, most tender-hearted man, utilizes a selection of her phrases, such as:

“You’re as full of ‘stuff’ as a Christmas turkey.”

“I know you’re sorry, now apologize.”

And our favorite, and the most colorful of all: “I’m going to rip off your arm, and beat you to death with a bloody stump.”

Please understand, my dad used these originally for shock value, but they’ve become family inside-jokes.  No children were ever harmed in the usage of these epithets.I asked Dad if there were any that Granny used on him and his siblings, that he didn’t employ.  He told me one, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”

And I’ll bet she would have, too.

We’ve all heard this phrase, and it’s always struck a discordant note in my ear.  It is completely illogical; the fact that one is crying means that they already possess the catalyst for tears—nothing more is necessary.  But it’s also very unsympathetic, and pretty darn cold; especially for a mother.

Like I said, Granny was a tough old bird. And because the nut doesn’t fall too far from the tree, I have come up with my own phrase that I use when feigning outrage with my own little nut, The Kid.  And a couple I keep in reserve.

Again, these are one-liners and not threats.  The cost of doing business when your mom is a peddler of homemade comedy.

There’s a classic line I’ve been using since I judged my offspring old enough to understand that while Mommy is kinda loony, she ain’t violent: Give me your cell phone, and show me how to use it…I’m calling the adoption bus to come make a pickup! Never having owned or operated a cell makes my threat something less than viable.

The next one has never actually been used on a real human.  I developed it one night when a young man driving by let loose with a particularly hurtful catcall.  And right on schedule, fifteen minutes after the event this menacing little line popped into my head: How’d you like to eat your Thanksgiving dinner through a straw?Intimidating, no?

The last one has never been used on a human either.  It was the result of chasing our puppy Crowley, around the house after he absconded with some clean socks from the laundry basket.  I’m afraid that as a dog, he didn’t appreciate the humor or the danger in my statement, but it made me feel a lot better:

How’d you like a shiny new near-death experience?

Growing up there was no physical punishment in our house, but my folks were expert-level verbal disciplinarians.

My mom was in charge of volume, and my dad dealt in colorful comic relief.

Thanks for your time.

Lies we tell our children

I have become absolutely shameless. 2-22-2017-cWhen you have a new puppy, you must socialize them with other dogs and humans as much as possible.  And if you have a large breed pooch, it’s even more important.  A sofa-sized dog is already pretty intimidating—it’s the responsibility of the owner to make sure his size is the only thing scary about him

So, anyway, each walk that Crowley and I take has me asking each person we meet, “Would you like to pet my dog?”. 2-22-2017-aLike I said; shameless.

The other day we walked past a house with three kids playing out in the yard.  They’d come to a standstill watching as we walked by.

“Would you like to pet my dog?”Those children jumped back as if I’d offered them a basket full of bubonic plague wrapped in uranium.  The older boy actually put his arm over his face.  “We can’t!  We’re all allergic!”

Now, I don’t know, these kids may really have been boy-in-the-bubble allergic to animals, but it got me to thinking.

That could be some James Bond evil genius level parenting. What do you do if you don’t want a pet and the kids won’t stop begging?

“I’m so sorry, babies.  I’d love to have a house full of dogs, but you’re so allergic, if you come within 20 feet of an animal, your head will explode!”

And that got me thinking about the lies we tell our children to get stuff done, or not done, or just to make our lives a little easier.  I am absolutely not judging.  In fact I have nothing but admiration for a well-played parental scam.My own father ran a multi-year con on me.

He had me totally convinced that he could see me and thus any transgressions, while he was at work.  It’s possible that my inability to get away with anything without dropping a dime on myself made his claim more workable.  It’s hard to deny getting into the Oreos when you’re smiling with a mouth full of black teeth.To make sure my brother and I didn’t go hog wild with our Christmas lists, my mom told us that they had to send Santa a check.  Every parent sent a little extra so poor children could get something, and if we got too greedy they’d get nothing.

At seven, I asked how babies were born.  My father told me his version of how chickens lay eggs.  Let’s just say it’s truly a miracle I ever ate another egg.One mom I knew told her kids that it was illegal for people under the age of eighteen to eat red M&M’s, so hand ‘em over.

My friend’s grandmother told her that the ice cream truck only plays music when all the ice cream is gone.

As a child, I pretty much bought whatever my parents were selling.  My gullibility is something of a family joke.  Petey and The Kid call me Bunny Rabbit because I’m so ridiculously trusting.Which is I guess, why the two lies I tried to tell my own child were judged laugh riots.  But to my thinking, they were extremely credible.

Lie number one, told to a kindergarten aged Kid: Every time you tell a fib, you make baby Jesus cry.Lie number two, trotted out for the first time when The Kid was in middle school: Give me the phone!  I’m calling the adoption bus to come pick you up!

What?  I’d believe me.

See? The adoption bus is a thing

Thanks for your time.