Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fly Swatters and Switches

I was talking about my neighborhood to one of my grandsons yesterday, giving advice about not pulling a prank. He was a captive listener, since we were in the car, so off I went into stories of my youth. He is either a great actor or he actually loves hearing these stories, which in part prompted my putting them to paper, so to speak, for all my grandkids.

When I was young, everyone was allowed to spank a misbehaving youth in my neighborhood. Most likely was the same all over town. My mom would not hesitate to pop one of my friends across the face for a miss spoken word. No police showed up at our door and my friend was more careful around my mother.

If I got into a neigbors yard and made a mess, or was into some mischief, it wasn't uncommon for them to bring out a fly swatter or take off their shoe to whip me out of their yard. No police showed up and I would pick a differnt location in the future to compare how quickly a magnifying glass would burn sticks, leaves, ants, one of my brother's green plastic army men or the paper on old tin cans.

At my Mamaw's, she had different rules from my house. My mom and dad could have cared less if I ran through the living room from outside yelling, "Gotta poop, gotta poop, gotta poop!" all the way to the bathroom. All us kids did things like that at our house.

I did this only once at my Mamaw's house. She had ladies over visiting, maybe a church group or some other reason but running in the middle of her friends yelling, "Gotta Poop" not only delayed my trip to the bathroom, it resulted in her grabbing my arm and spanking me in front of all them while she scolded me for saying such things. Once released and after the ladies left, she said the dreaded words, "Go cut a switch Terri Lynn."

My grandmother wanted to make a point, again. Her two favorite implements of punishment were the flyswatter, which was kinda cool in a way. It stung but I knew she was tossing fly guts all over her clean house every time she swung the swatter to smack my legs.

With switches, it was different, more serious. Switches hurt more, even through cloths. I looked up over the cabinet that held my Papaw's coffee pop at the huge stick/switch she put there and ran outside, tears burning my eyes.

In the past, I tired to cut a tiny switch so it would not hurt as much and my grandmother promptly stomped out the house with her angry march and cut a huge limb. She brought it inside and told me if I did not cut a proper switch, this is the one she would use then sent me back outside to pick a nice green switch that did not require her to bend over to reach my legs and was stripped of leaves. It would whistle with a high pitch scream as it traveled through the air and left angry red streaks on my calves. I did my best to avoid the switch and usually learned after her first lesson.

I now know she would never have used that big stick, about the thickness of a man's thumb. She also did something the nighbors didn't do when us kids were punished, she talked to me about how to change the behavior that caused the whipping.

She never pulled any punches with, "this hurts me more than it hurts you", she knew it hurt me more and she wanted it leave a memory. The police never showed up at her door.

It is a different world today. I would call the police if a neighbor whipped my grandson, we lock our doors even during the day when the sun is bright, we don't leave our keys in unloced cars in drive ways or at stores and we don't give rides to hitch hikers, even if we have seen them in our neighborhood.

When I was a kid, fly swatters and switches were an important part of molding my personality. It took a village to raise children and our village was a small southern town in the foothills of Ozarks where police would smile and wave.

Mamaw lived to be close to 100 and I loved her as much then as the days I spent in her home laughing with her or getting switched. Although I saw her very little due to moving away from the Ozarks, her lessons have carried over to my current life with my own grandchildren. I made the choice to never switch my grandkids but I am forever grateful for the lessons my grandmother taught, even if was taugh at the end of a fly swatter or switch.

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