Monday, April 12, 2010
I am Thankful for Wisteria
A good switching was her favorite form of punishment and my preferred method as well. Her hand on the bottom was a little too up-close and personal. It also tended to wander up the back where it left a series of CSI quality full-hand prints. I only got the hand when the infringement sparked an instant stimulus-response reaction in her, something like her perception I had just “talked back.”
The belt was to be avoided at all cost. It was the instrument of rage. John the Revelator missed one important element of that Great Final Day of the Lord, that "White Throne Judgement Seat;" all liars will first meet my mother with a belt just before entering the fire that quenches not. This will actually be an act of mercy as it will make the eternal flames more tolerable. I didn’t meet the belt often. Life was too precious to traverse the lines that triggered malice without forethought.
Cutting a switch was Mom’s corporal punishment at its best. Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, it was planned and controlled discipline. Cutting the switch was part of the process. It gave us time to think about what we had done. It also gave Mom a few minutes to calm down. Calmness increased the accuracy of her swing but it did nothing to reduce the force behind it. In late spring and summer a wisteria branch is tough and limber. Swung with force it wraps itself around a child’s body stinging as it goes.
It was a different time. No one considered this as anything but what it was, a mother fulfilling her responsibility to teach her child right from wrong. There were never any bruises or damage that left scars, just a few whelps resulting in respect for authority in general and our mother in particular plus a few "good" memories.
Around the age of ten I applied my budding skills in problem solving to the dangers of wisteria. How does one weaken the force of nature’s perfect whip? Solution: use the knife to cut half way through the whip about eight to ten inches up the handle end. About three to four swings into the ordeal and the instrument of torture breaks. Mom believes she has done her duty, feels a twinge of guilt, wonders why she hits her adorable youngest son harder than the others and everybody lives happily ever after.
It was the perfect scheme and it worked for a long time, more than a year. But then Shirley enters puberty and begins to make a lot of trips to the wisteria bush. I am moved with compassion and let her in on my secret. The little traitor goes directly to Mom and reports my brilliance. The resulting seismic eruption will no doubt soon pass the outer bands of our galaxy.
“Jackie David Johns, you get here right now. Go cut me a switch; I mean a good one and it had better not be doctored either.”
When she had finished I had shed a bucket of tears and my legs were lit up like a Christmas tree. Believe me, I never doctored a wisteria switch again. Ah, the sweet smell of wisteria.
April 12, 2010