Learning Lessons “The Hard Way”


In our family, the matter of discipline was always handled by our mother.   All the kids told stories of bouts with spankings, smacks with hairbrushes or the administration of mouth-burning substances always given by our mothers.  The thought of suing our parents for child abuse never entered our heads.  If we stepped over the line or were just plain “ornery” we got a well-deserved “licking.”


I could always tell when I was about to receive my “just desserts,” because of the hard clacking sound of my mother’s heels as she sped across the floor.  Her hand must have grown extra muscles as I became more able to bend the rules.


As for my father, it seemed he went to work, came home for supper and was never involved in any whackings.   His idea of attitude adjustments was to merely say, in his bass voice, our full names.   That did the trick and we shaped up.


So, what happened one moonlit night came as an earth shattering surprise.


Our gang had been playing outdoors after supper, until dark, when we were supposed to drag ourselves back inside the house.  That night I heard some beautiful music on the soft air.   Who could resist the strains of a Sousa march?


I took my little sister by the hand and we raced down to the bright lights to mingle with the townsfolk enjoying a concert in the City Park.


There was a mounted WWI cannon there that kids could climb on if they took turns.   We saw somebody selling soda pop, but since we had no money we made do by grabbing salty ice chunks out of the big tub used to cool the drinks.   There were benches filled with women fanning themselves and scores of kids running around.


And the glorious music!  I knew the musicians that night were, in the daytime, men selling shoes or working in the Post Office, but that night they blew horns and beat drums in a magical way.   Resistance was useless as people clapped hands or sang along or kicked a bit on the grass.


Then our bubble burst.  Our father appeared out of the large circle of light.   We were pushed away from the enchanted place and hurried home.   To our astonishment we felt the sting of a willow switch.


Now, I must say for those who have not had this kind of experience the willow switch is the best attention getter, bar none.   We didn’t cry very much because we were so shocked at our father’s changed behavior-from no touching to this reminder.  Well!


He didn’t say a word or even look at us, but we got the message just the same.   When adventure calls and you are eight years old exploring treks are limited to the backyard.  


Mary Elizabeth Mruzik

Pacific, Missouri