There is no doubt when I was a young child, I created some hair-pulling grief for my Mother. If I were to ask her today which incidents made her exclaim in utter frustration, “What’s wrong with you?” I am sure she could lay out a litany of events. She could easily recount the time when at the age of two, my brother and I smeared each other from head to toe in white cod liver oil diaper cream. That was always a favorite family “recollection”. The time I inadvertently melted my plastic Halloween pumpkin on the light of my bedside wall lamp; I thought the colors made the room look cool. Or the time when I was six, my sister locked me out of the house. With a cape (beach towel) around my shoulders I ran and promptly placed my fist through the storm door glass to unlock it. I received nary a scratch. However my grandfather was none to happy. These incidents would always prompt the same pronouncement from my Mother, “What’s Wrong With You?”
One of the most unusual weapons of choice my mother used but once for corrective discipline was a Cat-o’-Nine tail. I’m sure you’re all familiar with this long stemmed reed that grows near and in water. On the end of the cattail sits a brown bulbous head that looks like a large hotdog. When the end of this tail with little inertia comes in contact with your own tail, you bellow like an alley cat, thus the name.
My mother used to decorate these majestic thrushes by placing them in unique receptacles; an empty crock, clay pot or empty artillery shell casing. It was only appropriate with the latter since with the reed in her hand, she got more “bang for the butt”. In order to keep the ends from drying out, falling apart, and releasing all it’s contents, my mother would craftily spray the ends with hair spray. Tada, she was the Pinterest Queen long before it was even a known entity.
The hairspray worked fabulously until one day, I had helped her reach that level of, “What’s wrong with you” mantra. I don’t remember the cause of her anger, I just remember I had to assume the position of contrition. As she went into motion with the cattail and it met my tail, the unexpected happened. It exploded! in the blink of an eye, instantly it looked like a parade for a returning war hero. The hotdog end with all it’s pollen, filled the room with what looked like hundreds of little white confetti paratroopers. It was the first and only time I had ever laughed out loud while being disciplined. As I think back on it, I think she laughed with me.
I concur with the words of Mark Twain, who referring to his own mother reflected, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”