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Wednesday, 18 July 2007

A Mother’s Loving Lie

By Betsy Devine of Betsy Devine: Now with even more funny ha-ha and peculiar

I grew up in the era of long, slow, neighborhood-and-family summers. Tree-climbing or bike-riding days, followed by long, slow fire-flied hide and seek evenings. My pals and I had a “clubhouse” on some scrub land, and one day somebody arrived with a still-warm dead squirrel. We all petted its soft fur, admiring its many tiny perfections.

Tears in our eyes, we held a solemn funeral. One of our group treasures - a handsome cigar box (and everyone's dad smoked cigars then) - was sacrificed to be the coffin. Freeze frame on our sad and thoughtful faces then.

Now cut to the same group, same clubhouse, a few evenings later, digging up the same squirrel, with dialog like, “Yeah, good. It stinks.” “Oh boy, it really, really stinks!” “This is going to be perfect for Eddie’s father.” *

We gleefully carried the now sodden, smelly cigar box to Eddie’s house, put it on the front doorstep, rang the bell, and raced home to the safety of our own houses. We ran fast because Eddie’s father was a big mean guy and we sure didn’t want him to run after us and catch us.

We got home to find our mother on the phone with Eddie’s father - one of the scariest moments of my life. Going over a cliff in a Ford convertible when I was in college was nothing compared to hearing my mother say, “Oh, hello, Mr. Ozkelewski.”** In the Ford, I just figured I was about to die. That night of the squirrel, I’m not sure what I expected.

The conversation continued; we could hear only one side of it. “Oh my, Mr. Ozkelewski–really? How awful.” (Our mother turned to scowl at us four kids, now standing huddled together and looking terrified.) “Of course, you must be very upset. I’m glad you called me.” (Our mother was glad? She didn’t look glad – she was really glaring at us.) “But it must have been some other children who did it. My kids have all been home tonight, ever since dinner.”

Once she got off the phone, she gave us a huge scolding and I hope I looked suitably sorry for what we’d done. But hearing my mother lie to save my skin - and I don’t think I’d ever heard her lie before - was one of the happiest moments of my childhood.

* Eddie’s father had threatened to chase us out of our clubhouse if we didn’t let four-year-old Eddie into our gang. We were a tough bunch of seven- to ten-year-olds and we had no wish to become Eddie’s baby-sitters.)

** Or whatever his last name was. At this point, I’m not even sure the kid’s name was Eddie.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The Elder Storytelling Place is running short of new stories again, so if you have something that you've been meaning to send in, now would be a good time.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I can identify with this -- sounds like my neighborhood in Toledo! Great stuff, Betsy!

Those days sound just like my summers as a child, but my mom would never have lied for me, even to the likes of Eddie's dad!

What memories you brought back to me with your tale of the sad burial of the squirrel,Betsy.
When I was a kid in the 1930's some genius in our Parish came up with the idea of dressing the altar boys as the POPE!!! So, my brother was resplendent in his long white robe with the red buttons all the way down the front and the broad sash that was the exact same red as his small skull cap. He was the officiant at all of our funerals and he took his work very seriously. Before the services for the bird or the mouse or whoever died,He would dispatch someone to the local candy store for a pack of Necco wafers. These would be opened and all the white ones would be removed to be used for the communion service.
When things got dull in the Summer we would scour the streets for any dead thing we could bury. My brother would give a powerful sermon using terms such as weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Oh! he was good and I cherish these memories of our childhood.

Nancy--I would have loved to go to your brother's services! Those big communion wafers the priest holds up at Mass looked to me like Necco wafers too.

I'll never forget my surprise and disappointment at First Communion to discover not peppermint but bread-flour flavor.

I loved this story. When I was little we found a dead bird and buried him in a shoebox, complete with a Bible and funeral and prayer. We dug him up a few days later and he was covered with maggots. That image has never left my mind!

I remember those long slow summers and fireflies all too well. Great story!

I remember those long slow summers and fireflies all too well. Great story!

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