I used to swear that my mother was a clairvoyant, or a witch or at the least possessed some kind of creepy mind reading skills. It seemed that she always knew what us kids were up to, often before we had even completed the act. Since her recent passing, my sister and I have spent a lot of time reminiscing and digging through “ancient artifacts,” (like our report cards from the 1960’s and 70’s…my sister’s behavior was questionable in 1969!).
Our mother had a very rigid sense of right and wrong. And she was extremely good and making you aware of the “wrong.” I suppose most households are the same, but for us there were certain things that you just din’t want your mom to know.
1. Drinking. Mom was always opposed to drinking. As far as I know, with the exception of communion wine, Mom never took a single drink for pleasure. Never knew what it was like to be three sheets to the wind. Now, make no mistake, Dad did. Dad didn’t become a teetotaler until his 50’s. I clearly remember Mom complaining about him having a six pack of Schlitz or Falstaff or Stroh’s in the fridge. She was afraid because Dad drank it would give us kids the green light to drink also. Believe me, the four of us needed no encouragement!
I’m not so sure about my older brother and sister’s antics when they were younger because they were much older than me, but I know for sure my surviving sister was no angel (love you Karen!). Nor was I. The funny thing is, that right up until Mom passed away two weeks ago, both my sister and I would never drink in front of her. It wasn’t like she didn’t know we drank. Heck, I even took a job at a microbrewery. For some reason, we just felt we had to keep that part of life separate from our relationship with her. Karen was actually smarter at this than I was. When I was 17-19 years old, I carried a cooler in the backseat of my car as a permanent fixture. Pretty sure Mom knew what that was all about. The local police sure did. I posses the distinct honor of being the only one of her four children who ever spent the night in the drunk tank. Proud moment.
2. Smoking. Now that I think about this one, I don’t remember if my sister ever smoked or not. Well, cigarettes I mean. Uh…moving on. I can remember my first sample of tobacco was the chewing kind. My brother chewed Beechnut chewing tobacco. I tried it, did not like it. I did, however, steal some of his cigarettes he had stashed away. And his cigars and his pipe. Or maybe they were Dad’s. I don’t remember exactly how old I was but I’m talking maybe 10 or younger.
If I remember correctly my sister got caught “smoking” by Mom once. She and the neighbor girl were sampling a “hand rolled cigarette” and Mom’s creepy radar zeroed in on them. I remember there was some “turmoil” at the house about that little incident.
About the same time in life that I started drinking heavily, I also started smoking. I smoked for several years, and like the drinking, I always tried to hide it from Mom. It didn’t work. Every once in a while, out of the blue she would say, “Are you smoking again?” Then she would proceed to make me feel so guilty that I might even quit for a day or two.
3. Porno. Porno was a big taboo in the 60’s. You see more skin on network television today than you saw in a 60’s Playboy Magazine. And I should know. I got caught looking through my brother’s hidden stash of Playboys. I was barely even old enough to be curious about such things, but there were a couple neighbor boys who were older and they knew my brother had a stash. They asked me to take them to his room when he was gone and show them. So I did. And my older sister caught us. And she told on me. “Really Cooky? You had to tell on me?” Sure enough, she ran to Mom and said, “Jamie is looking at Steve’s Playboys.” Apparently my brother didn’t have the same concerns about what Mom knew that my sister and I did. In fact, I’m sure he didn’t because for my 16th birthday, guess what my older brother bought me? A subscription to Playboy Magazine! Delivered monthly to my mother’s house. Dad loved it…but you can imagine how Mom felt! To this day, I’m shocked that she did not intercept each and every one at the mailbox and burn them in the burn pile out back.
My dad passed away nearly 17 years ago. Two of my siblings died as well. Now that Mom is gone too, it is a very different feeling to have no living parents. Those of you who are parents of older children know that no matter how old your children get, you are always very concerned about what is happening in their lives. My oldest daughter is 32 today. My youngest is 22 and there are two more in between. They can still keep me up late at night with worry. I’m sure they have tried to hide a lot of things from me, and no doubt have succeeded at some of those efforts, but I’m not my mother in that regard. My children don’t have to worry about me freaking out over their behavior. I am very much a realist. My wife on the other hand, much like my mother, has never been drunk, never smoked anything in her life and is very private about the subject of sex. So kids, if you are reading this today, whatever you do, “Don’t tell Mom!”