I was a bit of a brat as a kid. Ask my wife today and she'll tell you nothing's really changed for me as an adult. But here's a "for instance" from way back when. The time: a Friday night in 1967 before Mother's Day Sunday; The place: the Kramer kitchen. This round of trouble started when my mom asked me to throw out the garbage after dinner. "You cooked it, you toss it," I said. That response got my mouth washed out with a bar of Ivory soap. When done, Mom asked me if I had anything else to say and I nodded towards the bubbly bar of Ivory. "Yeah, the soap was one of your better meals." That little sentence landed me a weekend sentence in my room, which could be complete torture for a kid growing up in the 60s.
Friday night was easy since I didn't have any plans. Certainly no dates. Not at that age. Saturday was hard since I was to play ball with the boys. Instead, I sat by my window and listened to their shouts and laughter from my friend Bobby's yard, accompanied by the playful bark of Penny, our neighbor's Golden Retriever who apparently took my place. I played the old Pop-O-Matic game of Trouble by myself, but found that about as exciting as watching cross-country skiing on a mini TV.
I tried reading a Hardy Boys book but soon became jealous of their adventures and frisbeed the book across the room. I then picked up my notebook and brought it over to the chair by the window. I doodled for an hour or so: a few games of Tic-Tac-Toe as a warm-up exercise before shifting the X's and O's into football diagrams. As nighttime descended, all was quiet outside, affording me the opportunity to write, and I wrote the following... in three hours:
I'm sorry for saying you serve bad food,
which put you in a really mean mood;
I promise I'll eat every bit on my plate,
even if it's food I really hate.
So I hope you'll accept my apology,
though please don't serve more broccoli.
I slid the poem under my parents' door and tiptoed back to my room where I anxiously waited on my bed, hoping that the door would open and Mom would rescind my sentence. I soon heard her footsteps approaching and quickly assumed the dramatic "punishment pose" of lying on my side facing the wall, while absent-mindedly tracing patterns on my sheet with a somber face.
As she sat on my bed, I threw in a dramatic sigh and sob, and when she stroked my head I thought that someday I was going to make one helluva fine actor.
"I loved the poem, but your acting is for the birds."
"I'm not acting!"
"Look me straight in the eyes and tell me otherwise."
"I'm n..." I couldn't do it. Moms know when you're lying or faking a cold to stay home from school. I always thought there was a Female Intuition Training School (FITS) where they studied, and that Mom graduated with honors. Plus she had her Masters in serving up the guilt.
"You hurt my feelings," she said, right on cue.
"I'm sorry," I pseudo sobbed. I thought about adding a little more drama but Mom pressed on, not buying my act.
"Your father and I work very hard to provide for you, and a little gratitude from you would go a long way. You should put yourself in my shoes to see how difficult it is to run this house," she said, before tapping me on the shoulder. "And you're not even listening to me."
"Yes I am."
"What did I say?"
"Umm... that I should try wearing your heels to see how difficult they are to run in."
"That's not quite what I said."
"You're in the ballpark."
"Speaking of which, can't I go out tomorrow and play with...?"
"I'm a mom."
"You're a mean mom."
She got up and headed towards the door, but stopped with her hand on the knob. "You know what's disappointing to me?" she asked. I looked towards the wall in response. "The fact that you only say, 'I love you' when I ask you to say it, or I say it first."
Well slap my face with a guilt gavel, that hurt. But the sad thing is I didn't do anything about it.
Still smarting from my punishment, I didn't say those words until later that week and not because I needed money for gum or a can of tennis balls. I wrote the following, and this poem only took me an hour and 45 minutes:
Sometimes the words are so hard to say,
but I think of them at least once a day.
There's no excuse not to let the words flow,
but with your FITS degree you should already know.
So it's in this poem I want you to see,
what it is you mean to me.
Here are the words I've had trouble saying,
though never when I'm alone and praying:
I love you, Mom
Signed: Your son, Tom