A Mother’s True Level of Understanding Revealed
Even though this is about my mom, as far as I'm concerned, there has never been Mom without Dad. I would like to dedicate this piece to my parents, Stanley and Lois, on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, October 17th, 2009.
Mom was a “Lunch Lady” for a couple years when I attended Wallaceville Middle School. Lunch Ladies are generally mothers who have volunteered to watch over the hoards of raving children that have been temporarily released from the confines of their classes, allowed to eat lunch, and who then run around the schoolyard for a too-short period before returning to the tedium of their modern education. You would think that teachers would be the ideal guardians of children during recess instead of unpaid volunteers. They’re trained to handle children. They get paid. Why not just have them watch the kids? Maybe they needed the time away from us just as much as we needed time away from them.
Most children would be horrified if their mothers had decided to be a part of their school day experience. School is for you and your friends. It is the time when your parents are supposed to be the least of your worries, unless you really screw up and they get called. I do not remember being worried about the possible interference in my school-day life. I just had a feeling that Mom would not be a bother. I was correct, but the proof of that belief came at a cost.
You have to go back now and remember that when I grew up dodgeball was an acceptable gym activity. We did not have video games and all the electronic wonders of this modern age. Kids played outside at break unless it was raining. We were expected to get dirty and skin our knees and get bumps and bruises. Boys were expected to “rough-house” with other boys. Hell, my Mom confiscated a foot length of One Inch link chain from Bobby Pruce after he knocked out Kenny Kula with it. The principle’s reaction to this event was, “boys will be boys.”
At Wallaceville we took rough-housing to a new level of organized mayhem during our lunch breaks. We played a game that was called by the most un-PC of names, "Smear the Queer." This involved a football and teams, or packs of boys. The object was to keep the football in your team’s hands while the other team tried to tackle you and rip the ball from your possession. It was all done in good fun
We first “invented” “Smear the Queer” when I was in 5th grade. That was the first year of a consolidation of our local school district. Three middle schools were being combined into one school. This meant a lot of new faces and cliques that had to be worked out among all the kids. That year the game started out when the 6th graders kept stealing footballs from us. So, in retaliation, we began playing a huge game of “keep away” with the football. It did not last long because the 6th graders were so much bigger and faster. A year’s difference in age meant a lot size-wise at time. The 7th graders saw this and thought the game looked fun. They evened things out by lending their help to our grade. It made the game last longer.
It was a full-contact sport with no pads and, more importantly, no real rules. If you could not pass the ball to a teammate before being tackled, you were in for some trouble. We would gleefully pile on top of each other trying to tear the ball out of the hands of who ever had the ball. The piles got pretty nasty at times and if you were unlucky enough to get caught in one with the ball, you usually came out of it covered in dirt and pretty banged up.
One day, I did get caught in the middle of one of these scrums. I remember being down on my knees and trying to pass the ball to a teammate when I got a knee to the side of the head. It knocked me loopy for a minute or so but when I got up I was full of a rage I had not before known was possible. I was seeing red and was ready to take my revenge on whomever happened to be in my sights.
I got up, scanned the playing field, and saw Paul Schebel standing with the ball about fifty yards away. I took off after him. I was moving and nothing was going to stop me. I made a beeline at him and I mean I was moving. That day I could have given Carl Lewis a good race for those fifty yards. Now as I got within a couple of yards of Paul I leaped into the air and curled myself into a ball. My momentum would carry me to my target and the laws of physics would do the damage I so justly wanted to levee upon my intended victim.
Then Paul ducked.
I sailed over him, catching him just with my feet. I spun in the air, landed with a sickening crunch, and rolled to a stop on my back. My arms and legs were spread out from me. I just laid there looking up at the clear blue sky. I felt the slight touch of the gentle breeze on my cheek, the dust from my impact slowly settling about me. All thoughts of revenge and the dealing out of pain and retribution were gone. There was no more game. School was a distant memory. I just was.
It was probably the most Zen moment of my life.
I laid there for some minutes not moving when two girls came up to me, their shadows blocking out the noonday sun. They looked down at me and asked if I was ok. I looked at them for a moment and wondered if speech with those who had not experienced the sudden fall from grace was possible. Words came to my lips and I found — to my surprise — that I was able to speak. I told them I was fine. I just needed a moment to reflect.
They were happy to see me able to move and communicate. They then passed on a message to me that made me realize that my mother really understood what meant to be a ten year old boy. They asked me to at least get up and move around because my Mom was a little worried, but she did not want to embarrass me.
This whole event had occurred within plain sight of Mom. She saw it all, yet she was able to suppress her instinct to come running up to me so that I would not be embarrassed. How cool was that?! I am sure that if I were rolling around in pain or crying she would have come running. As I was doing, neither she held her ground waiting to see if I could make my own recovery. Again, I must say, very cool.
I did get up and walked over to Mom shaking off the dust of playground. Her only words to me were, “this job is going to kill me.”
Copyright 2009, Tom Chlipala
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