I was reminded of an incident that happened many years ago that underscored the power of moms. I was 13 or 14 years old and living in the countryside outside of Appleton Wisconsin. That summer I made friends with Bernie Hamlin. Bernie was at least 2 years older than me and was the neighborhood bad boy. All mothers feared him. He only befriended me because there was no one else closer to him in age. Being his friend made me cool among my own friends. This phenomenon only added to my cockiness among my friends, “Sorry, can’t hang with you guys, I am going up to Bernies.” My parents of course did not know I was hanging out with Bernie Hamlin.
A very popular thing for those of us living in farm communities was 4H; we were all involved. One hot summer night we were all leaving a monthly 4H meeting held at the elementary school. I climbed into the Balck’s station wagon along with the Balck boys, Karen who was my little sister’s friend, and my mom in the front seat next to Mrs. Balck. Us boys were in the backseat of the station wagon facing rearward with the rear window open. We were cool. As we hollered out to our friends so they would notice our coolness, I, in my infinite wisdom, decided to yell out, “Hey, why don’t you go back off in your own jack yard!”
I thought my mother was going to instantly vaporize and reappear in the backseat with me. She was livid and speaking in paragraph long sentences about my vile mouth and how I may still be grounded by the time I am married and having children. Oh man, it was not pretty. Thank God I had the safety of the middle seats between us.
The scolding turned to silence that lasted just long enough for one of the Balck boys to say, “Mom, what does go back off in your own jack yard mean?” I tried to kill him with my eyes. Mrs. Balck told him to never mind and shut it and the silence returned. It was broken by my mom who swung around and said, “Where on earth did you learn a thing like that?” to which Karen promptly responded, “Bernie Haaaamliiiiiin….” Oh man, wanted to snatch the hair out of her head.
The scolding began anew. Now I’m grounded through retirement! It was my own personal lesson on the speed and precision with which your mother can strip you of your coolness.