My mom was like most others in that she had a group of sayings she used over and over. I don’t remember them all, but I know I played a big part in many of them being uttered. Part of me still wears that badge with pride.
I was born the youngest of three boys, ten years after my next oldest brother. I was a surprise. I’d like to think I was a pleasant one, however, there were certainly times when Mom wasn’t so sure. I was a master at testing her patience, exploring its outer reaches as deftly as Magellin or Christopher Columbus. I could always tell when I was approaching its end by the expression she used.
On the low end of the spectrum was a phrase she used not only as a reaction to something I did, but to the actions of others as well. I’m sure she picked it up as a young girl in southern Illinois. It has that ring to it. I always knew I was on the right track to her exasperation when I heard her say, “That’s enough to make a preacher cuss!”
Being who I was, I usually didn’t let up when I heard that one. There was another phrase she used that faded away into the depths of my memory until one day when she was aggravated with her dog, Misty and used it on her. That triggered my memory of her using it on me and made me smile the same mischievous smile I wore as a kid when she’d say, “I’m going to brain you!”
She never did “brain” me, whatever that is. I assumed it meant something like I’d seen in cartoons – smacking me over the head with a board.
I’m certain I was able to coax other sayings out of her mouth, ones I’d remember if I heard them again, like I did with “brain you”. Lost in my memory, these were stopovers on the road to the mother of all phrases, the one that never failed to end my game. I didn’t think it was fair when she used it. It felt like she was cheating, and not playing by the rules. It’s the one so many others heard their mothers say. “Wait ‘til your father gets home.”
Being the last of three boys, I was lowest in the sibling pecking order. When I was involved in something intended to amp up her level of irritation, she would call my name to get my attention. She would call my name, but it would take her a while to get there. She would go through both of my older brothers’ names before she’d get to mine. I like to think it was because both Roger and Tom were equally trying when they were my age. I would hear “Ro-To-Neil!”
That was a good sign that I was on the right track in my quest to test her patience, but I wasn’t thrilled to always be last in line, to be the last name called. Then, in 1964, we adopted our first family dog, Taffy. She was as smart as a whip and much more well-behaved me. Still, I was relieved that I was no longer lowest on the totem pole when it came time to calling names. I couldn’t wait to hear “Ro! To! Ne! Taffy!”
Much to my chagrin, that never happened. Taffy leap-frogged me in the order of things, and when I began to fluster Mom, I found myself still at the bottom when I heard, “Ro-To-Ta-Neil!”
Mom had another saying she’d use whenever I wanted to do something that she didn’t. She’d say, “Let’s not and say we did.” I thought it was a good one and filed it away to use with my kids. When I did, they promptly came back with, “Let’s do and say we didn’t.”
Those darned kids. Wait ‘til their mother gets home!