The other day, Kate Isis asked what people were hit with as a kid. It seemed like such an odd question but an interesting one, because most people have been hit with things--old shoes, rolled up magazines, a wooden spoon, the back of a hand. It seems like you shouldn't have to list the objects, but the sad fact is, people use all kinds of tools to keep their kids in line.
My mother liked the fly swatter, which I have discussed before. At Christmas, when my sisters and I were all in the kitchen, one of them said she had seen a talking fly swatter in a catalog and thought about buying it for my mother. We had quite a time coming up with the phrases that fly swatter would recite--You're sorry? You'll BE sorry. You don't know what sorry is. I'll show you SORRY. Oh, what a chuckle. Seriously, when you're an adult, you have to be able to laugh at most of the damage your parents did or you'd never have any kind of relationship with them. It's all part of the twisted parent/child dynamic.
When I first read Kate's question, though, the words "vacuum cleaner attachment" came to mind. It was an isolated event, and one that I will tell here, based on a paper I wrote in college that I found in preparation for my story telling today. Here it goes:
When I was in middle school, my mother was obsessed with Saturday cleaning, and when the assignment was given to clean our rooms, the job better be done. NOW! My sister and I were diligently gathering dust and empty shoe boxes from under the beds in our shared room when my mother dragged in the tired vacuum cleaner. She saw my behind sticking out from beneath my bed frame as I pulled out old Twinkie wrappers and spiral bound notebooks, but because her vision was clouded by her obsession, she didn't believe I was actually cleaning. I must have been fooling, she thought, trying to get out of a day's work.
She screamed, "Why aren't you cleaning under your bed?"
"I am," I said, cowering behind the spread of trash.
"Don't tell me! I see you just sitting there."
Before I could think of some proof of my work beyond the visible accumulation of under-the-bed-hoarding, my mother reached down and smacked my head. I looked up and saw another blow coming, so I threw up my arm to block it. When my mother made contact with my arm instead of my skull, she was sure I had hit her. Shocked that her own daughter would do such a thing, she grabbed the nearest object, the hard-wood-floor vacuum cleaner attachment. It was metal with a thick pad of felt glued to one side to protect the floors. She hauled back and hit me right in the head with the thing, on the metal side. "Don't...you...ever...hit...me!" As she stood swinging and I sat screaming, "I'm cleaning, I'm cleaning," my sister ran out into the hall and watched in horror from the doorway. She was screaming as well, begging my mother to stop.
My father had been out running errands but came home soon after the "episode." My mother was in her room crying, and my sister was in our room with me as I was literally hyperventilating. My mother ran to Daddy and told him that I had hit her and he needed to go do something about it. My sister tried to tell him she was wrong, but he was a dutiful husband, and he took off his belt and gave me two lashes to the back.
I don't remember the belt hurting, mainly because I focused on the skull damage. But I do remember intense anger and I do remember wishing I could have knocked my mother to the ground. And I do remember wishing I could have wrapped that belt around my father's neck for not listening before he swung. But children are powerless, and all I could do instead was sit for hours in the corner of my room and gasp for air.
So, there you go. That's what I was hit with. Now, on to brighter thoughts.