Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What I Was Hit With

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.

20 comments:

Sassy Sundry said...

Oh, that makes me angry. Your mother is lucky you still talk to her.

dive said...

A dreadful experience at the time, Robyn, but whether through accident or design your parents produced one of my very favourite people on this planet.
(Though I take it you don't batter your own daughters with household appliances) …

RICH said...

OUCH!!! That story made me feel sad Robyn. I too was hit with many things and even though we now laugh about it, it's still an awful painful experience, one I would never unleash on my own kids. I got both verbal and physical abuse. They have long lasting effects on us wether we know it or not.

Thanks for sharing.. I mean it!!

Gina said...

That must have been so very traumatic for you, Robyn.

I was spanked a few times, but when I was very young, and I don't really remember the details.

I have refused to use corporal punishment with Mr. P, which is something my husband does not approve of, but I'm standing my ground.

Robyn said...

You know, if it was something that happened just last week, we should all feel sad, but it happened a long time ago. Rich, you're right, crap like this has a lasting effect, but I don't see it as something to harbor bitterness over. In fact, if the question hadn't come up on someone else's site, I wouldn't haven't even thought to look for the old story.

And Dive, thank you very much! No, I don't batter them. They got swats on the rump now and then when they were little but not very often. Now, if you were ask them, they might tell a different story.

aVheretic said...

"Shocking' is perhaps the least of the expressions that spring to mind after reading such a story. Kinda makes me feel good about getting to spend all that time away from home in boarding school since the very start.

RICH said...

"In fact, if the question hadn't come up on someone else's site, I wouldn't haven't even thought to look for the old story".

Robyn - so you were "just Sayin" oh by the way... "I got hit with a vacuum hose"

Robyn said...

Rich, it does kind of seem like that, but it was actually Dive who mentioned reading the question at Kate's site, and then I read her post. So then I thought about it, here you go...

dive said...

I admit it. It's all my fault.
just be thankful old K hasn't found this subject yet …

lynn said...

I was appalled to read this Robyn. My throat caught as i took in the details. I just cannot bear to think of it and am very shocked. DO you speak to her now? and was your poor head damaged? Actually no i can't hear anymore, it's really too horrible i'm just glad you're here now. Children are precious and delicate, must be protected.

Robyn said...

Lynn, I almost regret even telling this story, but it was so long ago, and it was an isolated incident, so I didn't think it would have such an effect. My head was fine, although I had a cyst for several years that I blamed on the vacuum cleaner, but it really could have been from anything.

And actually, my mother and I have an OK relationship now. We live hundreds of miles apart, but we visit her every Christmas, and she stays with us for a week every summer. We talk on the phone from time to time in between as well.

Look what you started Dive and Kate!

lynn said...

Amazing. I'm glad you're okay.

Old Knudsen said...

So thats what happened. No I was only beat at school, but if I had my way I'd strap the lot of yous to a cannon and flog yas, but thats me. See Dive mention my name and I shall appear.

Ame said...

{{{{{{{{{{{Robyn}}}}}}}}}}} I'm sorry....XO

Val said...

What's it they say? 'I guess she did the best she could.' :-/

dive said...

"See Dive mention my name and I shall appear" …
Yikes, Old K!
I've seen that movie "Fight Club"
Does this mean you're my Tyler Durden? You're what I become when the darkness takes over? We're two sides of the same whatnot?
Oh bugger …

lynn said...

Strange choice of word, Dive, that last one when you're feeling scared and being chased by Old K. Be afraid, be very afraid. lol

Robyn said...

Val, actually, that is the phrase that was used in our house--"she did the best she could." Years later when I was an adult with my own children, there was a bit of a scene, and that line was used.

Well, if I were a perfect parent myself, I suppose I could judge from a distance...

RICH said...

Robyn, you should know you can't write a post like that without all of coming to your rescue.

Now you are left defending your mother's actions. :>)

Don't worry we're all family here your secret stays within the confines of your blog

Kate Isis said...

Hey Robyn, thanks for sharing and visiting kate's insane little world, sorry if my original post brought back painful memories. When I was a kid mum hit me with an ivory handled hairbrush and fractured my skull. So I can definately relate to this.
Hugs from Australia xoxo