One of Mom’s favorite terrorist control methods was her admonition to “go to your room and THINK about it ( ‘it’ being, apparently, ‘what you just did’ – to my mind, a very satisfying pastime, indeed!).
Like our dog Muffin I found myself skulking into my room, proverbial tail between legs – but once the door shut, a Snoopy-like exuberance always washed over me:
(OH YEAH – I physically enacted the “free at LAST dance” before MLK even got pen to paper!)
. FIRST: there were books. Awesome adventures that transported me to other worlds. There were many times when Mom’s knock at the door proclaiming ‘punishment was over’ (after [apparently] HOURS had passed) resulted in my admonition to go away: that I was “still thinking about it” – and my contemplative process couldn’t be interrupted. (Interpretation: I was at a JUICY point in the story and not about to stop reading now!) I’m sure Mom was highly puzzled as to why her child WANTED additional punishment; but since S&M hadn’t been invented yet (and da door was LOCKED), the puzzle remained.
(Just LOCK ME IN & throw away the key!)
. SECOND: there was the bedroom window (nee: Neighborhood News Report). Oh, I can still recall the glory of throwing open the back window and loudly shouting to whomever would listen that my mom had LOCKED ME IN MY BEDROOM FOR DAYS WITH NO FOOD OR WATER. An announcement punctuated by Mom’s frantic pounding on the (locked) bedroom door and demands to be let in right now. Perhaps these news reports were why one day my bedroom window mysteriously wouldn’t rise more than 3 inches (after Dad did some basic, sneaky carpentry work). After that I had to get down on my knees to scream (vs. literally hanging out the window) – which took the volume (and satisfaction and impact) down considerably.
. THIRD: there was Fantasy Gaming. Oh, I don’t mean computer screens that beep and blip like today’s glossy strange attractors. No; I mean a ROOM full of stuffed animals just WAITING for Diane’s DocuDrama. Of course, Mom became the fattest, ugliest toy under such circumstances, subject to terrible punishments by the stuffed bears, bad sheep, and other stuffed participants that sprung to life from my toy box. Fantasy Gaming was particularly satisfying when enacted at full decibel so Real Mom, who was elsewhere enjoying the freedom of the rest ‘o the house, could clearly hear the drama being played out (“Oh noooo,” cried Mom. “Beary, don’t eat me! I PROMISE to be good to Diane and give her candy!” Beary (evil growl): “hahahaha – you will be CONSUMED, Bad Mother!” Etc.)
. FOURTH: War Games. Oh, revenge was so sweetly and intricately plotted when there was plenty of time to ‘just think about it’. A little time in creative young hands is a dangerous thing. I came up with some of my BEST plots when in my room with plenty of opportunity to ‘just think about it’. (Never lock a budding general in her room, is all I can advise.)
. FIFTH: Creative Redecorating. Also with said Spare Time came new impetus for Bedroom Redecorating. One day when I was released from my cage after hours of creative activity Mom came in to find the curtains on the floor, the window shades disassembled, and handprints across the ceiling (in bright rainbow poster paints): all stemming from my decision to Redecorate and my simply awesome (and astonishingly successful) efforts at using my bed as a trampoline to reach the ceiling with the palms of my (painted) hands. Lucky for me, our ceilings were low and readily offered a virtual tabula rasa for all kinds of color. (Also lucky for me, sis had her own bed across the room with an equally flexible mattress, enabling my handprint motif to continue unbroken across the entire ceiling.) Only a leetle paint actually dripped onto the bedspreads and I maintained that the color mixes were a vast improvement over the gross lime-and-mustard matching chenille (“practical AND durable”) spreads Mom had insensitively chosen for our room.
. SIXTH: Baking. Now was obviously the best time to haul out my EasyBake Oven and see if Barbie’s hair actually could catch on fire at 350 degrees – or not. Blame it on too much Hansel and Gretel at an early age, but I CAN say EasyBake lived up to far more potential than the (limited) suggested uses advised on its unimaginative packaging.
There were a few rules to Bedroom Punishment one HAD to follow. To wit:
1. ‘Open up right now.’ When posited by a Parental Unit, this simply meant ‘unlock’ (why folks useup an entire sentence when only a few words will do is beyond me….). Mom and Dad kept trying to disable to locks, I kept enabling them. When plain doorknobs with no locks were substituted, all I can say is: TV dramas provided many thoughtful alternatives to a lock, including the possibility of physically dragging a set of dresser drawers in front of the door, then being ‘unable’ to drag it away upon demand. Could I help it if I used up all my energy with the initial drag and drop and had to flop onto my bed, exhausted, when the ‘open up’ command was presented for my consideration?
2. “Your little sister is NOT on this planet to be tortured.” Oh, really? MY take on the matter was that I had been provided with a free playmate – and much like my stuffed animals, she was there to be: tossed, tickled, pulled, teased, blamed, jousted, and much more. Mom found it a good idea to NOT allow Sis in the bedroom with me during punishment times; a decision reinforced after she discovered Sis roped to the bed with all manner of jammie tops facing off a converted toy train track with its metal train set to ‘ram’. (Perhaps some evil laughter tipped her off…)
3. Do not take the Dog into the bedroom during Punishment. As with Sis, Muffin was initially fair game for all kinds of fun. Including, but not limited to, an early experiment involving scissors and Muffin’s formerly-long coat. (Well, I thought Muffin looked GREAT sporting a spotty modern cut and a vivid rainbow poster paint job. Kinda took the boredom out of ‘basic brown’, if you know what I mean…). The experiment’s conclusion led to an even more fun event suggested by Mom Herself: Washing the Dog. Which involved the bathtub, my addition of a wee too much Mr. Bubbles to the process when a phone call distracted Mom, and an escape plot hatched by the dog which subsequently spread Mr. Bubbles and rainbow paint over the entire house. One of my more glorious moments. (It’s simply amazing what one can accomplish when other family members join in the fun!!)
You’d think Mom would’ve learned from all this – but no. Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care evidently held a much more mundane chapter on the hidden powers of “just think about it” so there was plenty of cannon fodder for adventure: enough to cover my entire childhood.
I recently visited Mom at her assisted living place and later, on the phone, made some comment about the too-bare, mono-colored wall situation there. A LOT could be done with simple Poster Paints to be gleaned from the establishment’s rec room, I advised.
There was a moment of silence, then “I’ll just think aboutit,” she tactfully replied.
Who says parents with Alzheimer’s have totally faulty memories?