Jim had girls. Five in all: Debbie, Patty, Tracey, Barbara (that’s me), and Laura. The older four happened quickly — only 3-1/2 years separate Debbie and me; Laura was born a couple of years later. It was a cruel trick played on him by the universe. He didn’t know what to do with us, he didn’t know how to discipline us, and he sure as hell didn’t know how to relate to us.
He did his best to avoid having to discipline us when we were young. He wouldn’t hit us because we were girls. Jim had only one rule, no crying – ever! If you did something, you took your punishment like a man. Even if you were a five-year-old girl.
I’m sure it was quite a sight. Jim was not a small man. Physically he wasn’t incredibly tall but he was broad, and big, and damn, could he holler! Thunderous. His voice could peel paint. And when directed at you, you had to stand there and take it – like a man; a five-year-old-girl-man. There was no bending down to your level for a conversation and a gentle readjust. There was just Jim. Getting louder, and redder, and madder.
The four who weren’t in trouble would close ranks on the condemned sister. She would be out in front. Alone. Chin up. Looking straight ahead. Taking it like a man; a five-year-old girl-man. The remaining four would stand directly behind, two on each side. Chin up, looking straight ahead, crying like only little girls can. Heaving, snotty, sobbing, silent crying. Four little girls, protecting one of their own.
It didn’t take long for the crying to have the desired result. Jim giving up with a “Jesus Christ, Mul” (to my mom), you discipline them, I can’t take all the damn crying.
There were instances when we all got in trouble at the same time. They didn’t happen often but they did happen. The most memorable of these had five little girls lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder, chins up, looking straight ahead. Taking it like men; five little-girl-men. Luckily for us, just as Jim was really winding up his tirade – bellowing and sputtering – it happened! His top teeth shot out of his head and dropped – plop – on the floor between us. Much to his credit, he leaned over, picked his teeth up, and walked away. What little was left of his dignity preserved in that small action. And the sisters, well we had the grace to wait until he was out of ear shot to fall, laughing, to the floor.
I’d like to say that Jim met his match in those 5 little girls, but he hadn’t. That would have to wait a few more years. I was a teenager then; Jim’s bellowing didn’t bother me. If he wanted my attention, he grounded me and took away my phone privledges. That’s how you punish a teenage girl that likes to talk!
Sisters, you know who I’m talking about – a sassy, foul-mouthed brunette (no, not you Patrice). So, shhh, don’t spoil it for the others.
To read about the mystery brunette, click here.