I think most families have their own “family stories;” you know, the ones that when you gather together after not seeing each other for a long time always get told and retold. Our family is no exception. When my sister, brother, and I get together for any length of time and the old stories come up, this is always one of the first.
I’ve never wrote this down before and perhaps it is one of those situations where you needed to be there to fully appreciate it, or where you need to know the personality of those involved to understand it. But to the best of my memory this is how it all unfolded.
Wilma, Danny, and I got up on a beautiful Kentucky morning, had our breakfast and got ready for Sunday school. Together the three of us walked the few blocks down the street where our cousins, Carolyn Faye, Betty Ann, Lois Jean and Jimmy joined us and we all continued on to Westmoreland Methodist Church. When we got there we divided up and each went to our own class. I loved Sunday school and I loved my teacher Mrs. Johnston. The part I didn’t like was that this was the first year we had both girls and boys in our class.
There was one boy in the class named Raymond Ford. He always managed to sit next to me. He was OK as far as boys go. He was also in my class at regular school. I played with him at recess he was my friend, but not my boyfriend.
After Sunday school I met back up with my brother, sister and cousins and we went into church. Without my realizing it and completely uninvited somehow Raymond managed to find our pew and sit down right beside of me. It seemed to me like the whole world turned to look at him sitting beside of me. That was the longest worship service I had ever sat through. I had no idea what the sermon was that morning I was so busy being embarrassed I couldn’t listen.
When services were over we all headed back home. We were one big troupe of cousins and Raymond Ford. He walked with us to the corner where he turned to go to his house. That’s when the teasing started. I got it from all directions. Ever body but my sister who came to my rescue, got them to stop teasing me and talking about something else.
Soon we were home. I loved getting home after church on Sunday. That’s the day we had special meals, my favorite roast beef. When we went into the house we could smell the wonderful aroma of the meat cooking. Mom was in the kitchen. As she cooked she sang and whistled “tiny bubbles in the air” she would sing the words she knew and whistle the ones she didn’t know. She sounded like a bird when she would whistle.
Soon we were called to the table. We had wonderful roast beef, mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and mom’s famous brown gravy. There we sit, mom, dad, three children and Mammie, my dad’s mother.
All was going well, but it didn’t take long before my brother made the announcement that Nancy has a boyfriend. Of course this was not true, but it was too late my dad took the boyfriend ball and ran with it.
For my grandchildren that didn’t know my dad, I will explain that he was what is known as a control freak. He was in control of everything and everyone. We all obeyed him, even my mother and grandmother. Whatever he said we did. It was years after I became an adult that I realized that his total control was a form of abuse, but then that’s another story for another time.
Dad started in on me with things like; did you hold his hand? Did you kiss your lover boy? And on and on he went. He brought me to tears. I begged him to stop teasing me. He kept on until I could stand it no more.
I told my dad that if I knew I wouldn’t get a spanking I wanted to just throw my milk into his face. This surprised him and he told me to go ahead, he would not spank me. But I knew he would spank me so I asked him to promise me that if I did throw the milk on him he would not spank me. Dad knowing I would never dare to do such a thing promised no spanking.
Then what happened next shocked and surprised everybody at the table and most of all myself. I slowly picked up my class of milk and turned it towards dad; I slightly moved my hand as if to toss the milk at his face. Dad jumped and flinched then started laughing as hard as he could. He told me he knew I couldn’t do it. He started again with the teasing.
Then I don’t know what happened, it was as if I was a marionette with somebody else in control of the strings to my arm and my hand with the glass of milk still in it. Then it happened. I don’t remember doing it, but I had flung that full glass of milk square into my dad’s face.
He was up on his feet in a flash. I can still feel his hand as he griped my arm just below the elbow, the cold wet milk running down my arm causing his hand to slide from my elbow to my wrist. He jerked me out of my chair and had me across his knee and saying something about I was about to get the spanking of my life.
That’s when my quite, meek mother stood up. She grabbed dad’s arm and told him “no”. “You are not going to spank this child this time.” He told mom to sit down but to everybody’s surprise she did not. Mom looked dad right in the eye and told him to sit down and to eat his dinner. She reminded him he had promised no spanking and he wasn’t going to spank me.
Dad sits down, mom cleaned up spilled milk and the rest of us ate our meal in complete silence.
Mammie had sit there during this whole time, never said a word, but every time somebody came that had not heard how mom stood up to dad, she would tell them the whole long story. She talked about it for years. She loved telling about the strange look on my dad’s face.
Out of all of us at the table that day, I, myself, was the most shocked and surprised at what I had done. There was no more teasing about Raymond Ford, but there would be plenty more spankings for me. Someday I’ll write about that, but not today.
Raymond Ford stayed my friend through junior high when we moved to Tennessee. He turned out to be my first date, my first kiss but, most of all, my good friend. Raymond was killed in combat in Vietnam in the early ’70s much too young.