Things I did with Mum, were daring: like tear off my diaper, escape down the hall and hide to avoid taking a bath. If I kept it on, she found me, so, it just had to come off — sounded like corduroy leggings every time I moved.
But, things I did with my father, were … were, uh … how do I describe it? Memorably stupid, like feeding me mush when they made plans to go out for dinner WITHOUT ME!
I was told this story by my mother, as I have NO recollection of it at all:
Dad was dressed in his light-grey suit (minus the jacket) and told Mum to hurry and finish feeding me, so I could be taken to the babysitter, who I think was one of her unmarried sisters. (Note: Mum was pregnant with my younger brother.).
She said that I fuss too much when rushed, so she would still be a while — maybe 20minutes or so. That response wasn’t acceptable, as Dad believed they would not get a table at the restaurant. So, “the Air Force” (my father in his military way) came in, to rescue the lady (Mum) and took over the entire operation (feeding me)!
Well, Mum was impressed. My father managed to shovel the green mush into my mouth three times faster than she did. The amounts were heaping and every time that spoon approached me, I opened my mouth wide.
After three rapid deliveries, my mother told him, “Be careful, Dear, he likes to play with his food and makes a terrible mess.”
“Nonsense!” he answered, turning to show her my almost empty bowl, “Just one more and he’s fin–”
[Question: Does anyone know what RAZZ-berries are? I don’t think my father did, so I showed him.].
“Oh, no!” my mother laughed so hard she was almost in tears. “That’s going to stain! Quick change your shirt!”
“It will come out,” my father argued, looking down at me and then my artistic slime-splatter that covered his entire right side, from his shirt collar to his trousers waistband. “What is it?”
Mum bit her lip. “Strained peas. He doesn’t really care for them, unless you mix them in his potatoes.”
Defeated, my father disappeared to change his shirt.
In the meantime, I smiled and made all sorts of satisfied baby noises. I had single-handedly fought off the best of the Air Force! And won the devoted attention of the lady (who was really not in any need of rescuing!).
But one of my favourite incidents occurred the following summer, after my brother was born. I was learning to walk, doing the “grab-hold-and-pull-up” routine whenever I landed on my well-padded behind.
Mum was bathing my brother, and my father had just finished mowing the lawn. He came in, removed his shirt, downed a cold drink and laid down upon the sofa, holding a cold cloth to his forehead.
I happened to be wobbling between the sofa and the table; and since my mother’s attention was focused on my brother, I sought the attention of the Old Man … and very quickly got it!
Turning to face him, I lost my balance — and like any typically intelligent being of so young an age — who understands that falling down hurts and scrambles to find a way to halt their descent — I reached out to my father, knowing that he would never let any harm befall his little prince.
Now, the next moment was a blur and all HIS fault!
If his eyes were open, all would have been well; but his eyes were closed and his arm closest to me was raised over his face, holding the cold, damp cloth to his forehead.
So, when I began my picturesque, triple-toe loop spiral, I grabbed hold of what I could to slow my fall … namely, his hair … hair that was located in his right underarm.
It was then that I learned my father could wail as high as I could — but he was much louder and that scared me; and when I get scared, my little hands clench.
Unfortunately, I was now in a free-fall, as my father sat up then stood up. There was no way i was letting go, now! I needed to hold on until the Search ‘N’ Rescue Squad came for me — and I was sure I could hear them in the next room.
My father, singing still another boring verse, so I jumped straight to the chorus. It was a difficult duet, my father was a struggling baritone, while I was a Vienna Boys’ Choir hopeful with my crisp, piercing falsetto, but it worked — Mum came rushing in, holding my brother, with a look of horror upon her face, quickly changing to disbelief.
“What on Earth? How did he –?”
“Never mind that, get him off! Just get him off!”
My mother’s favourite was when my father returned with my brother and I from a fishing trip.
My father was a very proud man, he was Air Force, respected and commanded many young men in his flight (squad — approx. 20-25 in number.). Surely, two young sons could not be THAT difficult to control; they are just little men.
Mum insisted that he ask his brother, Bill, to come with us (Uncle Bill was bachelor and a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army.); but he said that he didn’t need any help.
Six hours later, Mum was surprised when we came back so soon.
“What did you catch?” she asked excitedly, until my shivering brother and I “zombie-walked” through the door, our clothes muddied, sopping wet and hanging off of us.
“Them,” my father tersely replied.
With a tight smile Mum quietly cleaned us up while Dad proceeded to tell her how things went from bad to worse:
- while loading the boat, my little brother did not understand the concept of “Sit down!” — he fell overboard
- Dad reached over and grabbed him by one of his Wellies (“Wellingtons”: bright red-coloured rubber boots)
- during the rescue, my father’s car keys fell out of his pocket and into the dark waters
- Dad did have a spare pair of keys — at home
- After talking to some other fishermen there, one agreed to help us get home; but insisted we stay long enough to understand the experience
- Out in the boat with baited lines, we waited, then something yanked my pole from my hands! Typical child’s reaction: catch it! So, I did, and fell in — but, this time when my father leaned to pull me out, he fell in too.
The only thing caught that day were three colds!
Couldn’t end this without a story a little more recent. It involves my oldest two sons, Junior and Captain. Junior was about 5yrs-old and Captain was almost 3.
One of them discovered that a laundry basket was big enough to sit and play in — if you pulled it, it worked like a sled, but if you pushed it, you made your brother fall out! (Unless, said basket was at the top of a carpeted staircase with your brother sitting in it.).
Just a little push and it was a bumpy ride all the way down to the kitchen … and it sounded like fun from Junior’s vibrato squeal as the basket hit every step on it’s jerky way down.
Climbing out, Junior turned the laundry basket upside-down and carried it on his head as he rushed back up the stairs. “I wanna go again!” I remember him saying, but Captain looked at him and asked “Me, too?”
The next moment appeared to happen in slow motion, and although I observed it, it was so quick I couldn’t stop it.
Like a little male flight attendant, junior prepared the basket for Captain.
“Ready for take-off?” he asked. Captain nodded vigorously.
“Contact!” And he pushed Captain down the stairs.
Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, SMACK! [Ultra-Sonic wail commences.].
“May Day! May Day! Plane down! Plane down!” Junior cried as he tore down the stairs ahead of me.
Captain’s “plane crashed” into the side of the microwave stand three feet from the bottom of the staircase.
Semi-relieved, I watched my little pilot stagger away from his hard-luck landing, holding his head. All seemed well until he removed his hand.
Ten minutes later: Captain is in my arms (his head wrapped in a bath towel), as I am explaining to an emergency nurse that my boys were playing on the staircase with a laundry basket, when the accident occurred.
She was not believing me, her comment was that I was an abusive father and she would call Child Protection Services.
It was then Junior showed her the bloodied basket (he insisted on bringing it) and demonstrated what happened on the floor in front of her. He told her that he did it first, and Captain wanted a turn.
“It’s my fault, he got hurt,” he said sadly.
Another fifteen minutes later: Captain is sporting a battle scar of 14 stitches, just above his right eyebrow.
After that, laundry baskets were no longer used as planes or toboggans, but I did see them as toy-box substitutes many times.