I admit it—in some cases, I am the idiot. I like to complain that lots of other people are the dummies, but occasionally (very rarely) I am the dummy.
In my defense, I was five years old. Okay, I guess I should start at the beginning. We all love our moms. They feed us, they clothe us, and they yell at us when we throw our sister onto the coffee table and the coffee table breaks. Do I wish that my sister got in more trouble when she was “on my side” in the back seat of the station wagon? Absolutely. No one is perfect.
My mom gave me some “tough love” when I was five years old, and it was one of the following:
1. A “life lesson” that stayed with me all these years and helped make me who I am today
2. A severe mental and emotional scarring that has haunted my actions ever since
Either way, I have to respect my mom’s decision to yell at a small child. It worked! Here’s the story:
Thirty-two degrees Celsius. The middle of summer. Sweltering, boiling heat. The family camper is static on the shores of British Columbia. My mom, dad, my sister and me are patiently waiting for the ferry to show up.
Well, okay—most of us were waiting patiently. I was being a jerk. Did I mention I was five? I was asking at random intervals where the ferry was, and why wasn’t it here already? It was totally random—I was asking either every two seconds or every three seconds, depending on my mood.
My dad finally had enough. He did the honorable thing and went for a short walk—and took my sister with him. They were going to walk along the huge lineup of cars and endure the sweaty summer heat just to escape my constant yapping.
That left me and my mummy.
The mom smokes and has for her whole life. I used to take the tin foil wrapper and make little miniature trophies for my action figures. If it was a gold wrapper, then Captain America won the championship for punching Lex Luthor.
We had a camper that sat on the back of a pickup truck. My mom was sitting in the camper with the back door wide open, trying to get some peace through nicotine since it wasn’t happening with me.
“Mummy, mummy... I would like a cigarette too!” I yelled from two feet away.
That, my friends, is the correct answer. Parent of the year award please!
I persisted. “Mummy, mummy... I want a cigarette!”
I started tugging on her leg. “Mummy! MUMMMMMY!”
This went on for five or ten minutes before she finally snapped like a matchstick.
I had never gotten my way before so I stopped in stunned silence. She handed me a lit cigarette.
You know how Bill Clinton said that he never inhaled?
I grabbed that cigarette with my tiny five-year-old hands and inhaled. Deep and long.
Then the coughing began. I’m not a medical professional, but I estimate that my coughing fit lasted between five and seven days. That’s what it felt like, anyways. My mum claims that it was thirty seconds, but I seem to remember it differently.
As I was lying on the floor of the camper, gasping for breath and trying to figure out why adults enjoyed doing this sort of thing, I realized that I needed to drink some water. I was dying. This was my last request. “Water,” I gasped.
So far, my mom has been doing pretty good. A lot of hard-core disciplinarians are thinking, “right on, this lady knows how to handle the inmates at the prison!” Well, it gets better.
There was no water.
She handed me one-eighth of an apple.
Here I was, convulsing on the floor, going into what today we would define as a medical seizure or some sort of demonic possession, and I was sucking on an apple slice. You know those old “apple ladies” you see at craft stores, that are made out of dehydrated apples? Well, cut that into eight pieces and that was what I ended up with. I sucked all the juice out of that apple slice.
With tears rolling down my face, I sat up from the floor of the camper, dizzy and confused.
My mom got right in my face.
“DON’T EVER SMOKE! I smoke and I hate it!” She was crying too.
At that moment, my dad and my sister popped their head around the corner of the camper. He saw my red face, snot dribbling down my nose, and my mom sitting on the camper couch crying.
“I think we’ll do another lap,” he mumbled and disappeared with my sister for another half hour.
The moral of the story is that moms are great! I never started smoking, nor have I had any desire to even smell smoke. Or even see a cigarette. Or sit in a parking lot and wait for a ferry.
Thanks mom for dishing out the tough love—I am over forty years old and I haven’t been convicted of a crime even one time! You must be doing something right.