Although she taught them how to do many things, Mom’s Mother never played games with the children, being I suppose too busy with the tasks of the times. Any spare time was spent doing fancy needle work, and sewing for her family. She made many beautiful items which are family heirlooms now. She was also fairly old as mothers go, being forty when her last child was born.
Our mother did play with us. We would play baseball outside in the summer evenings after supper. Mom was pretty good with the bat too. She couldn’t run as well as we could but she could hit farther.
One time when Arletta was a couple of years old, she got too close to Mom while Mom was batting. Mom didn’t see the youngest of her brood behind her, and the bat connected with Arletta’s face. It was a good thing Mom had not hit as hard as she could, or Arletta would have gotten hurt worse than the black eye which she sported for a week or so. Uncle Bainard came to our place while Arletta looked like Pirate Dundirk of Dowdee, and when he asked her what had happened, she cheerfully replied, “Momma hit me with the bat.” Before Mom could explain, she faced a very perturbed looking brother. Mom hastened to tell him how it happened and he was relieved to learn it had been an accident.
The only place Mom ever usually hit us was the place we sat on, and I am not referring to the chairs. We seldom got hit in anger either, but most often as a consequence to our naughtiness. The worst part was the spanking tool. Oh how we wished she would use her hand, but with five little bums to whack, her hand would have gotten sore. What she did use was the wooden spoon.
We must have been pretty stupid because we seemed to get the wooden spoon quite often. My own kids got it only once or twice, and thereafter all I had to do was to open the drawer where I keep the wooden spoon, and any problem between them was miraculously solved.
The problems my mother faced were not usually problems between us but our problems with settling down for the night. We would talk until we were told to pipe down and get to sleep. Then we would think of something funny we had not shared with the others and proceed to share it then, Once again the hilarity would continue until we were warned that that was enough. Then the boys would do something rude and noisy and get giggling and we all would start laughing and then came the ultimatum, “I don’t want to hear one more peep out of you kids tonight.” You probably guessed it, there would come this goofy, “Peep!” followed by stifled giggles. And then we all had to troop down stairs, line up and take turns bending over her knee to be reintroduced to the wooden spoon. She always had those good spoons too, you know, the ones with flat handles that won’t twist in your hand as you apply pressure. Years later she shared her agony with us about the times we would try to protect our rears with our hands and get the wood across our fingers. She said she was so sorry whenever that would happen. I remember her telling us to keep our hands down, but we thought it was to give her a clearer field at the vulnerable backsides we presented.
I had to feel sorry for Arny as he was always last In the lineup and he must have felt every whack we older ones got. As each of us got ours, he would hold his rear in both hands and bawl, his skinny little legs dancing in fearful anticipation of the event about to visit his anatomy.
Arletta, the baby of the Holben family, was considered too young to be held responsible and she would shout down at her mother, “Momma, you’re a meany old peanut.” She added a few more things I won’t include here, and I used to wonder that the things she dared to say never earned her a place in the line.
Mom worried in later years about the rights and wrongs of hitting her children and she expressed concern to me more than once. I assured her we came to no harm because of the spankings, which were not beatings. I think many of the problems with children of today is that parents are afraid to give them a whack when they need it. At the time we were told we never got a lick amiss. Once one of us was spanked in error and never got an apology but was told it could be counted for one of the times we should have gotten it and didn’t. Of course we certainly could not think of any such time.