By: H. Anne Thurston-Brandley, Columnist
I met a woman this past week I will always remember, butwish I could forget.
I was with Ray and she with her husband when we foundourselves seated at the same table for coffee. After introductions we entertained ourselves sharing storiesabout our children and grandchildren. It was with great pride this lady told us of an experience she had hadwhile raising her three children.
I should set the stage a bit before going further. It is my guess this couple was in theirearly seventies. He had retired,passing the family business on to his son. She had been an office assistant and was white haired andquite nice looking with a pleasant smiling face. With sparkling eyes and big smile she told us of learningthrough a friend her oldest child, a daughter, had been seen smoking behind aWater Street business. She waseleven at the time and hanging out with like aged friends. Such an instantreport on what is going on in Boyne City or any other small town can be both aGod Send or have terrible consequences. Those of us living in Boyne can attestto this.
She continued her story, telling us her daughter whenquestioned about the smoking denied having done so. When the question was repeated the daughter stuck to herguns about not smoking. The womandemonstrated how she held her child’s head in the back, at the top of the neckas she questioned her. By the look on the mother’s face we knew the best partof her story was yet to come. And it was. Smiling broadly she told us, “By late afternoon she was back to see me.”
At this point I could envision the young girl standingbefore her mother knowing she should tell the truth. She had thought over her lie and knew she had to make thingsright. She wanted her mother toknow what she had really done and how sorry she was. No wonder this mother was telling us, perfect strangers herstory. She obviously was so proudof her daughter and herself as a mother.
But I was in for a shock. No sooner had she told of her young daughter’s apology thanshe threw her arm way out from her body, tightened her fingers into a fist andsmilingly bent her elbow and drove the clenched hand into the check of herimaginary child beside her. Sheproudly declared that her daughter was never to forget she lied to her mother.
There had been no hug or kisses waiting for the younggirl. No words of praise for hercourage in returning to tell her mother the truth. No words were shared to reinforce the child’s decision to behonest rather than a liar. No, thechild was left with the certainty if she ever told the truth after lying thatshe would suffer. We then were toldthat for the last twenty-six years this happy mother and her now grown daughterhave not spoken even though they both live in Boyne City.
As both Ray and I are the parents of four children andremember all too well those years when we learned to become worthwhile parents,of the mistakes we made and the times we wish we could do over, we realize inhind site that neither of us could sit today and brag about being cruel as thiswoman had.
We talked about what we had listened to in an effort tounderstand the woman’s pride in what she felt was a great moment in herdaughter’s growing and learning years. We both admitted the pity we felt for the woman in the loss of herdaughter. We have both lostchildren, but to cancer, not abuse. There were times we foundourselves frustrated and all but angered at those times when one or another of ourchildren seemed to have trouble hearing what we told or asked be done. Yet our love for each of them gave usthe ability to forget our own frustrations or lousy head ache from a hard dayswork and try our best to be the example they needed to become the person theycould.
We are quite certain this woman we met must have been raisedby parents who found their days long, hard and boring. And who believed, as their parents had,that a good whack on the behind or across a hand or even a fist into the facedwas the way to keep them obedient, quiet and worth having around. They were taught the alphabet, theirnumbers, manners and respect for their elders. Mouths that lied were washed out with soap and water whilerespect for your elders was accomplished by being coursed into sitting quietlyand speaking only when spoken to. The result all too often was climbing out of bedroom windows afterbedtime to join a buddy to go smoke out behind the barn or get into some otherunauthorized activity.
I remember my father who grew up in Sylvania, Ohio. His uncle was the banker and two auntswere ‘old maid’ school teachers. Because of them he skipped a lot of school to fish Swan Creek and huntits banks. One day, after trappinga skunk and removing its scent bag he broke into the school building and intoone of his high school classrooms in which an aunt taught. Back then, in theearly 1900’s there were no fountain pens, only the type which one dipped intobottles of liquid ink. Each deskin the classroom had such an ink bottle, corked and in place on the desktop.
Dad carefully poured the contents of the scent bag into oneof the ink bottles and left the building. School was cancelled for two days until the odor could be removed. All this tells me how far we have movedahead in our educational systems today. Dad was bored with the little classes had to offer. Very few his age even went to highschool as they found life far more challenging and interesting out in theworld. Here in Boyne City we havean educational opportunity for our youth far beyond even what I had which wasway beyond my father’s. Andparenting has changed from disciplining to explaining.
Our children andgrandchildren are indeed our future. As we all have an inexhaustible supply of love to share why not a NewYear’s resolution to love, help and care for them all. Many need far more than they arereceiving. God gave us His Love toshare, not keep.
H. Anne Thurston-Brandley is a Boyne City resident, and the author of “E-Males” and “The Book of Anne.” Her column, Beautiful Boyne, appears in The Boyne City Gazette each week.