A Tale of Two Bottoms

The warning was not heeded, so the consequence was administered.
A Tale of Two Bottoms

It was the mid-1960s and still a time of manners and respect. We called every adult "Mr." or "Mrs.," the nuns "Sister," and the priests "Father"—and you never misbehaved in public. Well, actually I should amend that to say that if you did misbehave in public, you got it right then and there. And "it" was never pleasant.

Mom had taught us to never crawl up on things at the grocery store, be it racks, counters, what have you. This went against our nature, of course, because being little kids, we couldn't see a darned thing from our level. I remember reading a Peanuts comic once that perfectly described our dilemma: Lucy was taken shopping at a toy store and all she could see and comment on were the front planks of the shelves where the toys were. Yep. Exactly.

Whether Mom wanted to or not, she usually took us grocery shopping with her. I still remember the day that she took us with her to the local IGA in Erie, Pa. I was 8 years old and dressed in my favorite casual wear: jeans and a red-striped T-shirt.

Our first stop in the store was the produce section, where Mom gave us a stern warning to not follow Dad's example of sampling the grapes and smaller fruits. We didn't quite understand because he did that every time he went to the store, and we thought that was what you were supposed to do! But if Mom warned, you obeyed.

Then came the cereal section and the usual fight. My sister Becky loved Honeycombs. My brother Stevie wanted Alpha-Bits. I always had an internal struggle between Kix, Corn Pops and Trix. But then again, there was Puffed Rice, which Mom allowed me to put sugar on—and in true kid fashion, I did not limit the sugar to one scoop! Hmm … decisions.

Usually, Mom eventually grew exasperated, grabbed a box of something and threw it into the cart with a resounding "Enough!" and we moved on.

Up and down a few more aisles we went. Sunbeam bread? Check. Instant potato flakes? Check. TV dinners? Double-check. And then the meat aisle, with its tall, white, enamel open-top compartments. A narrow chrome railing ran along the bottoms of the compartments, about 8 inches from the floor. Again, a stern warning: "Don't you dare get on that railing." But what kid could resist?

Mom went down another aisle and when she came back, there it was, practically a target in those identifiable jeans and red-striped shirt. Standing on the railing and leaning over into the compartments! And unfortunately, bottom sticking out at a perfect "smack me" angle.

Mom was horrified and did not hesitate. SWAT! Right across the bottom. But the face that looked up at her was not mine. It was some stranger's kid, and that stranger had come around the corner in time to witness the entire thing!

Embarrassed, Mom quickly looked behind her, and there I was, innocently following like an obedient puppy.

Mom looked at the other lady in apology, saying, "Oh, I am so sorry! I thought that was MY boy!" The other mom smiled and said, "Don't worry about it. He probably deserved it." Moms had each other's backs.

Red-faced, Mom hurried to the checkout as I kept chiming in, "I was being good, wasn't I, Mom? Huh? Huh?"

Mom loaded up the car and drove home in silence. In the back seat, I was quietly glad that it had been some other kid's bottom and not mine.