I was her biggest difficulty when it came to negotiations, having to say it once and then look like she meant it.
Being a fan of history, I often recall Teddy Roosevelt and his policy of: “Speak softly and carry a big stick!” Mom’s was somewhat like Teddy’s: “Yell once and wave the wooden spoon.” She was a master of wooden spoon diplomacy, She could throw it at 10 yards, have it curve around a wall and out of the blue land upside my head. I suspect she had an implant of a honing device to my head and the bowl of the wooden spoon.
Once I learned an Italian curse word watching a neighborhood Bocce game. The user of such language (in Italian yet) had given the ball such body language as to resemble one Mikhail Baryshnikov as he displayed such poetic body language and follow through while uttering his thing of beauty.
Going home, I ran into the house and asked Dad as he lay semi-conscious watching the Dodgers play on the TV: “Dad! What does &%$#^&$$ mean?” Mom immediately came running in as Dad was trying to regain his grip on the couch and said:
“WHERE did you learn to say THAT?” laying the wooden spoon across my butt suddenly. “DON’T YOU EVER USE THAT LANGUAGE IN THIS HOUSE (Whack) you understand me? And if you do I’ll give you the rest!” (Whack)
There could be more!!!
The instigation of hi-jinks against a sister, the retribution for acts of ratting me out and all other acts considered high crimes and misdemeanors by me were all met swiftly with reprisals, sometimes the wooden spoon hurt more than usual since it was just used for stirring the pasta in the hot water!
Every morning before school she would hand me my lunch in a lunch box with Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans on it. (I was in love with Dale and wished the bad guys would finally get Roy so I could make my move.) As the lunch goods were transferred to my possession it came with a stern warning: “If I find out that the teacher had to discipline you, when you come home you will get the rest!”
There could be more!!!
Mom had a special place in her heart for me. Actually, she had two special places, one being her heart as her child (however unbearable that might have been) and one in the corner where I spent most of my time.
Her teaching tool was her wooden spoon and being Italian it was a utilitarian bonanza, ‘cook’ and ‘discipline’, how great was that?
I swear she had a strike counter each time it was applied to my head. After so many strikes she would replace it. We weren’t rich, Mom had no special jewelry until later years, but she did have that one prized possession, her wooden spoon. As I would walk into the house and announce: “MOM, IM HOME!” she would wave it as an acknowledgment of my greeting and subtle meaning: ‘don’t destroy my mood.
I, on the other hand, knew that I had to stay outside of her arm range. Often the times we would race around the dining room table, me running and waiting for the first whack and her with her ever menacing spoon looming mere inches from my cranial cavity, empty as it was. If I felt particularly robust that day and caught Mom off her game, I would take pity and we would stop, sit on the chairs and when she was catching her breath I would ask, ”You ready again, Mom?” Somehow I like to think I was being considerate. She reached the age or retirement once I married, where she gave me the spoon and I painted it gold and she named it: “GENTLE PERSUASION”
When Mom wanted to discipline, she used ‘Gentle Persuasion’. One would think kind, gentle prodding, perhaps with a firm attitude. No: that is what I named her wooden spoon. She used to get my cooperation or attention with the instrument. I named all her wooden spoons through the years. There was; “The MM Kind and Firm”, one of her favorites, “The MM Or Else”, the ever-present “MM De-aggravator” and the “MM Terminator” which lasted for a LONG time. You must be wondering what the MM designation means. It was my habit to name her spoons like the US Navy named their ships. “MM” stands for “Momma Mia’s.”
To the day she died, whenever she bought a new wooden spoon, she would come to my house to hit me with it, just to be sure she had quality and hadn’t lost her touch, and remind me that I was not too big or too old to get hit by her.