“Get me the wooden spoon.”
Those were words to die by in our house when I was a kid. If you heard them, that meant the next thing you’d hear would be the sound of a spoon cracking against your skinny kid-butt. (Ah. Life’s irony is that I didn’t have a fat arse until well past the time I outgrew spankings.) Around six or seven, you knew the rules. Some things got you a time-out before the days when the trendy parents called them that. In my house it was called “Sit on the kitchen chair until you hear the timer buzz.” I like that better than Time-Out, actually. One sounds like a break in a busy, fun game, accompanied by Gatorade and spirited hugging. The other is definitely a punishment for some stupid thing your dumb six-year-old self did. Sassing back, slapping your stupid brother Dave (who had it coming for being a big smelly stupidhead), running in the house when you’d already been told to stop–that all got the SOTKCUYHTTB or the dreaded Wooden Spoon. I knew we were stepping up in the world when the phrase later became “Bring Me The Ping-Pong Paddle”. I also knew why we didn’t get the pinball machine. You can’t smack someone with those flipper-things.
It may sound like my parents were cruel, but they weren’t. They knew life was hard and that actions had consequences. With four kids, you learned as much from your siblings’ punishments as your own, and I doubt any of us were spanked more than five times, ever. It was the threat of it as much as the stinging thwack that kept us unruly bastiges in line. You knew the Spoon was waiting if you didn’t stop pulling your sister’s hair in the backseat.
There is much handwringing today about Tookie Williams being killed by the State of California. I don’t know much about Tookie Williams, but I do know that he spoke English. I’m pretty sure he watched television. I’m darned sure that he knew what a 187 is. And what the penalty is for that crime. Yet he decided he’d take someone’s life. I’d really like to be mad at the State for sullying the hands of its citizens with ritualized murder. I’d like to wring my hands in despair about how sad it is for us to sink to Tookie’s level. I’d like to kvetch about how much money the execution costs the State, and fantasize about China–where they bill your family for the bullet. But I’m not. Anyone knows that the penalty for ending a person’s life can be death.
We don’t keep the Death Penalty a huge secret. It’s always there, like the wooden spoon in my mother’s kitchen. You don’t want it used on your butt, then don’t earn it.