A story I have told for years among friends and family is the focus of my column this morning.
Since we are all friends now — well, at least most of us — I want to share it in the Goldsboro News-Argus. It involves my mom, on this Mother’s Day, and dates back to 1973. So, here we go.
Before winter break at my middle school, and before the ground would become so hard and frozen that playing on it was like horsing around on an asphalt street, the students and teachers would play a football game as a fundraiser. The game also offered an entire winter and spring of bragging rights to the winners.
I was 13 years old and in eighth grade, the requisite age and grade to play in the game. As I said, this was 1973, and rules were looser then. So as long as the ground was not too hard, the game was tackle football with students on one side of the scrimmage line and teachers on the other.
The group of kids I hung out with thought it would be fun to hold an event before the game to antagonize the teachers. The highlight of the pregame strategy was to rip apart a scarecrow looking dummy that was a teacher in effigy. The reason, of course, was to intimidate our opponents by showing them what we planned to do to them during the game.
As a bunch of 13-year-olds, with our income generated by bicycle paper routes at best, no one had the money to pay for stuffing the “teacher.” But I came up with an idea for stuffing and ran home during lunch to get it. Another old idea, middle school students going home for lunch on their own.
After I returned, we built the well-stuffed “teacher” and hung it from a baseball backstop at the field where the game would be played.
First, the teachers’ team ran out onto the field. The stands were filled with friends and plenty of family. I saw my mom and dad almost immediately when I scanned the bleachers. Once the teachers took to the field, we students came running out. But rather than heading for the field, we headed for the makeshift scarecrow.
Within seconds, we ripped the scarecrow to shreds as the fans cheered. Well, all but one fan: my mom. Mom was easily heard over the others as she yelled, “That’s my ironing in that dummy, and now it is in the dirt.” For those of you who may not remember “ironing,” it was a collection of wrinkled clothes that required pressing with a hot iron on an ironing board before wearing. The ironing in our house was done about once a week and was done by Mom, me and my brother and sister, exclusively. We had no “wash and wear” clothing in our house, and no money for a dry cleaner or laundry service.
As quickly as Mom yelled, she was out on the field picking up clothes out of the dirt and scolding me at the same time. She didn’t have to guess whose fault it was for her ironing being strewn across the field.
I had never seen her so mad at me. After we got all the clothes picked up, and I was embarrassed in front of my friends, Mom went back in the stands, and us kids took the field.
My fear of Mom passed rather quickly as my attention was drawn to defeating the teachers, especially one who was blocking me, our woodshop teacher, Mr. Dawley. For some reason, this 40-something-year-old man thought it was a hoot to start to let me run by him, only to have him trip me. Three times Dawley send me to the ground, each time with a laugh heartier than the last and anger brewing up inside of me.
But just then, there was Mom on the field again. She politely asked Dawley if she could speak with him. On the sidelines, all I could see was anger in Mom’s face and a sagging head from Dawley’s neck. I couldn’t hear anything she said, and I never knew. All I do know is that Dawley didn’t try to trip me anymore, and I sacked — tackled — the teachers’ quarterback twice.
When the game was over, Mom made me carry the ironing back home on my bike, made me rewash the clothes that night and spend my entire Saturday ironing each garment to her satisfaction.
I didn’t mind, though. Really, I didn’t. I learned a lot about being courteous and responsible, especially to the family. And I learned, as Mr. Dawley did as well, you didn’t mess with Mom’s laundry or her son.
Mom died in April 2015. Although I am old enough to be a grandfather now, I never forgot what it was like to be Linda’s kid and how much I miss her every day. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.