By Jody Worsham
Sunday, May 5, 2013
"The Look" or How I managed to reach adulthood with all my body parts intact.
By Jody Worsham
All rights reserved for Dr. Spock, Vol. 99
Having begun the emotional roller coaster ride with my tween-ager, I have often marveled that I ever made it to age 21 with all my limbs intact, considering the mouth I had. I realize now that being the oldest, I was my mother’s “starter child” who arrived without the benefit of Dr. Spock or any kind of operational manual. For at least half of my first twenty years, she was a single mom working and raising two daughters on her own. I am amazed that we all survived.
I can count on half a hand the number of spankings I received as a child. Note I did not say the number of spankings I deserved. My mother just had a way of looking at me when I said or did something wrong that would send my imagination into the realms of unspeakable pain and agony.
My survival, I think, was due in part to my ability to mumble under my breath without my lips moving, plus my quick muscle reflexes that enabled me to stop an eye roll the nano-second her eyes locked onto mine and thus avoid “the look”. I have no doubt this ability enabled me, to vote at age 18 without any kind of adaptive devices.
My mother would come up with the most illogical sayings and I, knowing more than any other human on earth, felt I should correct her misconceptions. For example she would say:
“Eat everything on your plate. There are starving children in China.”
Then why not pack up what is left on my plate and send it to a child in China?
That sentence stopped mid-throat and from her unspoken” look”, I am sure saved my left arm from what could be permanent dismemberment.
“If you don’t stop crying I’m going to give you something to cry about.”
I think it is obvious that I already have something to cry about or I would not be crying.
A hiccup prevented this from coming out of my mouth and I know my right arm remained attached to my shoulder in spite of the look she gave me.
“Don’t you look at me in that tone of voice!”
Now look is visual while voice is auditory so how can I possibly look with a tone?
Fortunately formulating that sentence took too long in my brain and from her look, I know my left leg was spared.
“Turn the light off when you go to sleep.”
Now if I am asleep, how am I going to turn off the light? I assume you meant before I go to bed.
While my debate teacher would have been proud of me, a cough as that sentence was about to see daylight, and judging from the ensuing look, I know I saved my right leg.
“As long as you live in my house, you will do what I say.”
Technically it isn’t your house, it belongs to your mother and are you giving me the option of moving out?
The slamming screen door prevented her from hearing that statement and even though my back was to her, I felt “the look”, then felt to make sure my head was still attached to my shoulders.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you.”
Why? Do you think I hear with my eyes?
That one slipped out and I spent a lovely afternoon studying the ceiling in my room waiting for certain annihilation that was sure to come from the look she gave me, but never did. I spent the time waiting counting the years, months, weeks, days, minutes and seconds until I would turn 18 and be free to do whatever I wanted should I survive!
“Who do you think you are talking to young lady?”
Uh, you. And it should be to whom not who.
Remembering the exact number of little balls on the popcorn ceiling of my room, I physically held my tongue but I still got “the look” and what my mind envisioned was much worse.
There are times when my children are acting up and I think I must have inherited “the look” because later I hear them talking to each other.
“Did you see that look she gave you? I’m glad you didn’t say what I know you were thinking.”
“ What do you think it means?”
“I can only imagine.”
My mother will be 93 soon. She saw to it that her two daughters grew up knowing right from wrong, how to make good choices, knew how to choose a good husband, and got a college education and for the most part without raising her voice or her hand. She even took out a long term care policy so she could remain physically and financially independent in her later years and not be a burden to us.
And yes, I have to look at her when I’m speaking to her and point when she asks “To whom are you speaking?” And yes when I am at her house, I have to follow her rules. And yes there are times I still get “the look”.
And I hope I do for many more years to come.
Happy Mother’s Day!