Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Grand Theft Pocketbook & The Fat-Lady Exposée

I turned to a life of crime during my grade school years. (No, that is not a mug shot. It is my official Fifth Grade Photo.)
One day I desired something so necessary for me to have that I can’t even remember what it was. I had no money, but knew where to get some. My mother’s pocketbook was sitting on the dresser in her bedroom and she was elsewhere.
Breaking into Mama’s Purse Bank & Trust was not difficult. I unsnapped a latch, threw back a flap and was in the vault. I didn’t take any paper money, bills being too easily missed. I fished about in the dark recesses of the bag and scooped out a fistful of loose change. It was enough and she would never notice.
I closed her purse and headed downtown with my loot.
Guilt quickly overtook me. I was like the killer in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. I didn’t hear a heartbeat, but I could hear the money clink, or thought I could. Clink-clink-clink! I could definitely feel it in my hand. Clink-clink-clink! My palm began to sweat.
By the time I reached the little street that connected Millrace Alley and Lancaster Avenue I was a basket case of regret. Tears were streaming down my face. I was so ashamed of what I had done I threw my handful of pilfered coins as far down that little alleyway as I could. I was Judas throwing the blood money into the Temple. I didn’t run to the park and hang myself, of course. I ran home to my bedroom where I cried a bit longer.
I don’t know why I threw the money away. I could have taken it home and snuck it back into her purse. I was just so overwhelmed with guilt I had to get rid of it.
As I originally suspected, my theft went undetected. I never heard anything about any missing coins. The experience ended any thought I had of stealing again. Well almost, until another of the Seven Deadly Sins enticed me into shoplifting, but that comes later.
I was a rather hopelessly honest person. (I still am.) It was a good thing I was because I was getting opportunities that less honest people would have welcomed. I would buy a comic book, get home, and find a different comic book I wasn’t charged for had stuck to the back of the first and the clerk at Newberry’s hadn’t noticed. Oh goody, I got a free comic book! But I didn’t keep it. I walked back to the five and dime and returned it, explaining what happened.
What a good boy am I, I thought.
“What a good boy are you,” they would say.
If I received too much change I would point it out. One time at Hutchison’s Drug Store I got change back of four dollars and some cents, when I had only handed the clerk a dollar. I said, “You gave me the wrong change.”
The cashier got angry. “I gave you the right change. Go on, don’t try pullin’ that.”
I kept insisting and he kept getting nastier about it. Finally he realized what I was saying and he apologized. He told me I was an honest kid and he gave me a quarter for being so. See, honesty does pay. (I can hear the cynic say, “Yeah, but you could have had four dollars and change. That cynic is probably a Congressman today.)
I had more than one argument about such under charging. Cashier’s always assumed you were claiming they shortchanged you. None would believe you didn’t just pocket the money if they handed back too mich.
I even went back to places at times because they simply forgot to charge me at all. For instance, there was a little eatery in the center of town called Sweetland Candy Co., although I always knew it as just plain Sweetland. They sold ice cream and sodas as well as candy. There was a fountain with stools and in the middle of the floor were some tables and chairs. I ate in there with three friends one day on the way home from school and when the waitress brought the checks everyone got a chit but me. They paid and we all walked out. The next day I went back, told the person at the register what I had the day before and paid.

I could be loudly honest in my observation at times. Do you recall my comment about being  in the shoemaker's when a man with the large birthmark over half his face walked in? I made such a faux pas again while with my mother and grandmother on a shopping trip. There was a pregnant woman in the store and I said to my mom…no, I shouted to my mom, “Look at that fat
lady.”
(Right: A “fat lady”, C. 1950s – “I Love Lucy”.)
It would have been worst if it was a fat lady in my opinion, but my mother was deeply embarrassed. She apologized to the lady. The upshot of my brutal “calling ‘em as I see ‘em” was I learned a little about the birds and the bees; maybe just the birds.
People pretended S-E-X didn’t exist in the 1950s. The “Fat Lady” obviously proved it did. My mother felt the need to clarify when fat wasn’t fat since one shouldn’t speak of such things in public. She sat me down at home, but she didn’t give me “The Talk”. She gave me half the loaf.
“That woman wasn’t fat,” she explained, “she was going to have a baby.”
“Huh?”
“You see,” she went on, “women have the baby inside their belly and after it gets big enough it comes out and that’s how you are born.”
Now I had a secret a lot of my peers didn’t. When we were babies we were inside our mommy’s belly. If I asked any questions, she didn’t answer them, but I don’t think I asked anything. I took her at her word. I guess I thought when a woman decided she wanted to be a mommy she simply wished it in her mind and it happened. That made more sense than that stork business.
She didn’t tell me how the baby got inside. She didn’t tell me that daddies had any role to play in this. She didn’t tell me how the babies got out. I figured they must come out the rectum as gross as that sounded. That’s the problem with knowing a little, you begin to speculate and usually get things wrong. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Her not explaining more did not prepare me for what my body was going to do a couple years later, and I could have used that knowledge.
She did tell me not to tell anybody about where babies were before they were babies.

After my mom's little talk I began wondering what was different about boys and girls “down there”. My mother was very clear that only women grew babies inside, so that was one difference.
I played with a number of girls who were somewhat Tomboys, but still there were some differences. Girls had longer hair. Girls wore dresses and boys wore pants (see photo left of Patty Lilly with me and her little brother, 1950, she with long hair and a dress). But those were differences I could see. So why did teachers get upset if a girl hung by her legs from the Jungle Gym and her dress fell down over her head? And why would seeing a girl’s underpants cause us boys to point and giggle?
 For that matter, how come there was a Boy’s Room and a Girl’s Room? Was there something under my clothes associated with going to the bathroom that girls should not see and vice versa?
This was a riddle to me.
In fact, there was a riddle going around the playground at the time. “Why is a fire truck red?”
 “You’d be red too if you went around with your hose hanging out.” (Snicker, snicker!)
Except, I didn’t snicker because I didn’t get it. That is how naïve and ignorant I was about my body when I was 10. If I was in the dark about the functions of my own body, I was really deep in a cave about those of the female. Someday I would understand my grandfather’s joke about the “two Band-Aids and a cork” and the “hose hanging out” riddle, but not yet.
Why did I feet a tension whenever around a girl? Why did I want to be near Mary Jane Chudleigh so much? Why did I smile when she let me put my arm around her? Why did I look at her and feel my heart beat faster? I didn’t feel these things with my male friends. I didn’t want to put my arm around Stuart. My heart didn’t beat faster when Ronald entered the room.
It was going to be a long journey before I understood the why. It was going to be a harmful one as well because mother gave me less than half the story. I would have to learn the other half the hard way.


1 comment:

Carol said...

A friend told me his father started the "birds and bees" talk by first saying "Well, you know that girls don't have penises." He nodded, but in fact he had not known that. He was so nonplussed that the rest of the talk went right over his head.