For What It’s Worth

Less than perfect behavior

Okay, fess up. As a kid you had some less-than-perfect behavior, right? You did some things that were told and re-told as cute or humorous family stories over the years. No doubt, you also did some things you are quite happy never became part of the family lore.

Me, too. (Incorrect grammar, I know. “I, also,” would be correct, but who in the world says that?)

I don’t recall who said it, not that it matters, but sometime relatively recently, a person looking at one of my baby pictures commented, “Oh, you were so cute.” The operative word there is were. Clearly, the implication is, “Don’t take that to be a continuing situation.” My babyhood was many decades ago. It is long gone as is the black hair, now replaced with a shiny dome framed by a ring of gray hair, and the firm abs, now replaced by…you get the picture.

For whatever reason, the mention of childhood brought to mind some instances of less-than-perfect behavior in my childhood. Some I have clear memory of, and others only a vague or no true memory but which have a reality to me because of the number of times I heard Mom or Dad recount them.

For instance, I remember Mom laughing when she told the story about my Granddad Seavy, her father, giving me a toy lawnmower. I was young, maybe 3 years old or younger, and enjoyed “helping” Granddad mow the yard. Thinking it would be great for me to traipse along behind him with my own lawnmower, he got me a toy lawnmower. Instead of joyfully dashing around the lawn pretending to cut the grass, I broke into bitter tears of disappointment and cast the lawnmower aside as useless. It wouldn’t actually cut the grass. Interesting that not many years later when I could use a lawnmower that really cut grass, the joy that my granddad had envisioned I would show once again didn’t show.

Another unrecalled but seemingly real memory is bringing my mom nearly to tears and then being brought to tears by my dad. I was 3, maybe 4, years old and Mother wanted a family picture. At that time, my parents really could not afford to have the picture taken, but they decided to spend the money anyway and get a professional family portrait taken. It was really important to Mom, which made it really important to Dad.

But apparently not important to me. For a reason or reasons I don’t recall since my only memory of the occasion is the mental image created by hearing Dad tell the story several times over the years, I did not want to have my picture taken. Throughout the entire photo sitting, I steadfastly refused to smile. No amount of coaxing or threatening or clever photographer ploys worked. The family picture my mom so much desired would forever be one with everyone smiling but little Harry, the sourpuss with the frown instead of a smile. Today, some fathers might stroke their son’s self-image in an attempt at discipline; my dad stroked something else. Tears replaced the frown; but, if you look at any family portrait, formal or informal, taken since that date, you will notice that little Harry or somewhat larger Harry is smiling in the picture.

Maybe I was a thorn in my parents’ sides. One time when Mom was pregnant, which was frequently during my childhood since there are six of us siblings of whom I am the oldest, I miscalculated in another behavioral situation. I was disobedient (something I would like to say rarely happened but the tenor of these musings suggests otherwise) and my mother decided I deserved correction (this was in olden times when swatting a child’s padded behind with the palm of your hand was not considered child abuse). Knowing what was about to transpire, I made the decision to run because Mom was pregnant and could not catch me.

Wrong decision. While she couldn’t catch me, Dad could. Instead of chasing me, she called Dad at work and asked how to handle the situation. His answer: “I’ll take care of it when I get home.” And he came home. I’m not real bright about some things, but I learned something that day that served me well throughout my childhood. If the choice was between having Mom punish me or having Dad do it, take option one.

In two of these instances, I knew I was behaving incorrectly, but I could also sometimes get myself in trouble without intent or knowing that my actions would create a problem.

Just before and right after World War II, we lived outside town in the Texas Hill Country near Wimberly. Something I loved to do was rope things or tie things with my little rope. One day I roped our accommodating dog and tied him to the fence. Actually, I tied the rope so that I tied the gate shut. If I hadn’t done that, I would have been fine.

Dad was butchering (I don’t remember for sure whether it was a goat or a hog) and needed Mom for something. He hollered at her, and she came running from the house. She was going full tilt when she hit the gate, thinking it would swing open. It didn’t and she bounced off of it. Dad really was not a hard man to please, but this didn’t please him. Never in my life since that day have I ever tied a gate shut, nor do I recall the last time I owned a rope. Over the years since, except for time in the Navy, the only knot tying I have done is my shoelaces.

Mom and Dad are in heaven now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are still chuckling over some of the less-than-perfect behavior of this son and his siblings.

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2 Responses to For What It’s Worth

  1. Marla Shaw says:

    Oh, Harry, you made me laugh. You certainly got into your share of mischief, but by the time I got to the story of the dog tied to the fence and your mom bouncing off the gate, I about lost it. Thanks for the good laugh. Keep up the good writing. Love you guys!!

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