Defy Mommy At Your Peril!

Feb 29, 2008

I had to maintain my cover as that very, very, good little girl—while playing, while lunching, while watching TV—and then to strike quickly and silently, without leaving a trace!

When I was a little girl, I learned at least one very good reason to do as my mother instructed. Of course, as has been the case with little ones throughout the ages, I learned it while blatantly defying her instruction.

I may have been hovering about the five-year-old mark when Moom brought in the shopping one morning, and, after putting the groceries away, gave my little brother and me something to taste for the first time. “Try this,” she said, offering us a bit of vegetable topped with the most delightful substance! “What is this, Mommy?” I asked, wanting more on the spot. “It’s French dressing,” she answered, promising we’d have plenty on our salad that night. While that sounded all well and good…I still wanted more on the spot.

Now, in my own defense, I did ask outright for another sample of the exciting new sauce that morning. But I was refused. Something about not wanting to “spoil my appetite”, or saving some for the meal, or some such adult drivel. I don’t know. I’m sure I had stopped listening by then. I had decisions to make. Big decisions.

I was in a bit of a quandary. I was not in the habit of going against my mother’s wishes; I had simply felt no regular inclination toward this end. How I’d love to conclude that this was because I was, by nature, just a very, very, good little girl.

But a more critical examination of the facts would probably reveal my obedience to have been the result of several factors, among them the fact that Moom had seldom given a directive to which I’d very strongly objected. It’s easy enough to obey when you understand and agree, or when you don’t understand, but couldn’t care less.

But I really cared about this fancy red gravy in the refrigerator. I wanted more, and I wanted it on my terms, plain and simple.

So I broke with the basic pattern and began to calculate. I waited for my opportunity, for a point where Moom would be engaged for a time in another part of the house. It was to come hours later, in the early afternoon. In the meantime, I had to maintain my cover as that very, very, good little girl—while playing, while lunching, while watching TV—and then to strike quickly and silently, without leaving a trace!

Finally the time came. I figure my brother to have been napping—this being all that could have gotten that Energizer Bunny out of the way for my major score ahead. Where Moom was, I can’t recall now. Maybe she was with him, I don’t know. Who cares? The point is that I realized I had a clear shot to the fridge, and to that snappy French ketchup that fueled my dreams. It would be fabulous. What could go wrong?

Well, since the question has been posed, this is probably a good place to trot out a truth we all know, even when we’re driven to fly in the face of reason, or morality, or both: There is no such thing as the perfect crime. Sometimes exposure in the wake of a transgression is public and humiliating. Sometimes it is more private, but still dreadful. And sometimes there is no exposure to be endured at all; rather, the potent seeds of retribution lie in the very execution of the crime itself, and in its aftermath.

Stealing into the fridge; uncapping a bottle of Wishbone French; taking a monster belt, and winding up mouth full-to-bursting with the pure, slimy vegetable oil that has risen to the top of that bottle…This would fall into the last category of punishment, don’t you think? Having swiftly taken these fateful steps, I was instantly revolted; but I swallowed instinctively, in shock, my penance well underway even before the bottle had been shakily replaced on the shelf.

One thing I learned here (other than to “Shake Well Before Using”, of course) was that even the elements in nature tend to arrange themselves in aid of our most steadfast teachers—our mothers—who, despite persuasive evidence to the contrary, really cannot be everywhere at once.